Canonical Analysis and Game Grouping
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While timelines are often impressive on their own, evidence provided through studying the seven plot Arcs and analyzing canonical material can be enough to persuade any theorist to abandon their timeline in favor of yours. While it is true that there are many different timeline inflection points, truly successful timelines stick to creating a chronology based on one, two, three or all four main benchmarks: the status of Ganon, the Triforce, and/or the Master Sword at the beginning and the end of the game, and the generational significance between "Links". Each generally accepted "arc", for example, The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link, carry one or more of these posits in common. Similar posits of the many arcs are listed below, in detail, with their corresponding sources.
The Game Plot "Arcs" in Detail
The cornerstone of timeline knowledge is familiarity with the seven story arcs and their proofs. Some of these connection should be immediately obvious, while others may take some exploration. It must be noted that some arcs, such as LoZ/AoL, take place within a small span of time, while TMC - FS/FSA is a good example of a timeline arc that takes place over an extended period. Because of this, it may be possible to break up some arcs to fit specific timelines - however, it is always important to remember that games that are conjoined with a "/" are experienced by the same Link, and cannot be split.
The most common outline of the confirmed game plot arcs as is follows:
|- TWW/PH - ST|
|SS - OoT ⟨|
|/ MM - TP|
SS - OOT
The first arc provides the backstory as to what will become the Split Timeline of The Legend of Zelda series.
- Skyward Sword begins the arc, outlining the very first Link and the Master Sword's origins.
- Ocarina of Time provides further details as to the rise of the Hero of Time, reclaiming of the Master Sword, and the sealing of Ganon in the Sacred Realm.
OOT - TWW/PH - ST
The second Arc comprises those games which fill the first four chapters of the "Adult Timeline".
- Ocarina of Time, as the Hero of Time's great adventure, begins the arc, and ends with Ganon sealed in the Sacred Realm.
- The Wind Waker, which further details the fate of Hyrule after the Hero of Time leaves Hyrule, as well as one instance of Ganon's demise.
- Phantom Hourglass, promoted as a sequel to The Wind Waker and its hero's second adventure.
- Spirit Tracks details events occurring soon after a new Hyrule is founded by the Link and Tetra from The Wind Waker.
OoT/MM - TP
The third Arc is the most recently confirmed, and comprises the first three chapters of the "Child Timeline".
- Ocarina of Time begins the arc when Link returns to the past after sealing Ganon away in the future.
- Majora's Mask continues the arc by following Link's adventures after bringing peace back to Hyrule.
- Twilight Princess completes the known games within the arc by closing the door on the threat posed by Ganondorf.
The Ambiguous Game Plot Arcs in Detail
The arcs below fall under the ambiguous category because they lack the concrete confirmation required in-game and from the developers towards achieving a secure timeline placement. This means that discrepancies in respect to Ganon, the Triforce, the Master Sword, or Link come in the way of placing such games. Theorists have and continue to shuffle these titles and arcs around endlessly in search of the true timeline, though it may even seem that some of these arcs could be a timeline of their own.
TMC - FS - FSA
The fourth Arc comprises those games which can be directly linked by their representation of Vaati and the Four Sword. For this reason, it is often referred to as the "Four Sword Trilogy", and is often removed from the main line entirely.
- The Minish Cap, which details the forging of the Four Sword and the origns of Vaati, begins the tale.
- Four Swords, in which the sword is used to seal Vaati a second time, occurs much later.
- Four Swords Adventures, in which Vaati is finally defeated, completes the arc. Another backstory to Ganondorf is created in this arc in which he obtained his power using the Trident and not with the Triforce of Power.
The sixth Arc comprises those games which were released around the time of A Link to the Past, and that can be linked in the manner of most gaming series. Whilst this arc is popular, the ALttP/LA connection is not confirmed.
- A Link to the Past, which has alternatively been described as the earliest and the last game in the timeline as of its release.
- Link's Awakening, its intended continuation, is placed subsequently.
- (BS The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets) is a sequel to ALttP, which takes place long after the events of that game. AST was never released in North America, and was only available on the BS-X Broadcasting System. It may or may not be canon, but it was created by the same team that designed ALttP.
The final Arc comprises the original 8-bit games. This arc is confirmed, however, its placement in relation to other titles in the series is a hot point of contention.
- The Legend of Zelda gives little background information to place it in the timeline; it ends with Link claiming both Triforces of Power and Wisdom.
- The Adventure of Link, the conclusion of the LoZ storyline, completes the arc. Link reforges the complete Triforce after securing the Triforce of Courage.
Analysis of Canonical Material
Commonly Accepted Postulates
Through the study of canon and intent, theorists have come to the following conclusions, which they claim to be almost as "true" as the canon itself.
- LoZ and AoL center on the same Hero.
- ALttP and LA are most commonly believed to be the same hero, but this is not confirmed in LA itself.
- If taken as part of the Timeline AST occurs simultaneously with LA.
- OoT and MM center on the same Hero and precede ALttP/LA, as is evidenced by the fact that the events in OoT are referenced as historical in the prologue of ALttP.
- TP stars the newest Hero, and succeeds OoT.
- OoS and OoA center on the same hero.
- TWW and PH center on the same hero.
- Princess Zelda of ST is directly related to Tetra of PH.
- SS is the first chronological appearance of the Master Sword.
- There is a war preceding OoT, described again in TP.
- There is a war that results in the casting of a sages' seal on the Sacred Realm preceding ALttP (which may or may not be represented in OoT).
- There is a possible battle against Ganon as he seizes the Triforce of Power before LoZ.
- Vaati [presumably] attacks Hyrule again between TMC and FS (meaning FS's backstory may or may not be TMC).
- The naming tradition of the "Legendary" Zelda of AoL succeeds OoT, and is generally thought to be after ALttP/LA (and may feature the Princess Zelda from either of those games).
- There is a second tradition, evidenced in TWW, which may or may not be related to the first.
- The events which occur during the life of the Hero of Time must be inducted or ignored; they cannot be proven.
- The series is incomplete. There are plot holes which may or may not be covered in future games.
- There has yet to be a complete canonical contradiction within the Zelda universe.