Oh boy. I have a haunting headliner today. It’s not some clickbait that funnels you to an article about a Korok at the tippy top of Zora’s Domain, either. (There totally is a Korok up there, by the way. Now you’re one step closer to the 900 club.)
Stepping foot into BotW’s Zora’s Domain jostles an undisputed feeling of grandiosity. We gaze upon an intricate network of spiral stairways, etched with dazzling silver interlace. Triumphant pillars overlook the residents. They’re illuminated by a lurid turquoise glow, casting ghosts on courtly pathways beneath a star-studded evening sky. At its core resides a hallmark sculpture, an open-mouthed Koi whose fin stretches high toward the heavens.
But beneath the glamor of this ornate high-rise settlement, the Zora harbor an unsettling secret. Beneath the immaculate display of avarice…
Zora’s Domain is made of dead folk.
See? I’ve got too much integrity to waste your time. Scouts honor.
Of course, that’s a pretty bold claim, so let’s dive into a sea of evidence and compile lore that might rationalize such a peculiar (and abhorrent) choice of construction material.
Grab your lab coat. We’ll be recreating infamous CSI scenes. The ones where we scream “Zoom!” and “Enhance!” to the rookies.
You’d better snap up your best Sherlock hat, too. We’ll be interrogating the daylights out of every pixelated being within jurisdiction.
Seriously. Commit to the bit. It’ll be more fun for us both. Hit me with an “Indubitably!”
We’ll start at square one: questioning Ledo, the chief of lavish Zora carpentry.
He confirms an abnormally high demand for Luminous Stone in his craft. He even pinpoints the location from which Zora mine it: Upland Zorana.
I can hear your internal monologue flaring, “For the love of Hylia… That’s elementary, my dear Fyson!”
Baseless claims aren’t the business of true detectives! Don’t worry. We’ll mash B through all the meaningless conjecture.
Rush the rookies! We’ll unravel Luminous Stone’s tragic backstory.
Aha! We dug up rumors claiming that Luminous Stone earns its refulgent glow from the Souls of the Dead. Now that’s a lead!
But the developers at Nintendo EPD left this lore ambiguous. We’re investigators. We want hardened facts. After all, ethereal characteristics in Luminous Stone could root back to an old Zonai superstition passed down by word of mouth.
We’ll have to follow the breadcrumb trail. That trail points toward a set of Luminous Armor, which we’ll find tucked deep in the criminal underbelly of Gerudo Town.
The Gerudo Secret Club.
It’s a shady occultist shop – bristling with hand-crafted oddities. We deciphered a secret password to trot through the seedy back-alley door. We tried “Ah yes! The weather seems lovely today!” with the traditional wink, to no avail. ‘Password1234’ was also bunk.
A dead end. We stood lost. Disoriented in a chapped, sun-scorched bazaar – devoid of even the slightest mirage of hope. It was time for a drink.
Then, against all odds, we overheard some Noble Canteen gossip before the trail ran cold. Although, I admit we aroused suspicion in the process.
Greta appeared. She was no mere merchant. She stood proud – a shameless, lawless Voe-apologist. Greta didn’t shroud her secrets behind a brick wall of facade. She left them open to capture the pale light of a waning crescent moon. She muttered a peculiar comment about how sunlight doesn’t agree with her.
The probability that this shadowy figure affiliated herself with the male-dominant Yiga-Clan seemed palpable. Though, that’s a mystery best left for another day.
Greta’s piercing gaze dissected our flimsy Vai masquerade at first glance. She did not falter. Her aura emanated the unwavering spirit of a Gerudo. Yet, she’s honed a personality and trade unlike any other.
But the enigmatic Gerudo muscle momma refused to leak intel. We’ll purchase the garments, whip up an alibi, and conduct some field tests.
After purchasing the Luminous Armor, we pursue a wild herd of Stalmoblins – incognito. We discover they’re quite jovial. They’re overcome with an unprecedented sense of camaraderie. We share a few jumps, a few laughs. We invite them up to Akkala. We share the warm embrace of an exquisite cup of tea beneath the brisk autumn starlight.
The disguise works. It’s infallible!
Unfortunately, Stalmoblins lack… vocal cords. Interviewing them proved a fruitless endeavor. Also, they de-spawned halfway through tea. We probably blew too much time hiking to Akkala.
What’s with the snide smirk? It worked on the Stalchildren in Majora’s Mask!
Luminous Armor strengthens bone weapons, further amplifying our case. Though, I admit these perks came only after a Great Fairy infused our garb with monster guts.
Jot that down in your notebook.
And that familiar aquamarine hue dresses the souls of our fallen comrades like an earthbound solace. All of them.
Better scribble that somewhere, too.
When Link borrows the abilities of a fallen champion, he’s grazed with the same ambiance. It drives a compelling argument.
Here comes the finishing blow. I’d better adorn it with my tippy-top corncob pipe words.
Reported sightings of the Lord of the Mountain, blupees, and other estranged spirits project bioluminescence, not unlike Zora’s Domain. I thereby deduce that, given the information provided, Zora’s Domain is, in fact, constructed of materials housing spirits of the dead.
And thus, this concludes my investigation. I rest my case!
Spirits dwell in Zora’s Domain, imprisoned within the crystalline jewels that reinforce it.
Are the BotW Zora secretly a malevolent species? Do they spin a convoluted web of lies?
Zora’s Domain nestles itself in a cove.
It’s also engulfed in towering cliffside crags, consumed by roaring waterfalls. It’s under the constant erosion of torrential currents. A dreary, solemn overcast cloaks the atmosphere like a rambling ocean of demise.
This little pocket of Lanayru isn’t an area brimming with natural lighting, to say the least.
Torches seem… idealistic.
I’ve always envisioned parallels between Zora and Ancient Greeks.
They’re advanced. They’re predominantly seafarers colonized on merciless terrain. They govern themselves with strict ordinances and maintain a high stature. Heck, in Breath of the Wild, we even see their domain snatch exemplary traits from Ionic Order Greek Architecture: Fluted Columns split from structures by an abacus, a multi-level decorative cornice resting at the roots of rooftops.
I’ll ease off the architecture. If that sort of thing floats your trireme, I wrote a post on historical architecture in Monster Hunter’s Kamura Village.
Here’s the important part: Like the Greeks of old, our bipedal order of fish shapes trade upon availability.
You probably know Ancient Greeks were nuts about Olive Oil…
But did you know they bathed in it?
It was abundant.
Likewise, there’s a sizable deposit of Luminous Stone woven into Upland Zorana. Luminous Stone is valuable for trade, practical enough to withstand erosion, and abundant enough to rely on.
But Hyrule’s most dignified fish aren’t off the hook yet.
Areas like the Faron region dwarf Upland Zorana’s Luminous Stone deposits. It poses a question: Do Zora mine Luminous Stone with knowledge of past events; and, therefore, the perception that it’s haunted?
It paints them under a more villainous spotlight, anyway.
Especially when we acknowledge the fact that the average Zora lives an estimated 330 years.
We should pilfer the history books to identify local disasters. I have a hunch that Zora architects sculpt pillars from their departed relatives…
Out of comfort.
I don’t think we can chalk casualties up to rugged terrain. A species as refined as Zora likely adapts to harsh environments. Their extended lifespan rules out natural causes.
Upland Zorana reeks of silenced tragedy.
We’ll need to tour the stone monuments distributed along Ruto Lake and scour Upland Zorana for clues.
First, we’ll date the construction of Zora’s Domain.
I’ll drop a slideshow revealing the full text of the first stone monument. Also, check out the patient Lizalfos photobomber. He paused our skirmish while I studied glyphs. You don’t see respect like that every day! I uhh… still massacred his family.
Not my proudest moment.
The first monolith lays a sturdy investigative foundation. We date Zora’s Domain back 10,000 years. Factoring the monument’s age tacks on roughly another hundred years.
We also pinpoint some critical lore:
Equivocality stifles our data on the prominence of Luminous Stone, but the mention of ‘unique craftsmanship’ leans our way.
Next, the monuments report Princess Ruto tagging up with Link and Zelda incarnations from another era to rescue a ravaged Lanayru.
Potent, but vague. Plus, Zora’s Domain history tablets document far more cataclysmic events.
Here comes the heaviest hitter:
Before they planted the reservoir, a raging flood rattled populations every decade. That’s our winner. Of course, the author chiseled in that the reservoir weathered a solid 10 millennia, too.
That validates why Luminous Stone deposits in BotW don’t rival the jungles of Faron.
But Luminous Stones sketch a consistent line along the long-eroded canyons decorating Ruto Lake and Zora River. Flood casualties seem feasible.
Another stone monument cites a rogue Guardian from Upland Zorana wandering into the domain. King Dorephan vanquished it. He salvaged the domain itself, but were outside settlements affected? Was the rogue Guardian the only of its kind?
Let’s take a hike to Upland Zorana. Guardians grip a tight patrol along the hilltops. I also unearthed ruins on Toto Lake – beside another Korok. (Boom! Two steps closer to the 900 club. That’s my “Thank You” for your time.)
The ruins appear to be a collaborative effort between Zora and Hylians… and I don’t see any leftover Hylians.
I think it’s safe to say a species as sophisticated as Zora realized they were mining fossil fuels within a 10,000-year span. Weighty catastrophes visibly amplified their supply chain.
Time for some hardcore theorycrafting.
Across the vast expanse of Hyrule, we never quite see Luminous Stone give off the same turquoise glow as seen in Zora’s Domain.
As stated earlier, Luminous Stone generally gives off an aquamarine aura. There’s an added green tinge.
Brace yourself. I usually avoid the Triforce content cult. Today, Hylian religion felt inevitable. We’re dealing with spirits of the dead, after all.
In Breath of the Wild, we witness heaps of magic from Dinraal, Farore, and Nayru.
Dinraal, the triforce of power, enchants the murky malice goop polluting the fields. The blistering off-brand Eye of Sauron confirms it. Then there’s the ominous voodoo spell appearing every blood moon.
Ganon’s connection to Dinraal through malice is irrefutable.
Nayru, the triforce of wisdom, enchants the Sheikah technology. Princess Zelda obsesses over it like a Yiga-Clan grandmaster locked in a banana factory. Dredging up memories of Princess Corny-Accent cements her natural affinity for sparkling blues: spring Silent Princess blossoms, untapped shrines, the Sheikah Slate.
Farore and Link’s representation gets fuzzier.
After analyzing the souls of the dead scattered across Hyrule, a trend emerges. The lingering spirits share an unfulfilled duty.
More specifically, a failed task for which Link’s downfall shoulders responsibility.
I think Farore harnessed the energy of Luminous Stone to preserve the courage of fallen souls for Link’s final awakening. I believe Link manifested into Breath of the Wild as a resurgence of the Zonai, a tribe resting on the brink of extinction. Evidence suggests that nobody else extracts powers from the deceased (or even Koroks, for that matter) to the same degree. Aside from a faint ancestry in Lurelin Village, his bloodline is wiped…
And the talents of his tribe fade into rumors and superstition.
Alright, let’s get to the point:
Zora expressed fierce resentment toward Link after he let Mipha fall in battle. There’s a good chance Farore’s power couldn’t withstand the heat.
That isn’t to say the Zora are at fault. Nayru’s powers are all, to some degree, manipulated by the Calamity Ganon. Plague has reduced Naydra to a helpless duck suffocating in a polluted wintery swamp. A cryptic red glow encapsulates the Sheikah shrines. Guardians are straight-up possessed. Zelda is practically napping in a quiet dorm room. She’s idly slinging a Quasi-Rapunzel curse on a nightmarish mountain of rage from within his belly.
Same thing, right? Anyway…
Nayru isn’t dying. She’s under elaborate torture. She’s drowning in a spellbinding ring assembled from her own glistening tides. It isn’t too far-fetched to draw a conclusion akin to “the waters of Lanayru are contaminated.”
But I’ll let you decide. It’s just as likely we’re simping Mipha so hard we’ll rationalize the heartless, deranged actions of her merfolk brethren.
Glowing stones aren’t exactly fictional. Fluorite and calcite glow, among a handful of others. Unsurprisingly, folklorists spanning the globe pepper their stories with luminous crystals.
Even iconic Japanese tales, like the Kitsune’s fox fire, idolize the idea of natural night lights. But I think our answer lies abroad.
Now, I don’t have an uncle who works at Nintendo. I don’t have any insider knowledge. I haven’t planted any nanoscopic probes in Aonuma’s brain tissue. But, if this post wasn’t a dead giveaway, I adore some good old-fashioned folklore. I bet I can land a few headshots after tossing enough pottery around.
Since I etched a line in the dirt comparing Zora to Ancient Greeks, I’ll mention the oldest record of luminous stones. We’re talking 450 BCE.
The temple of Heracles allegedly boasted two extravagant pillars. A pillar of gold and another of green gems, both gleaming through the night like a frat house under a black light. Scholars believe that priests laid lamps in glass pillars to deceive the locals.
I like that this story aligns with the illuminated pillars of Zora’s Domain, but I want to shatter more pots. Stronger muses exist. I know it.
We smash into our first green rupee here:
There’s an ancient Indian proverb stating,
“The city of Kapila has gems so bright that darkness like poverty could find no place.”
Kapila was a Hindu sage, again, from a time before pen and paper. The proverb arose sometime between 400 BCE to 300 CE. In fact, Kapila was likely a handful of dudes stacked in a trenchcoat. I mean, that’s a 700-year legacy, my guy. What kind of anti-aging Lizalfos guts did he spread on that face of his? Anyway, Kapila was more popular than Kanye. He had a city of followers.
The quote resonates with Zora lore. It highlights the idea that Luminous Stone pillars ward off poverty. It matches their regal composure. We don’t detect traces of vagrants or vagabonds within the domain’s protection, either.
Thanks to the power of etymology, we can track luminous stone rumors from India into the borders of China. They began nabbing phrases like “Shining night jade disk.”
Breath of the Wild’s Luminous Stones unleash a green glow, too. I like where this dusty road leads. Let’s follow it:
“The king holds in his hand a jewel five inches in diameter, which cannot be burnt by fire, and which shines in (the darkness of) night like a torch. The king rubs his face with it daily, and though he surpassed ninety he retains his youthful looks.”
Jackpot, baby! We unraveled the inspiration backing Link’s hundred-year nap. Sure, opening scenes of Link oversleeping evolved into a Zelda-series meme… but a century of hibernation? That’s overkill!
Anyway, this text originates from a Song Dynasty Scholar named Zhao Rukuo. He wrote the Zhu Fan Zhi. The friendly translation boils down to “Records of Foreign People,” but I’m pretty sure he called us all “Barbarous.”
Just like the origin tale of Exeggutor, word of this resplendent stone traveled along the silk road into the hands of Europeans. Marco Polo documented the same stone as “The Red Palace Illuminator.” It offers insight on the stone’s lavish reputation. I mean, stories didn’t travel halfway across the globe every day.
Anyway, that’s a wrap. Thanks for sticking the journey out with me. Sherlocking the secret conspiracy behind Zora’s Domain and writing about Luminous Stone was a refreshing change of pace from mechanical guides like farming dragon horns or BotW cooking guides.