I recently made an article summarizing the whole canonical timeline of The Legend of Zelda, which spans across 18 games. While that’s officially set by Nintendo and generally accepted by the fandom(despite the several inconsistencies), the two latest Zelda games still continue to boggle our minds about when they occur in the timeline.
In this article, let’s discuss several theories that will at least give us an idea of when these games occur!
If you haven’t played BotW and TotK, this article will spoil those games for you! Play the games and come back later!
Lastly, these theories aren’t mine; they’ve either been thought up by someone else or collectively by the amazing Zelda fandom. We’ll only compile, discuss, and compare the theories in this one!
Let’s get started!
What Did Nintendo Say About It?
Nintendo loosely stated that Breath of the Wild occurs so far in the future that the events from the canonical timeline are nothing but a myth by the time BotW happened. Now, this can mean a lot of things; there’s even the possibility that Nintendo just stated that to get more revenue from customers!
Just kidding! Corporate greed aside, I think Nintendo put the new games on a very far future since they haven’t decided on the official canonical timeline for BotW and TotK as well.
But that doesn’t mean we’ll just call it a day! Now, let’s compare different pieces of evidence that might point out where BotW and TotK fit in the three different timelines! Now, if you’re not familiar with the canonical timeline, make sure to check my previous article for that!
In the Adult timeline, we saw Hyrule fall into ruins since the gods flooded it since Ganondorf broke his seal, and the Hero of Time isn’t present in this timeline anymore.
In the events of Wind Waker, we eliminated the same Ganondorf from Ocarina of Time, and King Daphnes used the Triforce to completely wash away Hyrule for good, including him, a petrified Ganondorf, and the Master Sword.
After that, Hero of Winds Link and Tetra went out and searched for a new land, which they soon establish as New Hyrule.
So what evidence that BotW and TotK fit in the Adult Timeline?
First off, I think the most obvious evidence is the creatures from Wind Waker that are present in BotW and are not present in the two other timelines, that being the Rito and Koroks.
The Rito in Wind Waker are humanoid beings with bird-like features like wings and beaks, and according to the game’s lore, the Rito have evolved from the Zora, which are more of an aquatic race from previous games.
In BotW, the RIto have evolved further and looked more like birds, not like hybrid humanoid beings.
The Korok also have a similar story, having evolved from the Kokiri people, which are elf-like people that serve the Great Deku Tree. Due to the flooding, it has been said that the Kokiri either evolved or straight up transformed into the Koroks, which are small wooden creatures.
Now without the flooding that happened in the Adult Timeline, Koroks and Ritos wouldn’t have existed in BotW.
There is the argument, “if Hyrule flooded, then how could there be Hyrule in Botw?” Remember in BotW when you could just bash any rock and have a high chance of getting rock salt? Well, this has been said to be a reference to the great sea from Wind Waker. Maybe the ocean dried out, or maybe someone used the Triforce to wish Hyrule back. We’ll never know, but we do know that Sonia and Rauru started Hyrule in the events shown in TotK! They could’ve been the very first settlers or the first settlers after Hyrule dried up from the flood, or who knows; maybe this is the New Hyrule from Spirit Tracks!
Of course, like with any theory we’ll discuss today, we’ll have some counter-evidences.
The first counter-evidence with the adult timeline is the fact that King Daphnes used the Triforce to wash away and destroy Hyrule at the end of WW. Again the Triforce or some other power may be used later on, or maybe it’s all global warming for all we know! It’s all speculation for now.
Second, the camera, which is a concept that is supposedly new in BotW, but it was present in WW. Besides that, the trains from Spirit Tracks didn’t make it to BotW; not only that, no evidence from ST’s New Hyrule is found in BotW’s Hyrule.
There aren’t any significant events in the Child Timeline other than the Twilight Era and the reincarnation of Ganondorf (MM doesn’t happen in Hyrule, anyway). But let’s talk about it since there are still many references to the Child Timeline in BotW.
The first collectible memory in BotW, you’d get the Subdued Ceremony memory in which Zelda says:
“… proven yourself worthy of the Blessings of The Goddess Hylia. Whether Skyward bound, adrift in time, or steeped in the glowing embers of twilight…”
In this quote, Zelda references three games, Skyward Sword, Ocarina of Time, and Twilight Princess. Now TP is the only game present in the three timelines, and it’s, at the very least, a piece of evidence that the events of TP indeed occurred in the past.
Next up, did you notice that TP and BotW’s Hyrule looks fairly similar?
Yes, there are some differences with the layout. For instance, the Lost Woods moved to the North, the Temple of Time’s relative position to Lake Hylia also moved, and the Hebra and Akkala regions are virtually gone in TP. To Those I say, what’s important is most of the general location is still true and that everything in TP is present in BotW!
Another noteworthy thing from the geography is Faron Woods, as this is only present in SS and TP besides BotW.
In BotW, you can look for Zora monuments in the Lanayru region. One of those monuments references Princess Ruto from Ocarina of Time, but more specifically, the monument mentioned Ruto’s awakening as a Sage, which wouldn’t have happened if the events of OoT didn’t happen due to Link’s early warning. That’s not all, though, since there are many references to OoT in BotW that would’ve been irrelevant if BotW were to happen in the Child Timeline.
The Downfall Timeline, or the Fallen Hero Timeline as I called it in my previous article, is the one I don’t like the most. See, the Child and Adult Timeline makes sense. Both are straightforward timelines (except for Four Sword Adventures), but the downfall timeline is quite the opposite because, like some fans, I see it as a retcon. Or, in simple terms, it consists of old games that don’t quite fit in with the timeline since they’re not made in consideration of the timeline.
This is why you might be surprised to know that this timeline has a ton of evidence to be the timeline that BotW is in!
Let’s start with the Seven Sages! Sure, the sages were also referenced and do exist in the other timelines, but the sages from OoT have been remembered the longest in the downfall timeline due to one thing: The Adventure of Link’s town names! And if you remember the timeline, you know AoL is the last game in the downfall timeline. The retention of the sage’s names from OoT indicates that they did something great, which is the Imprisoning War that happened in the Downfall Timeline!
Speaking of the Imprisoning War, at the start of TotK, Zelda and Link find a mural depicting the Imprisoning War! Sure, it might be a different war, but still, it would be weird for Nintendo to give one name for two different wars.
In BotW, Zelda said that Calamity Ganon gave up on reincarnation, which I’m assuming to be because of many failed attempts. If we look at the adult timeline, Ganon hasn’t been reincarnated/revived at all. He did it once in the Child Timeline and 4 times in the Downfall Timeline. If we apply that Calamity Ganon gave up on reincarnation because of failed attempts, then the downfall timeline is the most reasonable timeline!
From the geology side of things, BotW has the Spectacle Rock, which only reoccurred from games in the Downfall Timeline.
There’s one consistent similarity between the games in the Downfall timeline, and that is Link’s cap which consistently has a stripe near the base. Guess what? BotW’s Cap of the Wild has it!
Lastly, the Master Sword is found in the Lost Woods. The Master Sword is found in the Temple of Time in the Child Timeline and somewhere at the bottom of the ocean in the Adult Timeline.
As a cute little detail, BotW also copied the three flower placements behind the sword from ALttP!
As you might also be surprised, the only counter-evidence with the downfall timeline is the fact that the races on BotW are either missing, aggressive, or not in Hyrule since OoT; no Gorons (not in Hyrule on Oracle games), no Zoras (aggressive in ALttP, not in Hyrule on Oracle games), and no Kokiri or Koroks at all.
Now, each timeline has its proofs and counter-arguments, but if it all comes down to a single timeline, I think it’s safe to say that BotW and TotK fit in the very far future of the Downfall Timeline.
But we’re not done. Here are several more theories about the timeline as a whole!
First off is the Predestination Theory! Now this might be a weird one but bear with me. This Theory states that the events of BotW and TotK happened in all three timelines. This means that despite having several outcomes from the events of OoT, the events of BotW are destined to happen. Do you see why this is kinda crazy? If this were true, then we wouldn’t have a bunch of things in BotW, and we would have a definitive timeline to stick on.
This is a recent theory that spawned after the release of TotK trailers. Here are its main points:
The Master Sword is broken, so Link might be getting the Goddess Sword and do everything we did in Skyward Sword all over again.
In the gameplay, Ganon’s Demon King form looks hella similar to Demise.
And, of course, the sky islands, which are the main reason for this theory.
But here’s the thing, TotK came out, and they fixed the Master Sword in a different way, Ganon is yet another incarnate of Demise, and of course, the sky islands were always there, and it might’ve been the same ones from SS! Yes, we didn’t see it from BotW, but it probably has the same sky barrier with SS where you can’t cross through, except for the dragons, which we can visibly see crossing through in BotW, and yes, the barriers broke because of the upheaval.
The convergence theory is something that I smirked at back then since it was crazy. It’s the belief that the three timelines converged back into one linear timeline at some point, maybe through the Triforce or whatsoever. This would explain why BotW had evidence of existing in all three timelines while also keeping the three-timeline theory.
With TotK out now, we now have new evidence that might heavily support the convergence theory, and that is the fact that Zelda is once again the Sage of Time, and the only other time that Zelda became the Sage of Time is Ocarina of Time, the start of the timeline split! Let me explain!
I watched a new theory recently by a channel named Thinking At Max Volume, where this updated theory says that the timeline split is more or less like a Dragon break from the Elder Scrolls series.
A Dragon break is defined as “a temporal phenomenon that involves a splitting of the natural timeline which results in branching parallel realities where the same events occur differently or not at all… At the end of a Dragon Break, the Timeline reconnects, making all possibilities and outcomes truth, though contradictory to each other”
This would mean that the timeline split in OoT is the start of the Dragon Break with Zelda using the Ocarina of Time, and the end of the Dragon Break would be Zelda accidentally traveling to the past, and since she was holding a secret stone and she did it uncontrollably, it might’ve caused the end of a Dragon Break, or perhaps the end of the Dragon Break could be what caused Zelda to travel back in time in the first place.
Now it’s a crazy theory, I know. But in the Elder Scrolls series, the Dragon Break is named as such since it refers to Akatosh, the Dragon god of time, losing control over the flow of time.
What if it can be the same with the goddess of time in Zelda or, much more likely, the Sage of Time, Zelda, who obviously can’t control her time powers when she warped back in time? What if she accidentally converged every timeline, making them all true but contradictory to each other, thus the contradicting proofs in each timeline?
If this were true, it would solve the timeline! But then again, this is a theory! But here’s the thing, it’s only Nintendo’s approval keeping this from being canon.
Well, that’s everything we have so far about the placement of BotW and TotK in the Zelda Timeline! We certainly don’t have a loop that goes back to Skyward Sword (at least not yet), and again, the convergence theory makes a ton of sense, but if we have to base it on a single timeline, the downfall timeline does make the most points, but it still doesn’t cover everything!
Do you think this new theory is plausible? Do you have some theory of your own? Just leave a comment below! I’d love to discuss this with all of you. Thanks for reading!