Game Theory: The Secret Identity of Hollow Knight's Hero (Hollow Knight)

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Published: 6 months ago
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A game that grabbed my attention recently is Hollow Knight, the indie darling about insect creatures in masks being terrorized by a creature corrupted by Randiance. This game is LOADED with theory material but what grabbed my attention most was the character we play as - the Knight. There is so much we don't know but the clues are EVERYWHERE! Today Loyal Theorists, we are unmasking the secret identity of the Knight or Hollow Knight!

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Writers: Matthew Patrick
Researcher: Alan Baker
Editors: Alex "Sedge" Sedgwick, BanditRants, and Tyler Mascola
Assistant Editor: AlyssaBeCrazy
Sound Editor: Yosi Berman

MossBag's Hollow Knight video,


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The below comment is from the channel Sumwan who did an incredible job critiquing this episode. Unfortunately, the comment got lost (YouTube has an algorithm that is constantly "turning over" comments on high-view videos) and despite digging around for hours looking for it, I couldn't find the original. But the work that she put in was SO thorough that I wanted to make sure it got seen, so here it is!

**Original Text from Sumwan**
I've seen this claim many times and it really does not make any sense. Not only does it contradict evidence in the game but it is very misleading. I'll go through the points one by one and explain why:

6:35 “We too might be in the ranks of a higher being”

The Knight is the child of the Pale King and the White Lady, who are both higher beings. It makes sense that the Knight is able to read these higher being tablets. This doesn't mean that the Pale King IS the Knight.

7:20 “Does it really sound like we're just some failed experiment cast into the depths of this world?”

No, it doesn't sound like that. The Vessels are the children of the Pale King and the White Lady who are born from eggs in the Abyss, which gave them a Shade. The Vessels are not just “failed experiments”.

8:12 “This poem is addressed to the Pale King”

It literally says “elegy for HALLOWNEST”. This poem is about Hallownest. “Under palest watch” refers to the Pale King, but the “you”, is most definitely Hallownest.

8:30 “In the beginning of the game's lore, all bugs were basically a hive mind controlled by the moth god Radiance”

This information is not supported by anything. Only the Radiance's descendants, the moth tribe, worshipped her. Nowhere is it stated that the Radiance controlled everything else. The Mantis Tribe, the Mosskin, Deepnest, and the Hive were all separate tribes and already had minds before the Pale King.

8:51 “This isn't just a poem about the Pale King, it is directed TO the Pale King”

It is about Hallownest and it is direct to Hallownest (elegy for Hallownest).

8:55 “What do we see appear on screen just moments later? Our Knight”

After the poem we see THE HOLLOW KNIGHT, not the Knight. The Knight scene appears after we see the Radiance break out of the Hollow Knight. Team Cherry is NOT drawing a parallel between the Knight and the Pale King. The poem is about Hallownest. It is FOR Hallownest. And the scene with the Knight does not appear right after the poem.

10:27 “Elderbug says we are seeking our dreams in perhaps a very literal sense.”

The context of this sentence matters. Elderbug is talking about how all the previous travellers went down into Hallownest to follow their dreams. He does not actually know if the Knight has any “dreams” themselves.

11:00 “Elderbug wondering if he's seen a ghost is another potentially clever play on words”

No it's not. Elderbug is just referring to how he thought maybe he didn't see anyone pass him because the Knight left so quickly. This dialogue has no other meaning besides that.

11:36 “White Lady: Is it more than simply a Vessel? I almost feel like I'm once again in the presence of my beloved Wyrm”

The White Lady only says this because the Knight is wearing the Kingsoul. The Kingsoul reminds her of the Pale King, not the Knight themselves. Also, the White Lady literally calls the Knight her spawn when they visit her with Grimmchild equipped: “Success then for the scarlet heart, and irony, to use my spawn to grow its own.” Are you saying that the White Lady gave birth to her own husband?

11:46 “Your noble bearing reminds me of our dear King”

No surprise there since the Knight is the child of the Pale King.

12:05 “The bugs in White Palace bowing as you approach them is just screaming that you're the king”

White Palace is a whole other issue, but this is really not concrete evidence. Also their dream nail dialogue makes no sense if it refers to the Knight.

12:19 “10/10 Royal Retainers can't be wrong. You are royalty”

You're actually right there. The Knight IS royalty, since they're the child of the King. Not because they ARE the King.

13:28 “This line of “more transformation” seems to imply that the Pale King's death would only lead to yet another form”

Not really. Bardoon says that the Pale King's death in Kingdom's Edge was not an actual death, but that it was more like a transformation. This does not mean that the Pale King can transform again after he became his bug shape. A caterpillar transforming into a butterfly also cannot transform into another being again.

13:49 “It's an ancient force that opposes the blinding light of [the Radiance]”

Not just the Radiance's light, but the Pale King's too. He is referred to as a light in multiple places:

The Seer:
“But another light appeared in our world... A wyrm that took the form of a king.”

The Pale King calls himself a light in the throne room lore tablet:
“No blazing kin. Only one light shall shine against the dark.”

As does the Teacher’s Archives lore tablet:

Other bugs talk about the Pale King emanating light:
“Though even its pure aura is no match for the light of our dear King.” (Eternal Emilitia)
“I've heard he was a glorious bug to behold, bright and radiant in visage, so much so it hurt to look at him.” (Last/Old Stag)
“That lingering power alone was beacon enough to draw Us to Hallownest. How bright it must have been to mortal bug stood before it.” (Godseeker)

14:45 “The Pale King used Void to fight time itself. He wants to use the Void to attain eternal life. He births himself as a Void-based creature”

Not literally time. Time here is capitalized, and it is more likely to just refer to the Radiance. Locking up the Radiance is generally seen as being what has caused the Kingdom to remain in a stasis:
“Bear witness to the last and only civilisation, the eternal Kingdom. Hallownest””
“Eternity in promise and charge in progeny cursed.”
“Now this Kingdom's stasis becomes the Wyrm's legacy.”
“Though this hive exists within Hallownest, we play no part in its attempt at perpetuation.”

It is not literally time. He is a higher being, he does not need to use the Void to “achieve eternal life”. Not to mention that the Void opposes his own powers too (see previous point).

15:25 “It seems to suggest that this egg [in White Palace] is where version 1.0 of the Pale King hatched into its upgraded form”

It does not. The Pale King became his current bug form in the Cast-Off shell. The Wanderer's Journal even mentions that too on page 111: “Deep within the maw of the [Cast-Off Shell], a pale, broken egg of some sort hints at such a rebirth.” Not only that, but the egg of the Knight in the Abyss would be DEADLY for the Pale King. Void opposes his power, it would simply kill him if he were to become corrupted by the Void like the eggs of the Vessels were.

15:40 “Elsewhere in White Palace there is a nursery playing this song on the music box (shade theme). The sound that accompanies our Knight's past life coincides with the same sound from a nursery housed in the Pale King's palace.”

Yes, this is true, but not because of the reason you're describing. It's because the Hollow Knight grew up in White Palace (see Path of Pain scene). This nursery was probably for them. And since the Hollow Knight is a Vessel too, it makes sense that the Shade theme place for that area.

16:21 “The existence of a connection between our Knight and the Pale King seems undeniable”

Yes, it is undeniable. The Knight is the child of the Pale King.

18:13 “In cut dialogue that was datamined from the game, it shows that the Hollow Knight says “father”.

Cut dialogue is not evidence. The "Father?" is cut dream nail dialogue. It was cut for a reason. We don't know when this line was written, in which context it would be used exactly, maybe the Hollow Knight's fight was different at the time, etc.

19:20 “Losing his memory helps make him purely hollow”

It does not. Quirrel lost his memory and this does not happen to him. Not to mention that the Knight is not hollow. There are multiple places where the Knight is said to have a will:

Steel Soul Jinn: "...It refuses to trade...? It has a will... all Its own."
Void Heart description: "Unifies the void under the bearer's will."
Description of a pure Vessel: "No will to break."

Lastly I'm going to address some fundamental problems with this entire theory that you did not address or seem to have forgotten about.

The most obvious evidence that contradicts that the Pale King is the Knight is that the Knight and the Pale King are both seen at the same time. This is during the Birthplace memory cutscene where the Hollow Knight is led out of the Abyss by the Pale King. This is a memory of the Knight themselves since the Knight dreamnails their own reflection to access this memory. Furthermore, the achievement for acquiring Void Heart also says:

"Remember the past and unite the Abyss"

This supports the fact that it is the Knight’s memory. Therefore, the Pale King cannot be the Knight, since they were alive at the same time.

Secondly, the Knight is the child of the Pale King, not a transformation. The lore tablet to the right of the throne in White Palace says that the Vessels are the progeny of the Pale King, and the Pale King also says that the Vessels are "born of God and Void", the God obviously referring to him and the White Lady who are both higher beings. Since the Knight is the child of the Pale King (and the White Lady), the Pale King cannot BE the Knight.

None of the points that were brought up align with the evidence that is in the game, and it even contradicts it in various places. To put it quite simply, the Knight is NOT the Pale King.

6 months ago

Also my favorite boss is broken vessel

4 days ago

Madpat I'm going to be real with you here I also have played hollow Knight front to finish I think the radiance maybe infection not to take over the kingdom but to get the other bugs out the way so that she can revive the moths somehow 1 my memory is trash so don't believe me word for word but from what I remember there are 4 moths you can talk to
1. Seer
3. Thistlewind
4.unknowen in the shrine of the believers disappointed me talks about how great the radians was and if I remember correctly she said that there was a power that the radiance for revive keep in mind like I said my memory is trash to don't believe what I say

4 days ago

@Raven cool wall. Guy's bad at this, constantly gets loads wrong, spreads disinformation and doesn't look back. It's low quality content; very similar to CinemaSins. Calling something 'entertainment' doesn't make it not bad.

But yes, kicking a dog to death - that's not "too drastic" yet wanting the guy to do more research than browsing a sub-reddit is?

4 days ago

@YEs For one, you're taking it too seriously, go outside, for two, "altruistic" is far too drastic a word for this, for three, obviously a LOT of people did see it, thus all the people yelling about it down here, and for four. This is his JOB, he doesn't owe it to anyone to make an "apology" video because he got some video game lore wrong. You all seem to forget this is his bread and butter, and he's said these theories are for fun and not to take them too seriously multiple times. Instead of going after a youtuber whose job is to entertain, maybe wonder why you feel it's okay to attack someone's entire character over a youtube theory vid, because it's kind of silly. People want to correct him when he's wrong fine, but he could've completely ignored Sumwan's comment and he wouldn't be "in the wrong" to begin with. Fiction is a big part of my life but this is just extreme. Y'all are acting like he went out and kicked a puppy to death and then posted a video of him petting a dog to "make himself look better." Which would be an ACTUAL issue.

4 days ago

I haven’t even HEARD of this game and this theory makes me wanna cry

3 days ago

It's amazing, purely because of the comments on this video I went from having no opinion on the HK fandom, to thinking they're pretentious twats who think too much of themselves. Worse than the Undertale fandom.

4 days ago

My heart

4 days ago

I LOVE game theory and it was hard to right this( since it kinda debunks his theory) what if ALL of the vessels could do the things you do in the game? In order to hold a LITERAL GODLY FLU, you would need it to be as strong as a god. We just don't know since all the vessels were killed and throughout, even when you fight the uninfected hollow knight( in the god seeker area, when you complete all the boss rushes, the second to last battle is the hollow knight, but he's called the pure vessel) the hollow knight has some godly like powers that look a lot like the radiance (bug god) radiance attacks

4 days ago


4 days ago

I mean the knight could be his own dad if he was in alabama

5 days ago

you're actually missing a few points to solidly conclude he's the king but good try

5 days ago

Im so sad

5 days ago

OR we play as A hollow knight. Not capitalized, because it's not the knight's title.

5 days ago

Because technically that's what both Hollow Knight and the "Knight" are.

5 days ago

How did the pale king and the pale lady have a child ? Look at their sizes

5 days ago

Please never change the intro

6 days ago

Hold up, so I'm a Hollow Knight noob, (just beat I think her name is wasp, the one with the red dress, accidentally skipped the first boss tho) and even though I only watch Hollow Knight animations, these videos pop up on my recommended suddenly now, and we all know I can't resist a good ol' Mat Pat Theory.

6 days ago

My god, almost everyone in this comment section are idiots. This is a theory people of course it's probably wrong, stop giving Matpat crap all the time. These theories are mainly about entertainment anyway.

6 days ago

If you have PS Now you can play it for free.

6 days ago

So sad

6 days ago


1 week ago

Because it's a meme.

5 days ago

It's fun because when I was reading some in-game dialogues (without knowing a lot about the story, it's my first playthrough and I myself still don't know the full lore) inmediately thought wait... The King "left" Hallownest leaving everything behind and everyone waiting for his return. Suddently this Knight nobody knows about appears and is considered a superior being, he achieves powers that nobody seems to have, he unlocks the limits of the world and is able to travel to the place were gods rest, he "inherits" (takes) the King's Brand and will be treated as the King by the ancient doors. I thought that the Knight was a reincarnation of the King as well! lol.

1 week ago

I don’t see y u walking past the elder bug and him seeing u as a ghost would imply u were the king , feel like that’s a big jump, would he know what the pale king looked like? And if he did would he not have a stronger reaction to u in general... idk

1 week ago

José Dias I could see why you say that but that is literally the most minor piece of evidence in this theory

5 days ago

Wow, so much effort into being wrong. Bittersweet.

1 week ago


1 week ago

Awesome theory. I love this. It's so cool.

1 week ago

Nice theory and all, but I still like to refer to The Fork as The Worst Father In Existence

1 week ago

I think you missed something. There is a cutscene? Whatever, but if you go into the bottom middle of the abyss with the kingsoul charm there is a secret maze and if you go to the right I think, And dreamnail something, you can go into a cutscene where you have control of your character, you climb up the abyss up to the final ledge there is the hollow knight and the pale king, and you are seen separate from him, 2 different beings, there is a lot of evidence for your argument but you can’t deny my point

1 week ago

4:18 - oh psh! What a wuss. I’ve read multiple books that big. Approximately.
Of course, they were in modern English, but still.

1 week ago

Flex more, i can't hear ya! But for real, the letters in those sort of books are like a third of the size of normal letters, and the pages are much thinner

1 week ago

I dont remember how but from the beginning of my first playthrough I always thought the player was the King (not the pale king though) coming back to redeem his kingdom.

1 week ago

If he really played every inch of the game he would’ve already figured out he wasn’t the hollow knight at the statue in the city of tears

1 week ago

Now I shock all of you be this revelation. The Creators did first level design and then made up the story. So there is literally no story ur just crazy.

1 week ago

There is a story, it was just added after the map was made. The game has a script, events happen, there are themes present. Lord of the Rings started as a language, history and geography were added to justify linguistic splits, and eventually stories came out of that world.

Where you start can tell you a lot about where you end up, but the final product is there none the less.

1 week ago

Why can't Team Cherry even confirm this.
Game that don't answer our questions............

It's just frustrating!

1 week ago


1 week ago