A look at one of the biggest letdowns in an otherwise-fantastic book.
When Hyrule Historia first released in Japan, I was highly skeptical of the official Zelda timeline it presented, but I managed to keep an open mind. I can’t read Japanese and decided to wait for a translated version that would, hopefully, explain specific confusing events in greater detail. Well, after having time to read the English translation of the book, cover to cover, I still feel the official Zelda timeline has two major flaws.
The first flaw that should be on everyone’s mind is the new Hero is Defeated timeline that supposedly takes place at the end of Ocarina of Time. Before Hyrule Historia was released, most Zelda fans were fully accepting of the fact that the end of Ocarina of Time split the timeline into two braches, the Adult Era and Child Eras. These can be seen in the book, and their branches make total sense. However, the third Hero is Defeated branch never takes place in any game and therefore is clearly nothing more than a terrible, completely unnecessary fabrication.
The second flaw also happens on the Hero is Defeated timeline, and its cause is a direct result of the error of this branch existing in the first place. According to Hyrule Historia, the Link in Ocarina of Time would have lost to Ganondorf in the final battle of the game. Therefore, everything else he did in Ocarina of Time would have happened exactly the way everyone remembers it.
The problem with this is that Link would have killed Kotake and Koume in the Hero is Defeated timeline. This causes a problem, since the twin witches appear again later in the same timeline in the Oracle games without any explanation that I know of.
The Secret Truth About the Hyrule Historia Timeline
Hyrule Historia also presents a hidden secret about the timeline I haven’t seen many people discussing at all. Eiji Aonuma is easily recognized as the number-two man in charge of the Zelda series, only falling behind series creator Shigeru Miyamoto. Importantly, though, Eiji Aonuma is credited as the Supervising Editor of the original Japanese edition of Hyrule Historia and Miyamoto was only given a special thanks. Let’s take a look at the Zelda games Aonuma has worked on according to Hyrule Historia.
Eiji Aonuma's Hyrule History
1998 - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64)
2000 - The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (Nintendo 64)
2002 - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Nintendo GameCube)
2003 - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Four Swords (Game Boy Advance)
2004 - The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (Nintendo GameCube)
2004 - The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Game Boy Advance)
2006 - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii and Nintendo GameCube)
2007 - The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo DS)
2008 - Official Wii Zapper with Link's Crossbow Training (Wii)
2009 - The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (Nintendo DS)
2011 - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (Nintendo 3DS)
2011 - The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition (DSiWare)
2011 - The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
Quite an impressive list of titles, but there is something notable. Not one Zelda title Aonuma worked on appears on the Hero is Defeated timeline. To me, this feels like Aonuma has taken much of my childhood and thrown it in a Zelda lore dumpster. Whether this is because he doesn’t enjoy those titles as much, or just isn’t comfortable enough with their lore to work them into his own main timelines, is something that has left me confused and hurt.
(Haha! Look what I did with the Zelda timeline!)
How to Easily Fix the Zelda Timeline
One of the worst parts of this timeline mess is that the fix is extremely simple. First, we just need to delete the Hero is Defeated timeline. Then, move all the games that appeared on the Hero is Defeated branch and put them in order, right after Four Swords Adventures, on the current end of the Child Era timeline. The resulting Child Era timeline would look as follows:
Majora’s Mask -> Twilight Princess -> Four Swords Adventures -> A Link to the Past -> Oracle of Seasons -> Oracle of Ages -> Link’s Awakening -> The Legend of Zelda -> Adventure of Link
This fix would solve both of my problems with the Hyrule Historia timeline. Firstly, it would eliminate the awful Hero is Defeated branch. Second, Link never defeated Kotake and Koume on the Child Era timeline, having been sent back to the past, so they are free to exist many years later.
The only question that would be present in this timeline is how Ganon escaped the seal of the Four Sword at the end of Four Swords Adventures and got sealed in the Sacred Realm before A Link to the Past. While this is a problem, other similar problems exist in the current timeline. For instance:
1. What are the details of what happened before Skyward Sword?
2. Will we learn more about the Hero of Men mentioned in The Minish Cap?
3. On the Adult Era timeline, how did Ganondorf escape the Sacred Realm and manage to cause chaos in The Wind Waker?
The point is there are many different questions people have concerning the specifics of events found in the Zelda timeline. As long as everything else adds up, I feel it’s OK to have a few holes that may someday be filled. However, making up events and causing even more problems is something that ticks me off.
Hope for the Future
My dreams of Nintendo fixing the timeline will, unfortunately, stay dreams for the foreseeable future. However, according to Hyrule Historia, pg. 68:
“This chronicle merely collects information that is believed to be true at this time, and there are many obscured and unanswered secrets that still lie within the tale. As the stories and storytellers of Hyrule change, so, too, does its history. Hyrule’s history is a continuously woven tapestry of events. Changes that seem inconsequential, disregarded without even a shrug, could evolve at some point to hatch new legends and, perhaps, change this tapestry of history itself.”
This passage gives me hope someone at Nintendo will someday fix the Hero is Defeated branch in a way similar to my own theory. Until then, I guess it’s up to fans to either accept or reject what has been written in the otherwise-great book that is Hyrule Historia.
Thanks to Dark Horse for providing the timeline image!