The Pale King is one of the central figures in Hollow Knight. This character’s life and end are a mystery. What exactly happened to him is a bit unclear, but there are hints we can use to reach a conclusion.
Table Of Contents
Who Is the Pale King?
The Pale King is what’s known as a higher being. In the world of Hollow Knight, higher beings are considered “gods” and are worshipped by its inhabitants. That said, the Pale King isn’t only the ruler of Hallownest, but he is also seen as the land’s deity.
The Pale King’s original form is that of an ancient, giant Wyrm. The Cast-Off Shell you find at the eastern section of Kingdom’s Edge is actually the Pale King’s original body. However, he changed his form to look more like Hallownest’s inhabitant bugs. Moreover, the Pale King also significantly reduced his size. Whereas his original form was massive enough to carve a hole in a place like Kingdom’s Edge, the Pale King’s new form is no taller than the average Hallownest bug.
Prior to the arrival of the Pale King, Hallownest had already existed. Whether it was called Hallownest then is unknown. What is indisputable, though, is that when the Pale King arrived, he carved tunnels and pathways to make each region of Hallownest more interconnected. He was also responsible for Stagways and Tram Stations.
In addition, the Pale King also expanded the minds of Hallownest’s inhabitants. This is why the bugs of Hallownest are now capable of speech and critical thinking. In exchange, the Pale King wanted to be worshipped.
The Pale King’s Reign
The Pale King managed to unite the various factions and tribes of Hallownest under his rule. Most of the kingdom’s inhabitants accepted him as their god-king immediately. The Moth Tribe who used to worship The Radiance, turn their back on their former god to worship the Pale King. The Mushroom Clan, the Mantis Tribe, and the bugs of Greenpath also accepted the Pale King as their god and ruler.
The only bugs of Hallownest who refused to be a part of the Pale King’s rule are the Spiders of Deepnest and the Bees of The Hive.
The Pale King ruled Hallownest alongside his Queen, the White Lady, another higher being.
The kingdom is said to have flourished under their rule. Hallownest was brimming with inhabitants, with many travelers from distant lands coming to see the brilliant kingdom. As a means of protecting his kingdom from unwanted threats, the Pale King established the Five Great Knights. This group of protectors is composed of Dryya, Hegemol, Isma, Ze’mer the Grey Mourner, and Ogrim the White Defender.
During his reign, it is said that the Pale King was very reclusive. He chose to spend most of his time reigning from the White Palace. Despite this, his bugs remained loving and loyal to him.
The Threat of the Infection
The higher beings all have powers that are unique to them. As for the Pale King, he has the powers of foresight.
After the inhabitants of Hallownest, including the Moth Tribe, started to worship the Pale King, previously worshipped higher beings began being forgotten. One of these higher beings is The Radiance.
As a reprisal for being forgotten, the Radiance began to impose memories of her through the bugs’ dreams. The bugs of Hallownest, ever faithful to the Pale King, resisted The Radiance’s imposition. This resistance, though, led to something terrible. When the bugs of Hallownest refused to accept the memories of The Radiance, this created the Infection.
The Infection caused the bugs of Hallownest first to fall into a deep slumber. Once they awoke, they did so with their minds and psyches broken. After a while, their bodies began to transform Then, those who fully succumbed to the Infection eventually perished. This is the ultimate effect the Infection had.
It was a plague the Pale King fought hard to eradicate. He closed off the City of tears in an attempt to stop the Infection from spreading. However, even his mighty Five Great Knights were powerless to defeat a threat they thought was formless.
The Attempt to Contain the Infection
When the Pale King realized he couldn’t defeat the Infection, he formulated a plan to contain it. He turned to his creations, the Vessels, for this.
The Vessels are the children of the Pale King and the White Lady. They are birthed within The Abyss so that they’re infused with the power of the Void. Prior to the arrival of the Pale King, The Radiance and the Void are the two higher beings that are worshipped by most in Hallownest. They are also said to be eternal foes. Perhaps this is why the Pale King decided to imbue his children with the power of the Void, to help counteract the Radiance’s Infection.
The Pale King and the White Lady birthed many vessels. For a vessel to fully resist the Infection, they’ll need to be without mind, will, and voice. The purest vessel is the one that most befits this description. Eventually, the Pale King found his pure vessel. He named this vessel the Hollow Knight.
The Hollow Knight was then trained and raised by the Pale King himself. All of this is so the Hollow Knight becomes prepared to contain the Infection. When the Hollow Knight became a fully grown vessel, he was ready to fulfill his purpose.
The Infection was sealed within him, and he himself was sealed inside the Temple of the Black Egg. It is here the Hollow Knight is supposed to contain the Infection for eternity. With the Hollow Knight’s sacrifice, Hallownest would flourish once more. Its inhabitants would be free and safe. The threat of the Infection would be fully eradicated. The Pale King’s pure vessel would make this possible.
However, the Hollow Knight wasn’t completely pure in the end.
As he was raised and trained by the Pale King, the Hollow Knight began to love his father. The Hollow Knight wasn’t without mind, will, and voice anymore. This very idea of being bonded with the Pale King made him impure.
As a result, the Infection re-emerged. The kingdom of Hallownest and its inhabitants continued to succumb to the Radiance’s influence.
The Disappearance of the Pale King
After failing to contain the Infection, thus failing to protect his kingdom, the Pale King disappeared. His White Palace, which used to be in the Palace Grounds below the kingdom, disappeared with him. It is later revealed that the Pale King transported himself and his palace to the dream realm.
It isn’t clear why the Pale King left his kingdom. Perhaps it was because he felt defeated and he knew he couldn’t protect his kingdom from the Infection anymore. Perhaps he was distraught that the Hollow Knight he raised and trained failed to fulfill his purpose. Or perhaps, he was afraid.
The Pale King eventually met his end at his very castle. He remains seated at his throne, slumped over and lifeless. The death of the Pale King is another mystery. It is, however, possible that the Pale King died at the hands of the Void.
The Kingsmould body that contains the White Palace is oozing with black liquid, a sign of the Void. The Pale King’s throne room is also filled with black orbs and black smoke, other signs of the Void.
Since the Pale King chose to hide within the dream realm, it is highly possible that the Void went after him.
The Void would see the Pale King as an opposition. The Void represents darkness and the Pale King represents light. The Void’s actions could also just be a retaliation for the Pale King’s work with void beings.
Whatever the case, it’s too late for the Pale King. His efforts to contain the Infection failed. He fled his kingdom in desperation. And eventually, he too failed to live on.