The Legend of Zelda: Snowpeak Ruins’ Secret Origins Make It Zelda’s Best Dungeon

The mystery of Snowpeak Ruins makes this Twilight Princess dungeon one of the best in Zelda history.

Snowpeak Ruins
Photo: Nintendo

In the impressive history of The Legend of Zelda, few of the franchise’s dungeons have inspired as much debate and speculation as Twilight Princess‘ Snowpeak Ruins.

Nestled near the peak of the mountain it shares a name with, Snowpeak Ruins’ prominent placement in Twilight Princess‘ world and its somewhat haunting exterior make it one of those Zelda dungeons that just begs to be explored. Once you step inside, though, you’ll soon discover that nearly everything about this dungeon defines series’ standards. Nothing about Snowpeak quite makes sense, and that feeling of uncertainty it almost immediately inspires only grows stronger as you explore it further.

What is Snowpeak Ruins? Who built it, and why it is here? It’s when you try to answer those questions that you start to appreciate how the mystery of Snowpeak Ruins makes it a truly special part of The Legend of Zelda‘s considerable legacy.

Snowpeak Ruins: The Yetis Who Haven’t Always Lived In the Castle

Before we dive into the mystery of Snowpeak Ruins’ origins, we have to briefly talk about the rather strange condition you find it in.

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Snowpeak Ruins is occupied by two Yetis (Yeto and Yeta) when Link first discovers it. In fact, the couple’s troubles serve as the catalyst for much of Link’s adventures through the snowy castle. Though it seems like the couple has lived in Snowpeak for quite some time, a quick glance at the mansion reveals that they clearly did not build it and that it has a history that goes far beyond their residency.

While it’s tempting to say that the Yetis aren’t necessarily important to the mystery of Snowpeak Ruins’ origins, one fascinating theory suggests that understanding how they came to live there may actually be the key to this entire mystery…

Is Snowpeak Ruins Ashei‘s Home?

In the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess manga, Ashei (a soldier who helps Link throughout the game) reveals that she grew up in Snowpeak Ruins where her father raised her in a more traditionally “masculine” fashion. She’s initially worried about the Yetis that moved in there but decides to leave them be after realizing they are peaceful creatures who genuinely love each other.

That’s a great story, but the big problem with the theory that Snowpeak Ruins was once simply Ashei’s home is that the Twilight Princess manga isn’t considered to be canonical. In fact, in the Twilight Princess game, Ashei mentions that Snowpeak is unlike any mountain that she’s ever known, which would suggest she grew up somewhere else entirely.

That would seem to close the door on the idea that Snowpeak Ruins was some kind of family home/training center, but oddly enough, that particular theory is just getting started…

Is Snowpeak Ruins A Military Fortress?

There’s obviously a lot to be said about Snowpeak Ruins, but no matter what theory regarding its origins that you subscribe to, it’s pretty hard to deny that there was a point where it was obviously intended to be used as a kind of defensive structure. 

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From its spot near the top of a hostile mountain to its large stone walls and defensive weaponry, it’s clear that Snowpeak was designed with defense in mind. However, the fact that there are so many other elements of the ruins that can only be described as opulent (such as its giant fireplaces, lush furniture, and massive rugs) tends to suggest that it is not just a military structure. If Snowpeak Ruins is just a fort, then why is it one of the most luxurious locations in Twilight Princess?

It’s when you start to try to explain why Snowpeak Ruins is as much of a mansion as it is a fortress that you seemingly get closer to the truth about its origins.

Is Snowpeak Ruins a Home For the Royal Family of Hyrule?

Much like how we can pretty much confirm that Snowpeak Ruins was at least partially designed with defense in mind, it’s hard to argue against the basic idea that the structure was once occupied (or perhaps even just designed) by the royal family of Hyrule. 

Snowpeak Ruins is filled with direct references to the royal family of Hyrule (such as symbols used by that family) as well as portraits of powerful people and exotic places that would likely only be known to the royal family. It’s impossible to imagine how those things would have gotten there unless the royal family of Hyrule was involved with Snowpeak Ruins’ construction/design.

One aspect of the Ruins that does complicate that theory somewhat, though, is the presence of a mysterious symbol that seems to be specific to Snowpeak Ruins. Some fans believe that symbol may be related to the family that actually built and inhabited these ruins.

However, it is worth noting that the same symbol is seen in a couple of other locations in Twilight Princess related to the royal family (most notably Hyrule Castle itself). While we can’t rule out the possibility that there was another noble family that occupied Snowpeak Ruins who had close ties to the royal family, the presence of their hypothetical crest within the confines of Hyrule Castle is a bit of an oddity given that there are seemingly no other references to other wealthy and powerful families within Hyrule Castle. So far as that goes, it may be telling that one of the appearances of what we’re currently referring to as the “Snowpeak Insignia” was removed from Hyrule Castle in the updated version of Twilight Princess

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While that could suggest that Nintendo eventually decided not to imply that there was a “Snowpeak family” that built and occupied the ruins, there is another element of Snowpeak Ruins that further complicates the seemingly simple idea that it was controlled and constructed by Hyrulian royalty.

Where Did The Giant Suits of Armor Seen Throughout Snowpeak Ruins Come From?

Throughout Snowpeak Ruins, there are several suits of armor that initially appear to be decorative and, given the defensive nature of the structure’s design, seemingly appropriate decorations at that.

However, a closer look at those suits of armors reveals that they are simply massive. In fact, they’re at least twice the height of Link himself, which is quite odd when you consider that we’re currently working under the theory that this castle was likely built and occupied by Hyrulian royalty.

While you might guess that these suits of armor are simply decorative, that theory is potentially undone by the fact that individual pieces of that armor are spread throughout the castle in areas that suggest that they were used as practical pieces of equipment rather than mere decorative items. 

Oh, and there’s also the fact that there are multiple times when Link is attacked by figures wearing similar pieces of armor. If that armor is merely decorative, then why are those decorations trying to kill the Hero of Time?

The sheer size of those armored monstrosities and the almost inhuman nature of the figures that occupy them has given birth to the idea that they’re remnants of a different species who may have actually been the original occupants of Snowpeak Ruins. That suggestion alone is enough to throw a wrench into the “Hyrulian royalty” theory, but there’s another way that these suits further complicate the already complicated theories regarding Snowpeak Ruins’ origins. 

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Was Snowpeak Ruins Transported From Our World to Hyrule?

One of the wildest theories regarding Snowpeak Ruins suggests that it was actually transported from another world (perhaps our own) into its current resting place. 

It sounds odd, but when you consider that the classic medieval architecture of the ruins as well as its more traditional decor, you start to see why someone could believe that Snowpeak Ruins just doesn’t quite fit into the rest of Twilight Princess’ world. There are even very standard-looking canons along the Ruins’ walls, which are not only a bit of an oddity for Hyrule but look very similar to “real world” cannons. If that’s not weird enough, then consider the giant hole in the roof near the entrance to the Ruins, which some fans think may have been caused by the structure being dropped into Hyrule.

So how (and why) was Snowpeak Ruins transported to Hyrule? Well, it’s when you try to answer that question that you start to get to the truth about Snowpeak Ruins…

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – Who Built Snowpeak Ruins?

First off, we can fairly easily shoot down the “Snowpeak Ruins was transported into Hyrule from our world” theory for the simple fact that it’s interesting but doesn’t make a lot of sense. There is just too much evidence that suggests that there is something uniquely “Hyrulian” about the entire place. 

As for the rest of the theories…well, those aren’t quite as easy to debunk

I don’t buy into the theory that the suits of armor we see (and whatever is in them) were the original occupants of the castle for the simple reason that we see so many pieces of evidence which suggest that someone related to Hyrule eventually occupied this castle. Why would the Hyrulians leave living remnants of that species in the house that they once occupied? Maybe they might leave some of the armor behind as a trophy, but there is no way they would allow the former occupants to survive in this area if they had any say in their fate 

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My theory regarding the suits of armor is that they’re likely the result of some Hyrulian magic or experimentation. I’ve also heard the theory that suggests there are Yetis in those suits of armor, but that theory falls apart when you realize that Yetis have slightly different shapes and sizes.

Even if we assume that the armored figures are somehow the product of Hyrulian design or inspiration, there’s still the matter of why Snowpeak Ruins is this curious blend of fortress and mansion. 

So far as that goes, my theory is that the Ruins were essentially a kind of “panic room” for the royal family (basically the Hyrulian equivalent of Helm’s Deep). That would certainly help explain the Ruins’ curious blend of comforts and defense. A home built for comfort wouldn’t necessarily have quite so many defenses, and a place built for the military probably wouldn’t be quite so luxurious. 

However, it does seem like there may have been a point when the Ruins were converted to a purely military structure. That would help explain the unkempt nature of the place (it was likely attacked and abandoned years ago) as well as why the more comfortable elements of the location almost seem to take a back seat to the more militaristic elements of the ruins’ design. That could also help explain why the suits of armor continued to be experimented on as possible guardians or soldiers in the field. 

I suppose that there’s also an argument to be made for the idea that Snowpeak Ruins was a purely military structure built with elaborate quarters for the officers, but that wouldn’t quite explain some of the paintings and symbols we see throughout its halls. There is a decidedly royal touch to the whole place that strongly suggests it was designed to be occupied by nobility at some point. 

Of course, the explanation for what, exactly, Snowpeak Ruins is might be less important than the ways its mysteries make it the best Zelda dungeon ever. 

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Why Snowpeak Ruins Is The Legend of Zelda’s Best Dungeon

Snowpeak Ruins differs from other Zelda dungeons in fascinating ways (like the almost Metroidvania way you backtrack through it and the fact that you’re given a map of the dungeon pretty much at the start), but it’s the mystery of the dungeon that makes it such an incredible example of this series’ often misunderstood storytelling

Yes, there are times when the Zelda timeline makes absolutely no sense, but throughout this franchise, but there are many more other times when Zelda’s storytelling is intentionally obtuse. You’re not always meant to know the answer to some of this series’ most fascinating questions, and while I don’t know if even the Zelda team have the answers to all of those questions, I do know this franchise excels at offering thought-provoking experiences that are more fun to analyze than solve. 

Snowpeak Ruins is a testament to the way that this franchise has created so many memorable characters, worlds, and stories without relying on more straightforward cinematic devices. It’s a lovingly crafted mystery that’s meant to appeal to those who appreciate the thrill of exploration and analysis more than the comparatively simple joy of direct answers.