Alongside the release of the Hyrule Historia, Nintendo unveiled the official Legend of Zelda timeline. This ended one of the longest-running debates among the fans of the games while simultaneously inspiring dozens more. Fans began to gnaw on other details to satisfy their appetite for lore they eagerly awaited for the next mainstream title to the Legend of Zelda franchise: Breath of the Wild. Theorists took to the drawing board again, pulling every detail from the trailers that they could find up to the release of the game. Barely two minutes of gameplay led to hundreds of theories that all boiled down to one question: when did the events of this game take place. After release, hardcore theorists went silent for about a month to get their hands on the world and dig around and mine material to work with—every line of dialogue, every detail in attire, racial customs, and map locations. Several weeks into the game’s life, they have rummaged through the game and new theories and debates are beginning to brew.
Shout out to all the theorists out there that are helping to keep the spirit of the games alive.
Prior to the Hyrule Historia’s release, there were two dominant camps among timeline theorists: the linear theorists (who have been forced to tip their hat to Nintendo’s canon), and the split timeline theorists. Once again, the community is divided in answering the big question of “when,” but this time there’s a three-way split. I’m going to review the facts that we know for sure in regards to Breath of the Wild and its placement, and then I’m going to visit the merits and problems with each timeline placement proposal. The conclusion I come to will hardly be set in stone as Nintendo could easily come out and drop another bombshell on the community in the form of an official statement, an updated Historia, or some details in the upcoming DLC that not only blows the current theories away, but provides a solid verdict on where the game stands.
I want to issue a spoiler alert as I will be covering details that have to do with major plot points in Breath of the Wild.If you’ve not played the game for yourself yet, or if you’re not sure you’ve encountered all these plot points, I would encourage you to come back to this article once you’ve played through the main story. It’s well worth your time to do so!
With all that out of the way, let’s try to see where Breath of the Wild fits into the vast history of the land of Hyrule.
What We Know
The track and many of the wooden structures are still standing from Lon Lon ranch. Even the old race track hasn’t entirely been claimed by the passage of time.
It is safe to say that this game comes after Ocarina of Time, as all-but-confirmed byseries producer Eiji Aonuma. Now in order to begin theorizing Breath of the Wild‘s precise placement in Zelda lore. We need to look at each of the three timelines and the evidence for and against BotW fitting into each branch.
This is because the land of Hyrule holds many of the key land marks from OoT on its map in the exact orientation. Landmarks include Hyrule Castle, the ruins of Hyrule Castle Town, the ruins of Lon Lon ranch, and the Temple of Time. These locations are in close proximity to one another and, given the state of their and arrangement, they were likely part of what one might expect to see after the conclusion of OoT and Ganon’s original fall. The capital of Hyurle Town would have expanded outward, circling the Temple of Time, and pushing out into populated farm lands. This speaks of prosperous time period, and given the grandeur of the ruins, it could be assumed that following the events of OoT, Hyrule had time to build itself up to a nation with military prowess. The “core locations” are in similar alignment with OoT, but structures and landmarks were built up around them. There are structures like Parade Grounds which run up to the castle itself through what once would have been the main square of a castle town. Expanding out from Hyrule Castle just beyond the Hyrule Field are the ruins of Lon Lon ranch. Having bred the horse of the hero, it could be assumed that the ranch did fairly well economic-wise and became a staple of the royal household in breeding their steeds. The arrangement of the ranch is very similar to that of OoT, but it appears that they had made some expansions on the ranch and many of their structures were changed from simple wood to stone.
Another element to note is the existence of a thriving Gerudo culture. This is important because the Gerudo seem to fade away in some of the games further away from the events of OoT or are just not present in other games. I’ll go into details about this later on, but the Gerudo are a cultural landmark in the placement of the Breath of the Wild. Not only are they thriving in their homeland, but they’re walking freely around the world, trading, and even taking husbands outside of their own borders. In OoT you would not encounter the Gerudo outside of their desert homeland and they were hostile. In Breath of the Wild, while they still forbid males from entering their main city, the outside world is welcomed into their desert—so long as they can stand the heat. Another thing to note is that the Gerudo seem to have largely abandoned their cultural reputation from OoT as being bandits and raiders and have instead become a noble race of warriors and merchants.
The Rito return- but they aren’t the harpey-like beings we know from Windwaker.
While technically not game canon, Rito have existed prior to the timeline split within the Zelda universe.
Finally, we know that many races from all timelines are present in Breath of the Wild. The most notable “landmark” races are the Zora, the the Goron, the Korok, and the Rito. The Zora have always been a part of the Legend of Zelda universe but they have taken on many forms. In some games, there are River Zora which are seen as a more primitive version of their noble lake and ocean dwelling cousins. The River Zora are openly hostile towards Hylians and look more like fish than humanoid aquatic beings. The Goron exist in each of the three timelines following OoT and appear in the games that take place prior to OoT, though they’re fairly uncommon. The Rito are a race that appear exclusively in one game, the Wind Waker, but they appear in a form more similar to their Breath of the Wild incarnation within The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time manga. While the manga are largely considered to be non-canon, there are many details between the games and the manga that are best explained through the manga itself. Some fans speculate that because a manga was placed within the Hyrule Historia as a means to explain the very first Hero in service to the goddess that Nintendo was tipping their hand slightly and hinting that there were clues within their manga that would better explain the games themselves. Fans will argue this to the teeth, but Nintendo is exceedingly possessive of their material, stories, and characters so there was input by the creators into the stories and characters in the mangas so we shouldn’t discount them entirely. Finally, we have the Koroks which appear exclusively in the Wind Waker. These forest-dwelling creatures were once Kokiri, which are seen in OoT and hinted at in Majora’s Mask. Following the events of OoT, the Kokiri were transformed by their guardian, the Great Deku Tree, into the Koroks. In Breath of the Wild, the Koroks are seen hidden through the world but they primarily reside under the protective watch of their ancient guardian within the Korok Forest.
As demonstrated in the Historia, Ocarina of Time is the root of a three way split in the Legend of Zelda timeline, and each of the three splits is triggered by an event leading up to the final confrontation with Ganon or shortly after his defeat. In short, the three timelines are as follows: The Adult Timeline, the Child Timeline, and the Fallen Timeline. The Adult Timeline is set in the events following the ending of OoT where Zelda sends Link back. The Adult Timeline is essentially the world that Link left behind in order to go live out his childhood, leaving Hyrule with Zelda at the helm, Ganon in limbo, and Link completely taken out of the equation; Ganon eventually makes a return and the gods are forced to flood Hyrule in order to contain the evil that he brought with him. The Child Timeline follows the events that occur after Link has been sent back in time to live out his childhood; Link returns to Hyrule Castle to warn Zelda and the king of Ganondorf’s plots, and is hence executed (as seen in Twilight Princess). Finally, the Fallen Timeline is triggered by Link having been killed sometime before or during his confrontation with Ganon. This leaves Hyrule at the mercy of the king of darkness and triggers the Sealing War.
In my approach, I am first going to review the cases that could be made for both the inclusion and exclusion of BotW within each timeline. That said, let’s start with the Adult Timeline.
I was born and raised in a traditional Christian household, educated privately, and brought up with a passion for Christ. The works of CS Lewis and Tolkien were my greatest influences. I aspire to become a published fictional author, hopefully illustrating my own work as well. Christ is the center of my universe and my faith is the lens in which I look through in regards to everything. As far as games go I am swayed best towards fantasy/action/rpg's.
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