GamingThe Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Timelines

The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Timelines


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As long and as storied The Legend of Zelda is, you would be forgiven for being utterly baffled by any of the backstory and lore the Kingdom of Hyrule has to offer. The sin of ignorance is completely acceptable in this case for a plethora of reasons.

  1. There are 19 games in the main timeline(s), and that’s not including the remakes.
  2. The timeline does NOT follow the order of the games’ release.
  3. There are multiple timelines sprouting off from Ocarina of Time.
  4. Every protagonist is called Link and every Princess of Hyrule is called Zelda despite them not being the same people from game to game in most cases.
  5. Time travel and returning from the dead are so commonplace its weird when they aren’t features of the plot.

And I’m sure there’s more. Safe to say that even enthusiastic Zelda players may have turned a blind eye to a larger timeline purely from a primal instinct to not lose their minds. However, in a series of articles here on Moviesgamesandtech, I hope to pave the road from start to end of the Zelda timeline(s).

With The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom mere weeks away from release, this feels like a good time to ask: What in the world is happening?

In today’s lore dump I hope to take you from the lowly beginnings of Hyrule all the way up to the divergence point at the end of Ocarina of Time. Then we’ll deal with the wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff later. Cool? Cool.

Now, as I stated above don’t be fooled into thinking the first Legend of Zelda game was the first one released back in 1986, oh no. Instead, before we get to the events of any release, we have to set the stage.

Setting the Scene

In a place before time, three Goddesses existed. Din, the goddess of Power, Nayru, the goddess of Wisdom, and Farore, the goddess of Courage. Remember those traits (not that you’ll have a choice).

They brought the world into being. Din created the land, Nayru created order, and Farore created life. These three things combined to form the Kingdom of Hyrule, the place where most of the subsequent adventures take place.

See? Goddess doing goddess-y things.

The power of the three Goddesses coalesced into a relic known as the Triforce (or some other similarly nebulous process). Another Goddess, Hylia was tasked with the protection of this object, for only those who possess all three traits, power, wisdom, and courage can wield the Triforce. Any who do so may demand a wish. So you can see why folks might desire it.

However, should someone who does not possess all three attributes come into contact with the Tri Force it will split into three, the most apt piece will stay with the person with the other two scarpering to find suitable hosts.

There, world established. Let’s move on.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

From left to right: Ghirahim (creep), Link (legend), Fi (weird blue sword spirit thing)

Yes, that’s right, the first chronological game in the Legend of Zelda canon is Skyward Sword, a game first released in 2011 and remastered in 2021. A suspicious remaster if you ask me, but you’ll only find out what I mean by that if you hang around till the final article. That’s called a tease in the business. Who knows what business though? You could also just google it, but that’d be rude.

Prior to the start of our adventure there is even more scene to be set. Turns out, leaving something as powerful as the Triforce lying around, even if protected by a goddess, is a poor move. The Demon King, Demise, rises up in rebellion against Hylia forcing her to take drastic action should her charges come to harm.

Demise is an absolute unit

She gathers all her people onto a particular crop of land and, using epic goddess powers, flings it into the sky and suspends it there. Seems demons can’t fly.

With her people safe, Hylia focuses her attention on Demise. After a lengthy conflict, she defeats him and seals him away. Get used to that, someone is always getting sealed away somewhere in Zelda games. Hylia tries to use the Triforce to put an end to Demise once and for all but can’t as the Triforce is not usable by goddesses for some reason. So, naturally, Hylia sacrifices her divinity, becoming human, enter stage right: the first iteration of Zelda.

For context: floating islands are fairly par for course in Zelda games

Now for the game, I’ll attempt to skip over as much as possible to maintain some brevity in this piece, but certain games are more impactful to overall timeline than others.

Here’s is where we come in. Link is a student at the Knight’s Academy on Skyloft (the name for the chunk of land just floating in the sky) and is chosen to take part in the Ceremony of the Goddess alongside Zelda (Hylia). But things don’t go to plan as the Demon Lord Ghirahim has been sent to hunt down Zelda, she ends up being flung down from Skyloft towards the world below.

Ghirahim is a proper weirdo

Link, now on a quest to save her, even though I’m not sure how a normal person would survive falling hundreds of feet, find the Goddess Sword, a mystical weapon created by Hylia to guide her chosen hero. How does it do that you ask? Well, there’s a blue woman called Fi who lives in the sword. Naturally.

Turns out Zelda isn’t dead. She has recovered her memories of being Hylia and is hatching a plan to ensure Demise does not escape. She plans to travel 1,000 years into the past and hibernate there to maintain the seal on his prison. Seems logical, let’s move on.

Ghirahim attacks, Link holds him off. Zelda escapes with the first incarnation of Impa into the past.

This is Fi. Think Navi from Ocarina but only slightly less irritating.

Link upgrades Goddess Sword to the Master Sword. Which can do whatever the plot requires of it, in this case send him to the past to have a chat with Zelda before she has a snooze. When he returns, he seeks out the Triforce and wishes for part of Skyloft to return to the earth. In doing so it crushes Demise and the day is saved, right?

Of course not, because anyone can do this time travel lark, Ghirahim kidnaps Zelda (count 1), and travels back to before Demise is crushed and frees him. A wasted effort it seems as Link just defeats him anyway and seals him away inside the Master Sword. Here begins the endless cycle of Link and Zelda doing battle with evil. Skyward Sword done.

Stuff Happens

Time passes in Hyrule (what they called their new land), and everything is hunky dory. The Temple of Time is constructed to guard the Master Sword and the Triforce. They are both sealed away, the Master Sword behind the Door of Time and the Triforce in the Sacred Realm.

The descendants of Hylia build Hyrule Castle adjacent to the Temple and establish the Royal Family of Hyrule to act as its protectors. Here starts the tradition of naming every Hylian princess, Zelda. Which, whilst weak, does explain why there are so many Zeldas. Why so many Links then you might ask, well don’t, just accept it.

Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

From left to right: Picori, Picori, Picori, Link, Ezlo (bird-hat), Picori, Picori

Minish Cap was released in 2004 making it the natural sequel to 2011’s Skyward Sword.

Time has passed, as time is wont to do, since he events of Skyward Sword. Generations before Minish Cap begins a great evil is defeated by a Picori, who seem to be tiny people, using a great weapon. This evil is sealed away, using the sword, in a chest. The people of Hyrule are so grateful that they hold a festival in honour of the Picori every year. The Picori are said to emerge every 100 years to mingle with the folk of Hyrule and just guess how long it’s been since the last time?

Link and Zelda take part in the festival which culminates in a sword fighting tournament which is won by a wizard known as Vaati.

Vaati turns out to be a bit of a wrong’un and releases all the evil sealed away in the chest, breaking the sword sealing it in the process. Bit of strange move to have a chest containing all the world’s evil just sat out in the open if you ask me. As Vaati escapes he turns Zelda to stone, because Zelda is the perennial damsel.

Like, right there in the open

Link sets off to find the Picori as they are the only ones with the power to stop Vaati and save Zelda. Turns out the Picori call themselves the Minish and one of their number has been transformed into a bird-hat thing. Hence the cap.

The cap is actually a Picori called Ezlo was transformed into the bird-hat by Vaati. So he’s well up for some revenge. Link must find four elements to fix the sword, he obviously does, and all is well. The result of this is the Four Sword which, as you’ll see later, is a vehicle for Nintendo to make multiplayer Zelda games.

Vaati is defeated, Zelda is rescued. Happy days.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords

Is this official art or just a picture of four swords? Impossible to say

Four Swords was released in 2002, once again making it only too obvious that is set after the event’s of 2004’s Minish Cap and 2011’s Skyward Sword. You are following, right?

Four Swords is a multiplayer game that was alongside A Link to the Past (which we will not talk about today), and so has little to no effect on the timeline as a whole.

There are four Links, this is all that matters.

Brief summary: Vaati returns. Vaati is defeated and sealed in the Four Sword. Vaati breaks free many generations later. Kidnaps Zelda (count 2). Link takes up the Four Sword, becomes four Links. Vaati loses because he couldn’t beat one Link, what’s he meant to do against four of them?


The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time

From left to right: Birds, Link, Epona, Navi

This is the last game I’ll talk about today as, after Ocarina, the timeline splits which I’ll quickly explain at the end.

Ocarina of Time was released in 1998, meaning that only an idiot wouldn’t understand how clear it is that is follows on from 2002’s Four Swords, 2004’s Minish Cap and 2011’s Skyward Sword. The only thing more obvious is that I’ll never drop this bit.

Side note: This is probably my favourite LoZ game. It might not be the best critically, but I love it. Play it.

War! (Star Wars joke)

Hyrule is in chaos as the various tribes war against one another for reasons. In this chaos, a young mother flees into the Kokiri forest with her babe. She leaves this child in the care of the Great Deku Tree. I think we can all agree that placed in the same situation we would also ask a sentient tree to look after our baby.

Seems trustworthy, I like his moustache

And so, our young hero (psst, it’s Link), grows up in the care of the Kokiri people, who all have the appearance of children, and all are accompanied by a fairy. Hey listen!

Eventually the King of Hyrule unites the tribes and brings peace to the land once more. The leader of one of these tribes is Ganondorf of the Gerudo. If you know anything about Zelda lore, you know he’s a bad dude.

Ganondorf is plotting against the King as he seeks the power of the Triforce for himself, because why wouldn’t you? It literally grants wishes without any of the Robin Williams stipulations. In order to get the Triforce he must find the three keys to the Sacred Realm that are scattered throughout Hyrule.

No, you listen you little…

Meanwhile, Zelda (new one) is having a prophetic dream in which she sees Ganondorf’s treachery and the emergence of Link as the Hero of Time. Link is also setting out on a quest as the Great Deku Tree has been cursed by Ganondorf and is dying, the tree sends Link to find Princess Zelda in order to stop the plot. Link is also gifted one of the keys to the Sacred Realm by the tree with a face, nice lad it turns out.

As Link arrives at Hyrule Castle with all three keys, a tricky journey no doubt given he’s 10 years old, he is confronted with the startling sight of Zelda legging it from Ganondorf with the aid of Impa (new one). Ganondorf has already enacted his plan it seems.

Link enters the Sacred Realm using the keys, but Ganondorf has followed him and claims the Tri Force, plunging Hyrule into darkness. Before Link is incapacitated by Ganondorf he finds the Master Sword which then seals away Link’s spirit until he is ready to wield the legendary sword.

7 years pass. Hyrule is not doing well. Ganondorf rules and Zelda has gone into hiding, disguising herself as a warrior named Sheik. Upon Link’s reawakening, he is tasked by Sheik with finding the five sages, people of each tribe whom, together, possess the power to seal Ganondorf away. Link obviously does so.

Say hi to Sheik, he’s (she’s) alright really

It also turns out that Ganondorf does not possess the completed Triforce. His heart was unbalanced so he only received the Triforce of Power, Wisdom had gone to Zelda, and Courage to Link. This will repeat itself many more times over the timeline. As the sages prepare to seal Ganondorf away he pops up, kidnaps Zelda (count 3) and lures Link into a trap at Hyrule Castle in an attempt to reunite the Triforce and get his wish.

It is at this point that the first timeline split occurs, but I’ll finish recapping the story then double back. Link defeated Ganondorf who morphs into a monstrous boar named Ganon and Link defeats him again, sealing him away along with the Triforce of Power. The End.

Ganondorf turning into a giant pig monster is a bit of a thing to be honest

Timeline Split

So, following the events of Ocarina of Time, three eventualities cause our diverging timelines.
A: The Hero of Time is actually killed by Ganon atop Hyrule Castle.
B: Link triumphs and returns to his childhood with his memories of Ganondorf’s plot intact allowing him to inform Zelda and preventing Ocarina from ever happening.
C: Link triumphs and the timeline moves on.

Following today’s article, there will be three more detailing the events of those timelines and hopefully tying everything into a neat bow (no chance). Hope you’ve enjoyed and are maybe a tiny bit wiser on why The Legend of Zelda is the way it is. If not, that’s totally fair.

Also, a couple of quick footnotes, there are going to be people out there who know far more about this than I do, so if my take on things doesn’t quite match what you know, feel free to comment but be nice. Second, some of this is played up or down for laughs so don’t take it too seriously.

Damien Gorman
Damien Gorman
Been gaming casually for many a year. As long as I don't have to directly compete against other people I'm in. Big fan of JRPGs, platformers, and action/adventures. Will play games on easy mode if you let me

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