Eldin Province is a province in steady decline. The two major peoples of the area, being the humans of Kakariko Village and the Gorons of Death Mountain, each face a particular subset of problems that are unique, yet ultimately linked to one another, as problems invariably are. The Goron leader has undergone a monstrous metamorphosis, throwing the Goron Mines into disarray, precluding the harvesting of the Goron special crop, the mining of precious ores, as well as general entrance into their sacred grounds and shrines.
Kakariko Village appears to be decaying, though the cause is not at first visible. Due to the insular policies of the Gorons during the loss of their leader, Kakariko has had no trade to speak of, and its already small population seems to have emigrated elsewhere. Its difficulties are further exacerbated by the onslaught of twilight which covers the town, killing or converting villagers into Shadow Beasts. This province is a proving ground for Link that delves far below physicality; he is helping to rid the land of poverty and recession by ultimately reuniting its people. This is an oft-overlooked theme within the Zelda series, wherein reconciliation of peoples whose inability to do so independently has been severely compromised by something exterior exerting itself upon their societies. These civilizational issues are reflected in the landscape of the region, whose architectural heritage is drawn primarily from the American Southwest during a rather brief and rustic era.
The Kakariko Village of this game is far removed from its various other interpretations. Resting uneasily within sight of the volcanic explosion of Death Mountain, whose hardened ash and flame rend the sky, the village hugs both sides of a desiccated ravine. This immediately calls up the image of a western town, where the prominent buildings would line either side of one main street; this is true of Kakariko, whose inn, sanctuary, bomb shop, and houses sidle up next to one another on the only road through town. In such an arid and dusty region, and especially living in a windy gulch, the houses have few, if any, windows, and even these are extremely small, only for the occasional airing. Since the Twilight Invasion, both roads into town have been sealed off, and no one mans the prodigious watch tower that overlooks the portal to Hyrule Field. Regarding style, there is not much to say. Simple, rough masonry is built upon wooden or dirt frames, which then give rise to the blue-tiled roofs of the houses. Little skill has been employed in its woodworking, and even the metal chutes on buildings seem nearly ready to fall from their positions. Yet inside Malo’s shop, which the ambitious youth sets up in order to fill a sundries vacuum, there are wires and electric lamps. I don’t believe that we see electricity used in any other locations within the game, so it is almost unbelievable that such technology should be at play here.
But these are just some of the buildings. Another tradition breaks the surface near Eldin Springs. The house of the spiritually-attuned Renado and his daughter is of the pueblo style, shaped fancifully and made of adobe. It looks like an overturned pot, and weathering has rent the upper portion of this sanctuary. Above the door, an insignia very similar to that of the Goron Ruby is barely visible on the tan stone. Red painted triangles circle the house at ground level, broken only by the two doors and windows. A bell can be seen from the ground outside, signifying that this is some form of meeting hall and safe house. It is a strict incongruity with the other buildings of the town, but upon reflection it is not strange to see two architectural styles of one region married and blended together; it is a confluence of Wild West meets an indigenous population whose buildings are brilliantly adjusted to match the backdrop of the environment.
Inside the sanctuary, an overbearing statue of the light spirit Eldin, wings outspread, perches upon a ball of light. Below this, of course, is the secret tunnel and escape route. Circling the room are simple renditions of eagles, hearkening back to Eldin as well as a central spirit of Native American culture. Also prominent are abstract depictions of the sun, which rest higher than the flight paths of the encircling birds.
Kakariko Graveyard has long since fallen into disrepair. A broken sign marks its entrance, and the gravestones are all in disarray. Dust is thrown through the air, and its musical refrain is a mournful tune played upon a jug, once again echoing the thought of a western town slowly fading away. The foliage is lifeless, and the stonework lies crumbling. However, the signs of an ancient, more beautiful architecture are present. A claustrophobic and hidden tunnel lies to the east of the graveyard. This passageway leads to a peaceful pool of water, which demarcates the burial site of Zora nobility. The eye is drawn toward the central grave marker which, to be honest, is stunning. Lichen and moss cover an exquisite relief of plant motifs which interweave around the symbol of the Zora, a symbol likely derived from Nayru’s holy symbol. The fluid lines carved into stone are offset by the upward, more linear dorsal fin that forms the topmost portion of the marker. The stone is placed in a hollow that is set to movement by the aquamarine reflections of the water. The wall behind carries a relief sculpture of familiar water-centered Zora decorations, such as the conch shell and subaqueous florae. Queen Rutela mentions to Link that this pool is where certain members of the Zora race come to rest, meaning that this font of water is most certainly a sacred one. The water is perfectly clear, and the light refracted in the water comes to rest upon the floor below in lovely, flickering tones. This area is fed by two waterfalls that flow to either side of King Zora’s tombstone, and an underwater channel leads to another yet more sacred body of water—Lake Hylia.
Truly beautiful things render one speechless, I suppose.
If Twilight Princess’s iteration of Kakariko is redolent of a western town, the Hidden Village is an exact replica of a western town. It is, in every way, a settlement that would have seen duels, cowboys, and raids. The hamlet consists of a single road that is lined with buildings, whose false fronts and wooden balconies are nearly carbon copies from old western films. Wanted signs, old photographs, antiquated lanterns, and shipping crates litter the town. The billboard, imploring tourists (the thought of Hyrulean tourism is a very peculiar concept to me, but I suppose it is a vital part of many economies and societies) to visit and easily visible from the street, reads “Welcome to Old Kakarico” and Impaz (the only denizen of this place) herself states that she was named for the founder of the village, which makes the relationship between this town and the Kakariko Village found south of here unclear. How the Sheikah were involved in the creation of these places, if at all, is yet unrevealed, but it seems that nearly every prominent race of the Zelda franchise has at least a small foothold within Eldin Province.
Still the ancestral home of the Goron tribe, the area around Death Mountain has changed greatly since the events of Ocarina of Time. No longer is the land surrounding the great peak arable and life-giving, with gentle hills and green grasses. Barren, dry cliffs, plateaus, and gorges have shredded the surface, and a dim haze of dust and ash is blown over a red and brown land.
Perhaps not the most hospitable place for humankind, it is here that the Gorons thrive. They have channeled the powers of the geological features of this territory to their benefit, employing steam-powered machines, utilizing powerful magnets, and coating everything in scalable metal outcroppings.
The mines perform myriad functions, and Gorons have always been deeply and undeniably connected to caverns such as these. These mines contain the resources and mineral wealth of the Goron tribe, serve as a sporting arena (which houses the Japanese-derived Sumo matches) and holy place, and shelter the Fused Shadow placed in the tribe’s charge. It is an incredible hodge-podge of a structure, being the spiritual, governmental, and economic center of the Goron civilization. With this in the foremost of our minds, all of these functions should be evident in a walkthrough of this area. A hub for commerce and trade, the precious ores take a central role in the dungeon, as do the open-air loading docks, mine carts, and enormous magnetic cranes. Industry has found a home here, and manifests itself in the pipes, bolts, steel beams, metal plating, and large furnaces. The ore is mined, fashioned in some way, and then packed up and shipped off, probably using the waterways found in the main loading area. It is made known that necessary components for bombs originate here, and from the Iron Boots, it is evident that the Gorons also dabble in skillful metallurgy.
Some of the stranger chambers of the Goron Mines are those whose purpose is not industry. In the antechamber to the mines proper, surrounding the wrestling platform, there are diminutive chairs, certainly not meant for Goron usage. Also odd is the Goron sense of décor, which, in addition to the ochre and dust-red paints found upon the walls, seems to consist of handprints—and which race they belong to is anything but clear.
But, perhaps that is the point of all the peculiarities of this region. In some ways, it is incredibly rich and cosmopolitan. These cultural borrowings and interchange make this province, though falling apart at the seams, a quaint and memorable one.