For a long time, one of the most hotly debated topics on the internet was the Legend of Zelda timeline. Gamers were constantly trying to figure out where each game took place if Hyrule in one game was the same in another game. One of my first exposures to forums was the IGN message boards leading up to the launch of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I would check the board daily for any news that may have been revealed for the game while I was in school. But the most active thread was always the ‘TIMELINE THREAD’.
Thankfully Nintendo has blessed us all with official glossaries, histories, and timelines and everyone can officially stop having fights about what’s connected and what isn’t. Now, where does this bring us? Next week, Tears of The Kingdom is releasing, and since it’s the sequel to Breath of the Wild, we know that Tears of The Kingdom just might be the latest game in the Zelda timeline.
Everything here has been fact-checked against the official books and resources Nintendo has published! Sit down and enjoy a light spoiler overview of the timeline leading up to the series’ newest title, Tears of the Kingdom.
The Basic Lore
What we need to establish off the get-go is, Hyrule in each Zelda entry is the same. There is some variety that happens within the multiple timelines of course, but it’s good to keep this in mind when thinking of how things developed geographically and socially over time. But before we get into any of the business about multiple timelines and cultural differences, we need to get to the setup.
During a time of Chaos, three goddesses, Din, Farore, and Nayru, formed what later became Hyrule. Din created the physical topography of the realm, Nayru created the natural science and laws of the land, and Farore created the races, flora, and fauna that can be found in Hyrule. The three left Hylia in command of the new land and granted her strength to watch over a magical relic called the Triforce. This relic grants a wish and true power to anyone who has a balance of the three virtues: power, wisdom, and courage.
Many years after Hylia watched over the physical realm, Chaos eventually became manifest. An all-out war between light and dark ensued. Eventually, a Demon King rose to power, taking on the form of a creature known only as Demise. Hylia and the humans of Hyrule waged war against Demise and eventually, Hylia took the surviving humans to the sky to live peacefully away from the Chaos below.
Hylia and Impa seal Demise away in the Spirit Realm, and Hylia sacrifices her godhood to be reborn as a human so she can wield the power of the Triforce to take down Demise for good. This is how the eternal struggle of the three main characters in The Legend of Zelda gets put into motion.
The Beginning of Time
Skyward Sword starts and the Seal has begun to weaken – Demise is coming! A baby girl is born who is named Zelda. Zelda turns out to be the Goddess reincarnated, and she chooses a special knight soldier by the name of Link to help her defeat Demise once and for all. Link fights and kills Demise, which ends in Demise swearing to pursue the descendants of Link and Zelda until the end of time.
Humans finally are back on solid ground and start to make a home of Hyrule. In the background, the rumor of the Triforce and its power begins to create a power vacuum as people begin to thirst to be the ones to control it. The Sage of Light locks away the Triforce in the Sacred Realm and constructs the Temple of Time at its entrance, locking it away with the Master Sword as the only true key.
Zelda then creates the Kingdom of Hyrule as a way to make sure her bloodline and its protectors stay close to the Temple of Time in the future. The walls of Hyrule Castle and Hyrule Castle Town protect the Temple of Time, as years pass and many princesses are born, who are also named Zelda.
After this is when The Minish Cap takes place. What this entry does is establish that the land of Hyrule shares an existence with otherworldly dimensions and elements. Following that is Four Swords, where we learn about the three Great Fairies who protect three regions in Hyrule; the Sea of Trees (Kokiri Forest), the Talus Cave (Zora’s Domain), and Death Mountain.
The Hero of Time
During the Hyrulian Civil War, a woman flees from the path of destruction in the middle of the night and brings her child to the Kokiri Forest to protect him. The mother of the child passes away and the Spirit of the Forest, the Great Deku Tree, takes in the child and allows him to grow up with the children of the forest, the Kokiri. Thus, the Hero of Time is born and the story of Ocarina of Time begins.
Ocarina of Time is probably the most important game lore-wise for the Legend of Zelda series. This game causes a time divergence resulting in three different timelines. One in which The Hero is Defeated, another where The Hero is Triumphant, and a third when Ganondorf is Sealed.
Since Ocarina of Time is about traveling in time and creating circumstances in the past to affect the future where Link and Zelda can kill Ganondorf, it makes sense for there to be these separate timelines.
The Hero is Defeated
Ganondorf obtains the Triforce and is then imprisoned in the Sacred Realm. He is so evil that his darkness overtakes the Sacred Realm and transforms it into the Dark World. Many years passed and the Hylian bloodline weakened, whilst peace still prospered in the land. Then the story of A Link to The Past, Oracle of Ages and Seasons, The Adventure of Link and The Legend of Zelda happen.
The Era of Light and Dark is what A Link to the Past and Oracle of Ages and Seasons is referred to. In A Link to the Past, the main villain Agahnim has taken over Hyrule. Killing the king and effectively taking over the military. His goal is to kidnap all of the maidens, women who have the blood of the Sages, and to sacrifice them which sends them to the dark world. Seven of the maidens need to be sacrificed to undo the seal that is holding Ganondorf. Aghanim succeeds and sees Zelda killed in front of him. From here, Link journeys back and forth between the Dark World and Light World, saving the maidens from the clutches of evil and bringing them back to life. Finally, Link slays Aghanim with the help of Zelda and then he’s able to face off against Ganondorf in his Beast form. Link wins, gets his hands on the Triforce, and wishes for peace to be brought back to the land.
Next the two Oracle games take place. Link from A Link to the Past is transported to the land of Holodrum in Oracle of Seasons and then Labrynna for Oracle of Ages. Both of these games center on Twinrova trying to revive Ganondorf. These two twin witches raised Ganondorf when he was the King of the Thieves and now worship him as the embodiment of The Demon King. Link must wield the power of Seasons and Time to stop the witches. An interesting note here, the item that controls time is a Harp. Now, Twinrova is seeking to ignite the Flames of Destruction, Despair, and Sorrow to revive Ganondorf and flood the land with darkness.
In Holodrum they seal away the Oracle of Seasons, Din, causing nature to go out of whack and spurring Destruction. In Labrynna they make their lackey Veran possess Nayru, the goddess of time, and she disappears and manipulates the world from afar. Twinrova ignites two of the three flames and sacrifices Zelda. Then our hero Link saves the day using the Oracle of Seasons and Ages powers together to replace Zelda on the sacrificial altar. In the fight with Twinrova the two sacrifice themselves in order to revive Ganon in some capacity. He’s revived but nowhere near as strong and easily defeated.
Then we have Link’s Awakening. This title is a bit more laid back due to there not being any overwhelming evil forces like the god of destruction trying to take over the kingdom. Link is on a boat back to Hyrule and he gets hit by a storm and washes up on a beach in a new land called Koholint. Koholint is different but familiar, just like Zelda games in the past, but this one is lacking two key players – Zelda and Ganondorf. Link’s goal on the island is to get off. Slowly but surely we learn that Link is in a dream of the Wind Fish and he’s trapped there. Link gathers the items needed, some instruments, and he wakes the Wind Fish. In turn, Link destroys the Dream World and he sets sail on another adventure, never to be seen again.
These stories all culminate years of adventure for different Link’s that end with the Link in The Legend of Zelda reviving the last Zelda who had the power of the Goddess and thus bringing the land to peace with the defeat of the Demon King.
The Hero is Victorious
Winning isn’t always the best outcome for a hero. This timeline is full of dread and never-ending cycles of peril. Link in this timeline is sent far away with his Ocarina by Zelda so Ganondorf is no longer allowed to open the Sacred Realm. And since Link is no longer having to dedicate his life to being the Hero of Time his Fairy, Navi, flies away. So during his time outside of Hyrule, Link makes his way to Termina and Majora’s Mask begins.
Many years pass and Ganondorf is executed in the Sacred Realm due to Zelda knowing what originally happened during the seven year cycle of Ocarina of Time. But as we know, Ganondorf doesn’t die due to being one of the chosen ones, so he’s able to kill a Sage and then he gets banished to the Twilight Realm. Twilight Princess takes place here, and Ganondorf is killed, staying gone for a few hundred years.
Side note, in Twilight Princess you meet the original Hero of Time who trains the Link of Twilight Princess. The old Hero is just a skeleton, forever stuck and not allowed to pass! This timeline doesn’t have an ending yet but, as it stands, evil is still around and recycled every hundreds of years or so.
Ganondorf is Sealed Away
This timeline is pretty simple. The Master Sword is locked away. The Demon King is defeated and Link is allowed to live a normal life for a bit. The Hero of Time goes to live on Lon Lon Ranch and his adventures and deeds are passed down generation after generation as legend. Then the Hero never returned. Ganondorf did return though and began wreaking havoc on Hyrule.
The King at the time, King Daphnes Nohansen turns the rule of the Kingdom over to the gods and allows them to do as they wish with the land. They then flooded Hyrule, drowning Ganondorf and Hyrule whilst sealing the King with his Castle at the bottom of the ocean.
But as you may have guessed, Ganondorf returns. A Hero and a Princess also return as well. Thus Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks happen. What is important to take note of here is the Triforce was separated in many small pieces around the flooded land, almost impossible to find, to ensure that Ganondorf would never get his hands on it. Link eventually finds all of the pieces and rebuilds the Triforce, and is transported to Hyrule Castle which has been held in a time stasis since the flood occurred.
Everything falls into place, right into Ganondorf’s hands, and he approaches the rebuilt Triforce. Before he can touch it, the King of Hyrule appears and places his hand on the Triforce and makes a wish upon it, demanding that Hyrule be washed away forever. Hyrule’s final battle is at hand and Link and Zelda, entrusted with the future of the land, destroying Ganondorf and turning him to stone in an eternal slumber at the bottom of the ocean. This timeline is also at an open end where the land of Hyrule is resurrected and happy times are to be had, for now.
Take a Breath of The Wild
This leads us to where we are now with Breath of The Wild and Tears of The Kingdom. What is interesting about these two games is they take place thousands of years after anything in ‘the middle’ of the timeline. So basically everything we just covered! The older games in the series are just myths now, long forgotten.
Our only true myth currently is the one we learn from Breath of The Wild. What is interesting about Breath of The Wild is how it combines a lot of plot points and references from all three timelines. Was there a convergence? Who knows!
What I really enjoy overall about where the series stands now with Tears of the Kingdom coming out in a few days is we are potentially nearing the end of the known timeline for Zelda. Could we be seeing the ‘true end’ of the warring between the wielders of Power, Wisdom, and Courage?
With all of the things we’ve seen in the trailer and the logo for Tears of The Kingdom being an Ouroboros, it’s hard to not feel speculative right now! I bet you also have a ton of ideas running through your head just like me, let us know what you think in the comments below! We would love to hear your theories.