– This article was originally published on 21st June 2016. It, and others, are being archived and updated here, so sections may seem out of date (in particular, my many theories that I had for the story, haha!). This, specifically, is from the Hyrule Weekly series that I intend to continue with new entries soon, especially as we get more news about the sequel to Breath of the Wild! I shall say, though, having now played through Breath of the Wild; this theory isn’t far off! –
With the launch of our new site comes the relaunch of an old weekly feature – Hyrule Weekly! Each week, Hyrule Weekly will supply you with an insight into a part of The Legend of Zelda. Oh, and with all that juicy E3 info for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, we’ve got quite a lot to chew on now.
Instead of a general impressions article, we are gonna start off with something a bit different – a theory into how Breath of the Wild fits into that complicated Zelda timeline (it does make sense, honest).
-SPOILER WARNING: This article will be talking about major The Legend of Zelda series plot points. Continue reading at your own risk!-
What We Know
With the launch of Hyrule Historia and the Zelda timeline, a new way to look at the series was born. The timeline is sprawling, epic, and confusing at the same time, and Breath of the Wild could fill in a pretty significant gap.
Let’s start with what we know about the game. A female voice (Zelda?) tells Link – asleep and dormant for 100 years in The Resurrection Chamber – to open his eyes. Our Hero, short of his iconic green tunic (and most other clothes) awakes to a desolate Hyrule. Furthermore, as described by Jose Otero of IGN:
“… he [Link] wakes up to some dire circumstances: the world has been ravaged in the time Link’s been asleep by Calamity Ganon, a fog-like beast that creates a dark mist around what looks like Hyrule Castle. The voice tells Link if this calamity gains enough power, he could bring the world to an end.”
In this mini-synopsis, we gain quite a lot of information about the state of Hyrule. Calamity Ganon, this time’s incarnation of Demise, the Demon King from Skyward Sword, is essentially sealed within the confines of Hyrule Castle, and Hyrule has slowly become ruined because of this. More on this in a bit, but first let’s go to an interesting bit of evidence over at Kotaku in an article by Patricia Hernandez. Stephen Tolito, talking to the Zelda developers, gathered this information:
“At a group Q&A with reporters on Sunday, Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma was asked where the game fit into the franchise timeline. Aonuma said he didn’t want to say much about the story at the moment but said he’d stare a hint. He noted that that the T-shirt he was wearing showed the symbol for the Sheikah stones and that it was the same one from The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. (In Breath of the Wild, the reawakened Link uses a high-tech item called the “Sheikah slate”). Aonuma also reminded people that, at the start of this game, Link is told he’s been asleep for 100 years. “He teased: “You can decide what this means.””
Decide we shall, Aonuma. Again, summarising what we have learned here, we can gather that the Sheikah – and the GamePad-like Sheikah slate in Breath of the Wild – play a big part. In addition, the Sheikah symbols are related to Ocarina of Time, meaning this game is likely related to that title in the timeline. Finally, Link being asleep for 100 years is a clue that could point towards the game being set after – rather than before – Ocarina of Time.
Right, this is the good bit – the theory. If we gather that this game is set after Ocarina of Time, then that gives us three routes to consider. If you are not aware, the end of that game splits the timeline into three:
- The Fallen Hero Timeline, where Link fails to defeat Ganon – this leads to A Link to the Past.
- The Child Link timeline, where Link is triumphant and sent back to his original time and Child Link persona – this leads to Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess.
- The Adult Link timeline, where Link is triumphant and then leaves back to his original time, leaving Hyrule without the Hero of Time. This leads to The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks.
There has been speculation of Breath of the Wild being set in The Adult Link timeline, after the sea has washed away. However, there are two major reasons why this is unlikely. The former is that there is no record of the water having washed away. At the end of The Wind Waker, we see what remains of Hyrule below the waves being completely flooded, in fact, rather than the opposite happening. Phantom Hourglass is then still flooded, and the end of that game sees Tetra and crew sailing in search of new lands. These new lands are found and become the setting for Spirit Tracks, but we simply cannot be in this land. This is because Breath of the Wild is clearly set in the Hyrule we know so well (also, no trains yet).
“This could be set long after, when the water has dried up!” I hear you say. Okay, sure. But my second point further backs me up. The Sheikah, we now know, are a huge part of the world of this new Zelda. There is a link (no pun intended) there, and here is the thing: Impa and the Shiekah have never been prominent in The Child Link or Adult Link timelines. We have only ever seen them significantly play into stories before the timeline split and in The Fallen Hero timeline.
From this, then, we can narrow our search down to that one timeline – and now we’re really getting somewhere! Seriously, though, considering the other timelines is crucial in constructing this theory. Now we have pretty solid evidence pointing towards The Fallen Hero timeline, we can look for how this game may fit in.
The Imprisoning War
When studying this part of the timeline, we first have to consider the aforementioned importance of the 100-year sleep Link has been in. The timing really does feels deliberate from Aonuma and co., as 100 years is an important period in the Zelda world. For example, The Wind Waker is set 100 years after Ocarina of Time, and one male Gerudo (the race we have seen Ganon come from) is said to be born every 100 years. Both of these points, in fact, signify the timing of new generations of Link, Zelda, and Ganon. Add this to Breath of the Wild‘s strong connection to Ocarina of Time, and we can place this generation of Zelda directly after the latter – and in The Fallen Hero timeline.
Now, look at this point of Hyrule Historia‘s timeline. Wait a second – there is a pretty major period of events here that doesn’t have a game accompanying it… This, readers, is The Imprisoning War. Now, for starters, doesn’t this sound like something you want to play during and learn about?
Time for a quick lesson on The Imprisoning War, then. After Link fell at the end of Ocarina of Time, Ganon obtained the complete Triforce and, after likely causing large-scale destruction, became the Demon King Ganon – only stopped by the power of the Seven Sages, who locked him and the Triforce in the Sacred Realm (now Dark World). This is where The Imprisoning War story begins…
Hyrule is at peace for a short while, before greedy residents of Hyrule start making their way to the Sacred Realm in search of the power now there. While there, things went badly – as you could probably guess – and the power of the Triforce turned them into monsters in Ganon’s army (by the way, good job, guys). This army helped Ganon escape the trappings of the Sacred Realm and attack Hyrule Castle. The Seven Sages searched for one who could wield the Master Sword, but none could be found. Therefore, the Seven Sages and the Knights of Hyrule had to intervene to – with great sacrifice of life – seal Ganon’s army in the Dark World once more (you can go to Zelda Wiki to read more)
Now, this is a pretty murky point in the history of Zelda. The start to A Link to the Past, where The Imprisoning War was used as history to the game, even notes how said history was ““obscured by the mists of time, and became legend.”” (via ZeldaInformer). Again, it is important to go on what we know – so let’s start matching up Breath of the Wild with this time.
After the ending of Ocarina of Time, where Hyrule Castle crumbled, likely along with Castle Town and the Temple of Time, we have a devastated Hyrule that remains devoid of much life. Going by the E3 demo, Breath of the Wild matches up here; almost immediately, we saw a ruined Temple of Time. As well as this, the Great Plateau and the crumbled remains in that area match up pretty well to Ocarina of Time‘s placements (take a look at this, as referenced by zeldablue on NeoGAF).
Here’s the Theory
Here’s the theory: after being defeated at the hands (trotters?) of Ganon, Link and Zelda lost their Triforce pieces. Crucially, however, they were not killed. After the Seven Sages managed to seal Ganon away, albeit not indefinitely, preparations were made. Zelda went back to the Sheikah and lived undercover in the Sheik persona once again. Link – now in an almost comatose state – is also hidden away by the Shiekah, while the damaged Master Sword has been placed in a sacred place to mend. Hyrule Castle 2.0, if you will, was rebuilt away from the scene of Link’s defeat.
Following the arc of The Imprisoning War, people of Hyrule start gravitating towards the power in the Sacred Realm, strengthening Ganon’s army. Add this to the already sparse Hyrule, and the lack of life only becomes clearer. Ganon is preparing a vicious attack on Hyrule Castle (either this or the Seven Sages’ seal could explain why he is tied to it in Breath of the Wild), and the Seven Sages cannot find a new Hero.
The Sheikah are prepared, however, and Zelda awakes our Fallen Hero from The Resurrection Chamber. From here, we must discover what has happened to the world and prevent Ganon from overpowering Hyrule. Link, Zelda, and Sheik operate from the shadows, perhaps unbeknownst to Hyrule history. It is passed down that the Seven Sages and the Knights of Hyrule pushed back Ganon alone, but they had help – and Link eventually fulfilled his duty as the Hero of Time.
Of course, this bit is just a theory – knowing Nintendo, Breath of the Wild will be that long-awaited sequel to Link’s Crossbow Training – but it does match up with Aonuma explaining to Polygon how “Users may not actually get the full story depending on how they play this game and how they strategize and solve puzzles,”. Perhaps we aren’t the centre of this story, but operating around it?
But what’s that? Distant train sounds? Could it be… it really is Spirit Tracks 2?!
I’m joking, don’t panic.
Even if the tie to The Imprisoning War isn’t this strong, there are strong reasons to place Breath of the Wild after Ocarina of Time in The Fallen Hero timeline.
Then again, maybe you disagree with something said here! Maybe you think it is in a different timeline split? Maybe it is a convergence of the timelines? Perhaps it really is that sequel to Spirit Tracks we all want (right?). I welcome your thoughts on Breath of the Wild and when it is set in the Zelda timeline, so let me know your thoughts below!