For a game that started off with little to no in-game lore I find it funny that there is now there’s a very large Timeline Lore Theorist community that spends a very long time dissecting every little tidbit of information. And If there’s one thing any Legend of Zelda fan loves to do it is speculating about the lore of a game. After all this game series has shaped the a lot of modern gameplay and storytelling in games. For this theory I will be using the official Zelda Timeline and not the one many argue is the real timeline.
If you need a refresher on the series I suggest you check out Gametrailers recap of the timeline. It’s a little long, I mean come on, the series has been out for over 3 decades you can’t expect to cram thirty years into a video less than ten minutes.
To give you guys a fair warning this article is gonna be long. Skip to the Bottom for the TL;DR Version.
So where in the timeline does Breathe of the wild fall into? If you were to base that guess on it’s artstyle it would be easy to say “The Adult Timeline!” It has that same cell shaded look to it and there are plenty of plenty of characters and items that would suggest that this is taking place in the adult timeline.
Evidence, the first: The Inclusion of the Koroks and Rito
The Zelda Universe has always been diverse and each race rich with its history, and from what we know the Koroks are the evolution of the Kokiri and the Rito of the Zora. From the first showing at E3 we saw the Koroks after Link makes a splash in a lake near the Temple of Time. This would mean that this story can in fact take place in the future of the Adult Era as was evidenced by the appearance of the Rito in the following trailer.
Evidence, The Second: Water, Water, Everywhere
One thing that might have slipped passed most viewers during the live presentation of Breathe of the Wild was that Hyrule Plateau, in particular, had a sizable amount of lakes and puddles sprinkled throughout the land.
Evidence, The Third: Sea Salt EVERYWHERE
Another tidbit of evidence that could have been easily overlooked is the rock salt that is found throughout Hyrule near cliffs and mountains. For those of us who may not know, rock salt is usually formed from the deposits of sea water, meaning that the sea levels in this world used to be much higher than present. Rock salt was included into this game as a part of the new game mechanic in which Link has to eat in order to recover health or even boost his current hearts, which by itself wouldn’t really mean anything except for the flavor text that follows the collection of the rock salt mentioning that it specifically comes from an ancient sea.
Why It isn’t in the Adult Era
While some have argued that Breath of the Wild can take place in Old Hyrule after the events of Wind Waker, I will argue that it isn’t. My evidence for this is the existence of the Gerudo and Goron. It’s simple really, the Gerudo reside in the Gerudo Desert region which much like in the real world is mostly flat since it never rains so there are no rivers and to carve and shape the land so they wouldn’t have been able to easily escape the great flood. By that logic neither should have the Goron since they reside in the mountains that the great flood would have also sealed their tunnels and caves. Secondly, during the epilogue of the Phantom Hourglass it’s noted that Zelda and Link went on to establish a new Hyrule in a distant land (notably above sea level) with the ties and bloodlines of the ancient Hyrule Kingdom thinning. Thirdly, the Master Swords final resting place at the end of Wind Waker is firmly plunged into Ganondorf's skull atop of Hyrule Castle. But clearly, we can see it in a pedestal in a forest grove as depicted in a Link to the Past in the Fallen Hero Timeline.
Clearly this Legend takes place in the Fallen Hero Timeline
Evidence, the First: The Master Sword is in the Lost Woods
This one is simple coincidence really, as you can see. In the Fallen hero timeline the Master Sword can only be found in a grove in the lost woods. Since the artwork from both games depict the sword similarly and that Master Sword is clearly damaged from age it still would mean that it could actually take place in the future but after the events of the original games. (Zelda: II The Adventure of Link is currently the game that takes place in the farthest future)
Actually this is really the only piece of evidence I could find it linking to the Fallen Hero time as even the Master Sword being in the lost woods and not the Temple of Time can easily be refuted by the Hyrule Historia as it states,
“The Master Sword was once stored inside a temple, but the temple decayed and became a forest.”
Where else has the Sword been seen in a grove that was once a temple, hmmmm?
Breathe of the Wild must take place in the Child Era!
Evidence, The First: Wolf Link
While most of us cheered with the inclusion of Wolf Link as a travel companion because finally the amiibos are actually good for something. Aonuma has stated that Wolf Link can exist in the game because there is a link between Current Link and his Wolf Incarnation and that it ties into the story somehow. Wolf Link only exists in the Child Era.
Evidence, The Second: The Temple of Time
It looks exactly like the Temple of Time as it’s found in Ocarina of Time with Death Mountain being being visible on the same left side surrounded by a moat. If you trace out the ruins of the Temple of Time and follow the stone paths you can see ruins that resemble the Castle town from Ocarina of Time, all the way from the the fountain in the center square to the drawbridge and the castle walls.
Evidence, The Third: The Koroks
While up until now they were found only in Wind Waker, the story of the koroks is that they de-evolved back into their older forms from the Kokiri following Ganondorf’s reign after the events of OoT in order to survive. In both Adult and Child Eras Link breaks the curse placed on the Great Deku Tree before leaving the forest allowing it to sprout and regrow again after its death, thus leaving the Kokiri without protection for some time. Notably despite taking place in the same timeline the Kokiri are nowhere to be found in Twilight Princess. It’s possible that they did exist but went into hiding following the Invasion of Shadows in Twilight Princess thus eventually becoming the Koroks.
Evidence, The Fourth: The Calamity Ganon
One thing has been itching at the back of my brain ever since I read the translated script from the world map that’s included in the Master Edition of the game and that is the reference to Ganon. For those of you who have not read it yet here is a transcript of the translation.
“Hylians pass stories of a destined time long past where multiple races lived and worked together in harmony. The Sheikah Tribe's blue aura breathed through the land and this mutual prosperity continued until a cataclysmic disaster stuck. The Hero and the Princess attempted to seal the terror which became known as the Calamity Ganon. Divine beasts awoke from four directions and deployed a mechanical army which made the King and his people fearful. They fractured Ganon's power and sealed him, but the Sheikah were banished from the land ever since.”
Did you guys catch that? Let me recap the specific part I’m talking about for you.
“The Hero and the Princess attempted to seal the terror which became known as the Calamity Ganon.”
No one knows who Ganon is, or rather that there wasn’t a chance for anyone to know who he was.
Recapping the events following the Child timeline - Following Ganon’s defeat atop of his castle in Ocarina of Time Link returns with the help of Princess Zelda back to his own timeline placing him right before he meets Zelda for the first time. Having shown possession of the Triforce of Courage he convinces the King of Hyrule of Ganondorf’s plans to steal the Triforce and the king promptly orders his execution. After a botched execution attempt Ganondorf is sent into the Twilight Realm. Several generations later and once within the Twilight Realm he manages to posses Zant and usurp the throne of the Twilight Princess, Midna. Some time later, Zant manages to break free of the Twilight Realm and into the Realm of Light. After being confronted by Link and Midna Ganon reveals himself following Zant's defeat. After being defeated by Link he is sealed within the Master Sword back within the ruined Temple of Time in the Lost Woods. More generations pass and Vaati the Evil Wind Mage from Minish Cap manages to capture the seven maidens of light and uses that power to resurrect Ganon once more before being promptly defeated by the Link and the Four Sword.
Why is this recap important?
Because in this timeline the kingdom of Hyrule has never heard of Ganon. Let’s recap TL;DR style:
In Ocarina of Time only a handful of people know of Ganondorf, the public never learn of his terror following his execution order.
In Twilight Princess only three people learn of his existance: Link, Midna and Zelda. Ganon is sealed within the Master Sword. Zant is credited with the Invasion of Shadows.
In Four Swords Adventure only one person knew of his existence and both were defeated by Link, the second person to learn of him or fifth if you count the other three Links.
In the Fallen Hero Era there is plenty of lore depicting the epic struggle against Ganon and everyone at that point has clearly heard of Ganon, and in the Adult Era there was lore about his existence as well but was killed at the end of Wind Waker and New Hyrule doesn’t have the Master Sword as it was left at the bottom of the sea. The only logical place in which no one knows who Ganon is would be the Child Era.
Actually, no. There are two other instances in which Ganon could exist without prior knowledge. Both of which take place around the Age of Prosperity following the events of Skyward Sword.
Since Nintendo couldn’t decide which convention of time travel to use During Skyward Sword it can be said that in the timeline which Link defeats Demise through the use of the Triforce, Demise reincarnates himself as a calamity that is later known as Ganon. The similarities are there since both Calamity Ganon and Demise seem to have both giant beastly forms as well as human ones.
Inversely It can be said that Calamity Ganon is the first incarnation of Demise’s Curse after being sealed within the master sword. As we can see the Master Sword is in quite the pitiful state and the idea of reforging the sword is nothing new in the series.
We don’t know where this game takes place. Nintendo did a really good job hiding it’s placement in the timeline. We won’t know for sure until the game is released and even then I doubt we’ll have a clear answer. My best guess is that this game will explain the fabled “Betrayal of the Sheikah” that is vaguely referenced in Ocarina of Time.