October 18, 2017
For as long as there have been Legend of Zelda games, there has been an intense debate about each game’s placement in the Zelda timeline. The release of the official Zelda timeline in Hyrule Historia quieted the debate somewhat, but didn’t silence it entirely. Today, however, I want to take a look at a different theory. Instead of the Zelda games happening in chronological order in a timeline, I propose that each Zelda game is simply a retelling of the exact same story.
I think a great comparison for this theory is the Synoptic Gospels (the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke), which are just different versions of the same tale told from different perspectives. Similarly, each entry in the Zelda series is a retelling of the same legend, each with a unique twist based on who is telling the story. There are enough basic elements found in most or all Zelda games to really make this theory plausible to me. I will mostly be focusing on the console Zelda games, but many of these elements also apply to the handheld games as well.
1. The Basic Premise
The Zelda games mostly follow the same general premise: an evil force invades Hyrule, and a princess and hero work together to defeat it. The evil force is normally Ganon/Ganondorf and his minions. Even in Skyward Sword, where Demise was the evil, it was really just a previous incarnation of Ganon. The hero and princess are canonically Link and Zelda in each version (although the player could name the hero whatever they want to in some games). The princess and hero appear to be the same people in every Zelda game, with the same general appearance (technological advances in the consoles aside).
2. The Existence of Two Worlds
Starting with A Link to the Past, many Zelda games have featured a parallel world of some sort. In A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, this parallel world was the Sacred Realm (and later the Dark World). Twilight Princess had the Twilight Realm, Skyward Sword had the Silent Realm, and A Link Between Worlds had Lorule. While this parallel world has sometimes gone by different names, they appear similar enough to surmise that they are all in fact the same world.
A few other similarities tie the various versions of the parallel world together. The Sacred Realm and Silent Realm were both used by the goddesses to house the Triforce. A sort of mirror can be used to travel between the Sacred Realm and the Twilight Realm (the Magic Mirror in LttP, the Mirror of Twilight in TP). The Sacred Realm from LttP, the Silent Realm from SS, and Lorule from ALBW can each be accessed from various places throughout Hyrule. These similarities are enough to make me think that the various parallel worlds in the Zelda series are all the same.
3. The Triforce is Split and Needs to be Reassembled
From the very beginning, the Triforce has been separated into three pieces. In some games, a piece (or multiple pieces) is split even further. In fact, the only game in the main series to feature a unified Triforce from start to finish is A Link to the Past. In all other games, the pieces of the Triforce are each held by a different character. In some games, such as The Legend of Zelda and Wind Waker, Link must assemble an individual piece of the Triforce. In Skyward Sword, Link is tasked with finding each of the main three pieces in Skykeep. In other instances, like Ocarina of Time and A Link Between Worlds, the antagonist is trying to assemble the Triforce to achieve ultimate power. Regardless of the game, with the exception of LttP, the Triforce is not a unified artifact, but one that must be assembled.
4. Ganon is Sealed Away and Must Be Freed
Many entries in the Zelda series do not start with Ganon just invading Hyrule. In most instances, Ganon is actually sealed away (or in some cases, even dead!) at the beginning of the game, or gets sealed away at some point. Link to the Past, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, and Breath of the Wild all start with Ganon (or Demise, in SS) trapped. The Adventures of Link and A Link Between Worlds actually begin with Ganon dead. Ganon gets sealed away at the end of Ocarina of Time. In each of these instances (except Ocarina of Time), one of the main goals of the monsters is to free Ganon from his imprisonment, or to resurrect him from the dead.
5. Ganon Had an Assistant Who Works to Free Him
Since Ganon begins many games trapped, it makes sense that many games feature an assistant trying to free him. Link to the Past had Agahnim, Twilight Princess had Zant, Skyward Sword had Ghirahim (who may have been a previous incarnation of Agahnim, but that’s a discussion for another day), and A Link Between Worlds had Yuga. Each of these assistants worked to either free Ganon from imprisonment, or to resurrect him from the dead.
I believe that all this evidence supports my theory that the Zelda games do not occur in some chronological order along multiple timelines, but rather that each Zelda game is simply a retelling of the same tale. The setting and specifics may change in each iteration, but the main premise and several supporting details are consistent throughout the main entries in the series. So what do you guys think? What other evidence supports the idea that each Zelda game is just a retelling of the same legend? What evidence refutes it? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave them in the comments section below.