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The land of Hallownest covers a vast network of caves and tunnels in the middle of a wasteland. They are inhabited by both sentient and wild bugs, among other creatures.
On the surface, the lonely town of Dirtmouth is safely nestled in a valley between the Howling Cliffs and the Crystal Peak. Most travellers to the kingdom reached Dirtmouth via the King's Pass, before the bridge up to it crumbled away. The caverns below the town were heavily transformed into crossroads to allow transportation of bugs and goods across the land.
The caverns expanding below the cliffs are overgrown with luxuriant vegetation, and each with its own ecosystem. The leafy caverns of Greenpath and the groves of the Fungal Wastes were once tamed by the construction of roads, with the Pilgrim's Way as the main path leading from the Crossroads to the kingdom's capital.
The Queen's Gardens, originally part of Greenpath, were orderly built as a calm retreat for the White Lady. Without any maintenance, they were eventually smothered by overgrown vines. Similarly, Fog Canyon is infested with bulbous creatures and the Fungal Wastes with noxious mushrooms.
The mountain's caves contain growing deposits of crystals, which used to be mined for the energy contained within them. Below lie the wide caves of Hallownest's Resting Grounds, filled with tombs and a subterranean lake. The kingdom's moths were responsible for managing these graves.
Below the lake is the largest cavern in the lands occupied by the City of Tears, the kingdom's fallen capital. The lake's water pours down from cracks in the roof causing the city to be submerged in continuous rain. It rests upon the Royal Waterways, a network of pipes and cisterns to manage the city's wastes.
Bordering the kingdom underground on one side is Deepnest, a dark network of cramped tunnels and chasms. On the other side, the city is sealed from the Kingdom's Edge and the Hive by a giant wall. Kingdom's Edge consists of a high chasm and wide caverns covered in perpetually falling white ash. The Hive is the artificial habitat built by a colony of bees.
At the deepest point of Hallownest is the Ancient Basin, forgotten caverns where the Kingdom's monarch built his White Palace. The palace itself disappeared after the Infection returned. Further down is the Abyss at the heart of the lands' darkness, its entrance closed and sealed by the king himself.
The bugs of Hallownest believed that the Pale King created the entire world and everything in it. Although he was an elusive figure who was rarely seen, the citizens revered him as a god. They worshipped him through the King's Idols, icons which depict the King, with each of them being tailored to its owner. Various statues and shrines to the Pale King can be found throughout Hallownest, such as the fountain in Ancient Basin and a shrine in Crystal Peak.
Before the arrival of the Pale King, the Radiance was worshipped by her descendants, the Moth Tribe. A statue was built on Hallownest's Crown in her image. After being nearly forgotten and causing the Infection, the Radiance is now worshipped by the Moss Prophet who preaches about her to several Mossy Vagabonds. Numerous other bugs became part of the union that the Radiance offers, whether willingly or not.
The Mosskin worshipped Unn, who made them from her dream. The Lake of Unn used to be her home, and the building next to it functioned as a place of worship. The Mosskin guard Greenpath, believing that someday Unn will call them back to the dream they were born from.
Before the Wyrm
Long before the Kingdom of Hallownest was founded, an ancient civilisation existed in its place. Instead of worshipping any power or lord, this civilisation worshipped the Void, a substance which is found at the bottom of the Abyss. Due to unknown causes, the ancient civilisation eventually disappeared.
At a certain point in time, a Wyrm arrived in Kingdom's Edge where it shed its shell. This Wyrm then transformed into the Pale King in order to match the form of the other, lesser bugs. Similar to the Radiance, the Pale King was a higher being who was known as a light. He expanded the minds of several species of bugs in Hallownest, which granted them sapience, and in return the Pale King expected them to worship him.
The Kingdom of Hallownest was founded, which the Pale King ruled as a god-king together with his Queen, the White Lady. The Radiance's moth tribe turned its back on her, choosing to worship the Pale King instead. Parts of Greenpath which used to belong to the Mosskin were annexed, while the Mushroom Clan of the Fungal Wastes accepted the Pale King's rule willingly.
The Mantis Tribe and the bugs of Hallownest had no love for each other, but they agreed on a truce where the Mantises would keep the beasts of Deepnest at bay. The Bees of the Hive and the spider tribe of Deepnest chose to remain separate from the kingdom.
The Pale King ruled Hallownest from his palace far below the Kingdom. Under his reign, the kingdom flourished, with many travellers coming and going. The capital of Hallownest was located above the King's palace and was the destination of many pilgrims. The Five Great Knights served as the kingdom's protectors.
The Infection and the Hollow Knight
With the Moth Tribe no longer worshiping the Radiance, she was almost entirely forgotten. However, remnants of her memory still lingered, such as the statue on Hallownest's Crown. When she attempted to make bugs remember her again through their dreams, they resisted her influence, which manifested itself as the Infection.
To put a stop to the Infection, the Pale King decided to seal the Radiance away in a Vessel with no mind nor will. This would make the Radiance unable to influence them and thus leave her trapped forever. These Vessels were the children of the Pale King and the White Lady, born in the Abyss with Void filling their shells.
After many Vessels were discarded for having a mind and will, one Vessel was considered pure and chosen to seal the Radiance. This Vessel was taken out of the Abyss and named the Hollow Knight, trained and raised in the White Palace.
When the Hollow Knight was fully grown, they were sealed together with the Radiance within the Temple of the Black Egg. The three Dreamers went to sleep to protect the Black Egg's entrance. Two monuments were built in remembrance of their sacrifice, one dedicated to the Hollow Knight in the capital city, and one dedicated to the Dreamers in the Resting Grounds.
The Fall of the Kingdom
After some time, it became clear that the Hollow Knight was not a pure Vessel, tarnished by their bond with the Pale King who raised them. Due to this, the Radiance was eventually able to exert influence again, causing the Infection to reappear.
As the kingdom fell to ruin, the Pale King abandoned the bugs of Hallownest and disappeared together with the White Palace. Most of Hallownest's inhabitants became infected or died, with a few exceptions such as the Mantis tribe and some other bugs who resisted the Infection.
The Radiance eventually managed to break out of the Hollow Knight, cracking their shell and fully infecting them. This event prompted the Knight to return to Hallownest, the kingdom now overrun by the reanimated corpses of its former citizens.
Elegy For Hallownest
Elegy for Hallownest is a text written by Monomon the Teacher, the first four lines of which are displayed during the opening sequence of the game.
In wilds beyond they speak your name with reverence and regret,
For none could tame our savage souls yet you the challenge met,
Under palest watch, you taught, we changed, base instincts were redeemed,
A world you gave to bug and beast as they had never dreamed.
- From 'Elegy for Hallownest' by Monomon the Teacher
The map of Hallownest
The floor of the Abyss
Central area in Ancient Basin
Lower area of the City of Tears
Conveyor belt in Crystal Peak moving crystals
Worm pit in Deepnest
Dirtmouth well leading to the Crossroads
Descending down Fog Canyon
Abandoned village in the Forgotten Crossroads
Mushrooms in Fungal Wastes
Main room in the Hive
Western dunes of the Howling Cliffs
Hallownest marker in Kingdom's Edge
Queen's Gardens area near the Stag Station
Resting Grounds graves
Waterfalls in the Royal Waterways
↑Elderbug: "To reach Dirtmouth, most travellers take circuitous routes around the cliffs beside us. It's a hard trek now but in the kingdom's prime things were far simpler. There's an old pass in the cliffs that once allowed easy access. The bridge up to it has long since crumbled away, and even without it, a huge door bars entry."
↑Last Stag: "It was a long time ago, but I remember when these highways and crossroads pulsed with life."
↑ 4.04.1Pilgrim's Way Lore Tablet: "Travellers of Hallownest, descend through verdant wilds and fungal groves to the city at this kingdom's heart."
↑Greenpath Lore Tablet: "Though once our lands, a pale being lays claim to the caverns ahead."
↑Last Stag: "It was not often used by the common bugs, being a well-guarded retreat for our late Queen."
↑Cornifer: "Apparently these gardens were once her retreat... Now some vicious types are crawling all over the place and the plants have grown wild..."
↑Quirrel: "Did it sadden you to see those miners below, still labouring at their endless task? Even overcome, strong purpose has been imprinted upon their husks. The crystal ore is said to contain a sort of energy, not as powerful as the soul the city dwellers harnessed but far less lethal."
↑Quirrel: "I'd heard it told the Kingdom's moths did delve amongst dreams and the dead."
↑Quirrel: "The city looks to be built into an enormous cavern, and the rain pours down from cracks in the stone above."
↑Cornifer: "I'd wager these pipes and chambers were once used to carry the city's waste."
↑Cornifer: "Judging by this wall, the city's folk seemed hesitant to build further into these caverns."
↑Official manual:"As Hallownest fell to ruin, its reclusive king abandoned his subjects and went into hiding."
↑Relic Seeker Lemm: "Have you visited the remnants of his palace? [...] Must've been an impressive sight in its time. Now there's nothing left. It's a strange thing though. There are no signs of conflict around the area. It's as though the whole place just vanished."
↑ 15.015.1Ancient Basin Lore Tablet: "Our pure Vessel has ascended. Beyond lies only the refuse and regret of its creation. We shall enter that place no longer."
↑ 17.017.117.2Relic Seeker Lemm: "Hallownest's king was an elusive figure, deified by the citizens. With the king rarely seen, [...]."
↑Relic Seeker Lemm: "If you look closely, each of these idols is subtly different. [...] I suspect each was tailored to the owner. A personalised symbol of the king's omnipotence."
↑ 19.019.119.2Seer: "The folk of my tribe were born from a light. Light similar to Essence, similar to that powerful blade, though much brighter still. They were content to bask in that light and honoured it... for a time."
↑Moss Prophet: "Oooohhh radiant being, we are blessed. Your rays touch us. Your warmth fills us. Hallownest is born again, united in your blazing image."
↑Bardoon: "I resist the light's allure. Union it may offer, but also a mind bereft of thought..."
↑Traitor Lord Hunter's Journal entry: "Embraced the infection and turned against his sisters."
↑Violent Husk Hunter's Journal entry: "The bugs of Hallownest were twisted out of shape by that ancient sickness. First they fell into deep slumber, then they awoke with broken minds, [...]."
↑Greenpath Lore Tablet: "The Green Children walked from the dream unto these lands."
↑Bardoon: "This ashen place is grave of Wyrm. Once told, it came to die. But what is death for that ancient being? More transformation methinks. This failed kingdom is product of the being spawned from that event."
↑The Godseeker: "God-king, you reduced your form to match Our meagre shells..."
↑Last Stag: "I've heard he was a glorious bug to behold, bright and radiant in visage,"
↑Eternal Emilitia: "Though even [the Delicate Flower's] pure aura is no match for the light of our dear King."
↑ 39.039.1White Palace Lore Tablet: "No blazing kin. Only one light shall shine against the dark. The Wyrm becomes beacon, minds expanded, to yield, to devote. Eternity in promise and charge in progeny cursed."
↑Kingsoul description: "Holy charm symbolising a union between higher beings."
↑Seer: "But another light appeared in our world... A wyrm that took the form of a king. How fickle my ancestors must have been. They forsook the light that spawned them. Turned their backs to it... Forgot it even."
↑Greenpath Lore Tablet: "Those who stray from the White King's roads shall face the law of Unn."
↑Fungal Wastes Lore Tablet: "Warily shall we accept the will of the Wyrm. Its prescience shields us. Fate and Future we shall entwine."
↑Mantis Lords Hunter's Journal entry: "The Mantis tribe and the bugs of old Hallownest had no love for each other."
↑Mantis Village Lore Tablet: "The truce remains. Our vigil holds. The beasts are kept at bay."
↑Hive Queen Vespa: "Though this hive exists within Hallownest, we play no part in its attempt at perpetuation."
↑Quirrel: "Supposedly, there's a village deep in the warren. Its inhabitants never accepted Hallownest's King."
↑Watcher's Spire Lore Tablet: "Though my gaze shall no longer fall upon this city, I will act forever in its protection."
↑Official manual: "Five legendary figures once stood beneath the throne as the kingdom's protectors."
↑ 51.051.1Seer: "And so this kingdom was born from that betrayal. But the memories of that ancient light still lingered, hush whispers of faith... Until all of Hallownest began to dream of that forgotten light."
↑Moss Prophet: "To stifle that light is to suppress nature. Nature suppressed distorts, plagues us."
↑ 53.053.1Pale King: "No mind to think. No will to break. No voice to cry suffering. Born of God and Void. You shall seal the blinding light that plagues their dreams. You are the Vessel. You are the Hollow Knight."
↑Furious Vengefly Hunter's Journal entry: "The infection that passes from creature to creature grants strength and courage, but it also seems to enslave the will."
↑Violent Husk Hunter's Journal entry: "First they fell into deep slumber, then they awoke with broken minds,"
↑White Lady: "Success then for the scarlet heart, and irony, to use my spawn to grow its own."
↑Pale King: "...Soul of Wyrm. Soul of Root. Heart of Void..."
↑Hornet: "Ghost. I see you've faced the place of your birth, and now drape yourself in the substance of its shadow."
↑Pure Vessel Hunter's Journal entry: "Chosen vessel, raised and trained to prime form."
↑Watcher's Spire Lore Tablet: "Sleep beckons eternal and these words become my last. Though my gaze shall no longer fall upon this city, I will act forever in its protection. For King, for bug, for Hallownest, I head now to my rest."
↑Midwife: "Hers is a tale of tragic exchange. Cost her and her people greatly, though I suspect she bore no regret in making it."
↑White Lady: "It faced the Gendered Child? She's a fierce foe, strong in mind and body, striking reflection of her mother, though the two were permitted little time together. I never begrudged the Wyrm's dalliance as bargain. In fact, I feel some affection for the creature birthed."
↑Hornet after Herrah is killed: "We do not choose our mothers, or the circumstance into which we are born."
↑The Hollow Knight Hunter's Journal entry: "Fully grown Vessel, carrying the plague's heart within its body."
↑White Lady: "Its supposed strength was ill-judged. It was tarnished by an idea instilled."
↑Royal Retainer corpses around Ancient Basin and the Royal Waterways Dream Nail dialogue: "...Missing monarch, we need you now..." "...Return to us..." "...the madness spreads..."
↑ Official manual: "As Hallownest fell to ruin, its reclusive king abandoned his subjects and went into hiding."
↑Relic Seeker Lemm: "Have you visited the remnants of his palace? It's down below this city, in the bedrock of the kingdom. Must've been an impressive sight in its time. Now there's nothing left. It's a strange thing though. There are no signs of conflict around the area. It's as though the whole place just vanished."
↑Wanderer's Journal, p. 124: "No actual palace structure stands there [...]. It would seem he somehow took it with him when he fled."
↑Quirrel: "The sickness in the air that clouds the mind of lesser beasts... they resist it."
↑Dreamers: "What compels its climb out of the darkness? What compels its return to this sacred kingdom? A call from beyond the Seals? By the Vessel, or by that captive light?"
↑Quirrel: " This dead world has sprung to life. The creatures are riled up and the earth rumbles. The air is thick. I wonder what could have brought it all about?"
↑Wandering Husk Hunter's Journal entry: "The remains of a bug, animated by a strange force. Wanders the roads where it once lived. These "civilised" bugs of Hallownest were weak in life and now they are equally weak in death."