The Essential Lore of Hollow Knight: The Past of Hallownest

The Hollow Knight lore is one of my favourite game stories, and with reason: from the storytelling to the design, the whole game is one of the most immaculate metroidvania games you can find.

The past events in the Hollow Knight are not directly told to the player, but they permeates the areas that you explore. Although I advise to explore Hallownest at least once on your own before reading the article, here you will find the essential lore of the events that happened before the player controls the knight.

Oh! I recently wrote another article regarding the Mantis Tribe in the Hollow Knight lore that you may enjoy as well HERE.
Let’s start!

Hollow Knight Lore: The Void and Its Origins

At the beginning, there was the Void
This was not what we may categorize as Void in our world, that being an empty space, for this Void was more of a substance which paradoxically creates entities and fills spaces. 
This substance, black as darkness itself, grew from the Abyss: a chasm situated at the deepest part of the whole Hallownest. 
It is said that an ancient civilization, which came and went long before our Knight roamed the underground, used to worship the Void.

From the few relics of the past that we can still admire while visiting Hallownest, being them mostly totems and idols, we may speculate that this was a tribal civilization deeply linked to the Abyss itself. Probably formed near to its location and later expanded to other parts of the land.
Some of these totems may hint to a being with black tendrils, which could represent Void’s ultimate state: the communion of the Void under the lead of a single will.  

The advent of the Void Entity

The Radiance: The Goddess of Light and Dreams

But the Void was not the only major power in the Hollow Knight lore. A Higher Being, a creature with powers beyond the common bugs, described as ‘brighter than essence itself’ came to exist: The Radiance

It is said that The Radiance was the Void’s arch enemy, as light is opposed to darkness, although there are no records of fights between the two. 
The Radiance later gave life to a new civilization, The Moths, and made them in her own image. 

The Moths were a tribe with the unique power to control dreams: pocket dimensions which are parts of a larger one, called the Dream Realm. The Dream Realm, in turn, is formed by the memories of both the living and the dead. 
Many Higher Beings will be in contact with the Dream Realm to several extents, and The Radiance will be no different. 

From Hallownest’s Crown, the moth tribe worshipped her faithfully and erected a statue in her semblance, thankful for the shared consciousness gained from her light.  
But it was only matter of time before even the moths themselves started craving more than that and committed a sin which doomed the future of Hallownest: betrayal. 

The Pale King: The Wyrm Who Became a God

In the Hollow Knight lore, The Wyrms are described as higher beings with two distinctive qualities: they had the power of minor foresight, and the primordial need to lead other bugs.  
One of those Wyrms ended up dying in Kingdom’s Edge, but for a powerful being like it was, death acts more like a metamorphosis. 
It left his giant, worm-like body, and was reborn as a Pale Being.  
Thanks to both his powers and his needs, he quickly managed to gain a following based on a single promise: the gift of insight.  

Hundreds of thousands of bugs united under his flag. Among them were the moths, which decided to abandon their ancient faith to pursuit this new, shining individual. 
The Pale Being, now Pale King, established the great Kingdom of Hallownest. His people were now thriving in knowledge and advancement, and the future looked bright seen from the Throne Room in his White Palace, the core of the Pale King’s dominion. 

In hindsight, maybe it was too bright. 

The Infection: The Radiance’s Revenge and Plague

I ask you, dear reader: Does a god really exist if they have no following? 
While the answer can be argued from both a religious and philosophical standpoint, we can throw any debate out of the window. In the Hollow Knight lore there is no doubt on answering with a dry “YES”. Not only do they exist, but they happen to be extremely vengeful. 

We usually associate a being of light with a positive connotation, but The Radiance, now forgotten by her own creation, is anything but merciful. After years from the beginning of his reign, the Pale King receives words of trouble: Bugs are acting strange throughout his kingdom. Some say that a presence is haunting their dreams. 
The uncomfortable sensation becomes a fully-fledged sickness, called The Infection, which corrupts the body and mind of whoever is inflicted by it.

The Radiance’s revenge has started. 

The chaos spreads, and the Pale King is losing control of his beloved kingdom.  
A Powerful being under his command, the Soul Master, started experimenting with forbidden arts to find a solution: manipulating the soul extracted from the citizens to cleanse the minds afflicted by the infection.  
This resulted in the death of thousands of bugs, to no avail: his research of a cure became instead an obsessive experimentation for achieving immortality. Little did he know that The Radiance was already pulling the strings of his mind, and ended up locking himself in the Soul Sanctum, driven mad by his lust for power. 

The Pale King, trying to avoid a fated demise, approached the situation with a new credo: “No cost too great”. 
A new plan develops, which may actually work in all its blasphemy.  

The Hollow Knight Lore: The Pure Vessel and the Sealed Egg

The idea was simple: creating a being that may contain within themselves the Infection, and then simply seal them away forever with the aid of the Dreamers, beings that will be forever asleep to keep the seal active. 

To put this solution in place, called a Pure Vessel, the Pale King and his wife, the White Lady, started a lengthy process of generating offspring combining their souls together. The offspring was conceived in the depth of the abyss, so that The Void’s influence would contribute on making the vessel completely hollow.
Why hollow, you may ask. That would be the only way to not be influenced by The Radiance and being able to contain her and her infection forever. 
After countless failures, a vessel came out of the abyss and was considered fit to be the Pure Vessel: The Hollow Knight. 

From the lore that we could gather, we know that the Hollow Knight started training in the art of combat, living his life in the King’s Palace. The time came when he was ready to absorb The Infection and save the world… but the Pale King made a grave mistake. 
A secret cutscene that is shown at the end of the most painful segment of the game (called, you guessed it, Path of Pain) shows that, in time, he formed a bond with the Hollow Knight. 

This unfortunately made the Vessel impure, and even though the Hollow Knight will manage to contain The Infection for many years, it will end up leaking out of his chained body in the depths of the Temple of The Black Egg. This will cause a second wave of Infection. 

The Beginning and the Conclusion

And it is in that very moment, when the world is at the brink of a second possible destruction, that a little knight makes his way from the faraway lands beyond King’s Pass to then stop briefly in Dirtmout, making Elder Bug’s day… or leave him with his hand hanging (which would automatically make you a terrible person, by the way). 

There is so much more that deserves to be covered regarding the Hollow Knight Lore, and I will try my best, in time, to make that happen.
But now this is your story.  
Go, save the day, and enjoy the beautiful atmosphere of Hollow Knight. 

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