With the final DLC released and the Master Works book made public, we now know everything about the Zelda timeline and boy will it be controversial. Please find below the video the written version of the timeline explanation.
The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild recently saw a resurgence in relevance thanks to the release of the Champions Ballad DLC, as well as the Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Master Works book in Japan. These are the final pieces of information fans are expected to receive on this game and ones that I have been waiting for since May. Back then I beat Zelda Breath of the Wild and drafted a video on why it was a part of the fallen timeline, however, the release of the first DLC stopped me from finishing it. I began to worry that the information might be out of date by the end of the year which would render the video obsolete, which would be disappointing. So I waited and in that time both MattPatt from Game Theory and SG fan Toni released their own theories that were essentially word-for-word, fact-for-fact, what my original video was. I guess great minds do think alike! But during this 6-month rumination on the subject, I came up with a new theory, one that no one else has considered. The latest Breath of the Wild book sealed the deal for me. So, join me, NantenJex, as I tell you our definitive, controversial, placement of Breath of the Wild in the Zelda Timeline.
The Zelda timeline isn’t a straightforward one but Nintendo had laid it all out to fans back in 2011. It’s common knowledge now that there is a three-way timeline split and so the debate for Breath of the Wild has been which timeline this falls into. There is evidence for all three within the game itself. Twilight Princess is referenced a lot which would put it in the child timeline, but Ganon has been resurrected numerous times which only happens in the fallen timeline, and there are also certain elements from Wind Waker like the Koroks and references to the Great Sea that would put it in the adult timeline. All of these references have been explained by some as a converging timeline, that somehow realigns all three timelines. After all, Breath of the Wild is a ridiculous 10,000 plus years after any previous game which means there is plenty of wiggle room for explanations.
I’m here today to say that all four of these theories and placements are wrong. There are too many contradicting elements and many aspects left unexplained like the amiibo and DLC costumes, as well as references to every game in the names of places. Today’s theory answers all of this. I simply had stop thinking ‘How do these games fit together?’ and start thinking ‘What’s the only way that these games fit together?’ So, let’s take a look at this image of the timeline as we know it.
Now here is the timeline with Breath of the Wild added in.
I can already tell that people are confused. That line isn’t even touching the rest of them and it is not even going down, what gives? Well, what I am presenting today is the idea of a dual-axis timeline with two related, but separate, storylines co-existing. I’m sorry this had to get more confusing than Zelda’s world already was.
The idea came to me after interviewing Rude Bear creator Alex Rose who told me that his series timeline was also on a dual-axis. In his games, one timeline is about the real man Rudey McBearson who lives in a mental hospital and the other timeline is about Rude Bear, an imagination he has created. Both have their own story but one is real and the other a fantasy. This is what Zelda’s world has become, where Breath of the Wild is the true world of Hyrule and the rest of the series as we know it is quite literally the ‘Legends of Zelda’ that are passed down culturally. To understand this more clearly, let’s parallel Hyrule with another bizarre world where this same thing happened. Our World.
In the present day, we are very lucky. We have a plethora of historical sources that historians have spent their lives researching and passing on. This allows us to have a fairly accurate idea of what the world was like hundreds and thousands of years ago. We can discern fact from fiction. Thousands of years ago though, this was not the case. The father of modern history as we know it is a greek man named Herodotus and before him the lives and events of humanity were mostly orally presented with little on-hand accounts to go from. Heck, Herodotus’ The Histories is just a collection of verbal accounts he collected and its accuracy in today’s world is questionable. As far as Herodotus was concerned this (image above) was the entire world, which we know is wrong.
How Herodotus relates to the world of Zelda is simple. Herodotus wasn’t the first man to exist and so history before him is obscure and unknown. We only have stories to explain it and Hyrule is the same way. Breath of the Wild makes references to a certain character as historical figures like the sage Ruto, Darunia and Nobooru who all come from Ocarina of Time. In the case of Ruto it is even mentioned that she helped the hero seal Ganondorf away which only happens in the Adult timeline. While these accounts are written down in the game, we know that they were written by the current Zora king and not on-hand accounts and so are likely history being based on the myth, rather than real history.
Going back to our own world we have the story of King Arthur. Arthur’s stories about Merlin and the Sword in the Stone are undisputed as legends today, but that does not mean Arthur did not exist. There is evidence he was a real person but for the longest time, it was the legend of him that people believed to be fact, just like what is happening with Ruto here.
The line between myth and reality is blurred in the ancient world. Breath of the Wild still exists in a fantasy world that has magic and dragons, so gods being real is entirely plausible, as is Zelda being the reincarnation of Hylia. The thing with Zelda though is that not even she understands her own powers and the only reason they believe Hylia’s blood runs in the royal family is because of the legend of Skyward Sword saying so. This can be paralleled to the first emperor of Rome, Augustus Caesar, who believed that he and his adopted father Julius Caesar where the descendants of Aeneas from the Roman myth the Aeneid. By proxy, this makes them descendants of the goddess Venus, and there are plenty of other examples of nobility believing themselves to be descendants of gods. But none of these people are the direct children of gods, they are always long-off descendants and it’s the same for Zelda in Breath of the Wild as Hylia supposedly existed tens of thousands of years ago.
I could go on with the parallels between our world and Hyrule but I’m sure you get the idea. It’s time to explain what this all actually means for Breath of the Wild. When history is so long and poorly recorded it is hard to tell what is historical and what is a myth and this is what has happened in Breath of the Wild. This isn’t just speculation, this is actually confirmed in the Breath of the Wild Master Works book.
“The kingdom of Hyrule has a long and storied past, where the events of one era may just be ancient myths in another. Since olden times, the land has repeatedly undergone periods of prosperity and decline, so much so that it is unknown whether the legends passed down are actually true, or simply fairy tales.”
What this is saying is that the actual history of Hyrule is confused to the point that myths can be taken as fact, and when we know this is the case it means that any of the previous games could just exist as stories in this world, and some of them must do as we know games like Twilight Princess and Wind Waker can’t both have happened. In fact, there are so many contradictions that the logical conclusion is to say that none of these previous games happened because if we pick anyone existing timeline it always creates inconsistencies.
With this explanation, we can then start to justify all of the contradictions to the series lore. If the previous games are all stories then it makes sense that character can reference games of different timelines here. There are many variations on myths and legends in our world so it’s not unusual that in Hyrule some legends have Link travel the ocean while others have him in the world of twilight. It’s not about a specific narrative but more about how this story could explain the unexplained and provide culture. This is why so many places in Breath of the Wild are named after characters from prior games. The city of Athens in Greece is named after the goddess Athena, and in Japan, the Ehime prefecture is named after an element of the Kojiki which details how the gods created Japan. So, famous Zora and Goron become the names of places in their respective areas is perfectly natural if the stories these characters are involved in are a part of the game’s culture.
The amiibo and DLC items can be explained in the same way. If we take Midna’s helmet as an example, in Breath of the Wild this was taken from the Royal Palace and is said to have belonged to the ancient twilight princess. However, in Twilight Princess we saw Ganondorf destroy this and it crumble away. So how can it still exist? It must be a replica. After all, Link wearing it doesn’t suddenly give him all those powers that Midna had. If one of these ancient artefacts is a replica then what’s to stop them all from simply being objects created by the royal family because of these myths? Maybe in celebration or to try and justify them as true history? The point is, its because these myths exist and people know about them that they can create all these objects, or name their pet wolves after the hero, or name their world after them.
When we look at Breath of the Wild’s world with this out-of-the-box thinking everything falls into place. It also explains the absurd time difference between Ganon’s appearances. 10,000 years sits uncomfortably for most fans because we have to believe that Hyrule hasn’t changed at all in that time. If we look at the last 10,000 years of human history we have changed a lot. Significant advancements have been made and even between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago there was a significant change. But in Zelda, games like Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess don’t look that much different than Breath of the Wild but we are lead to believe that more than 10,000 years have passed since those games. Either the Hylians refuse to change or these events can’t possibly be happening when Hylians think they do. This phenomena though is also the same in our world. Look at Greek myth as an example and you will see that the world of Hercules or the Odyssey isn’t that much different than historical Greece in terms of culture and appearance, even though the stories are meant to be thousands of years ago when gods still walked among us. Because the Hylians are making these stories up, the culture within them is reflecting their current culture and that’s why nothing ever significantly changes over thousands of years.
As a final note, I know a lot of people will still refuse to believe this. It seems convenient to break down the games as such and remove ourselves from the pre-established timeline. Change the rules if you will. It seems like cheating and the team wouldn’t have done this, right? Well, within the Breath of the Wild Master Works book there is one other quote from Aonuma himself about the game’s placement in the timeline.
“The books that have been released so far, such as Hyrule Encyclopedia, have revealed the Zelda series timeline. However, we’ve decided not to make it so clear for Breath of the Wild, and there’s a reason why.
This time, we saw a lot of users playing the game in their own way, which is something we were anticipating. They’re also having fun coming up with their own ideas about the story, based on the fragments we put in place.
If Breath of the Wild was confined to a timeline, then that placement would be correct and there wouldn’t be room for coming up with your own impressions, which would be boring. That kind of speculation is something that we wanted to continue after playing the game, so we purposely decided not to make a statement about it. We’d like everyone to enjoy finding their own answers, in their own way.”
Basically, there is no definitive answer from the team because that would go against the design philosophy or Breath of the Wild. The answer we gave today isn’t definitive, it never can be. It’s the answer that has no contradictions and so for us, it becomes the most likely, but if you want to believe that this game falls in any of the existing timelines or is its own offshoot or even a remerged timeline, you can do. That’s what the creators want after all.
This video was a long time in the making but let me know what you all thought in the comments below. Does our timeline make sense? What do you think of Aonuma’s stance on its placement? And do you have your own headcanon? Let me know in the comments below or wherever this has been posted. If you want to hear more speculation, analysis and informative videos then subscribe and like this video to show us you care. Go check out our website for translations and other articles, and if you are really generous today we have a patreon as well that you can check out. Make sure you have a great day and like any good Hyrule historian make sure you always return to the source.