The Second Timeline Split
The official Zelda Timeline, of course, splits during Ocarina of Time, giving us the Child, Adult, and Downfall timelines. While this mechanic has only been employed once, however, this split (particularly the latter timeline) shows us that the series timeline could therefore fork in an infinite number of ways under an infinite number of circumstances (as is the case in the "many worlds" hypothesis in quantum mechanics). With this in mind, I believe a second timeline split occurs in the series- specifically, in Skyward Sword.
Unlike in Ocarina of Time, this is an implicit timeline split, with no real in-game events establishing it to have occurred (with one possible exception, which I'll explain later). There are multiple factors that hint at it, however. Prior to the start of Skyward Sword (in what will from now on be referred to as the "original" timeline), Hylia defeated Demise and sealed him undrground, where he degenerated into The Imprisoned. Link would later fight The Imprisoned on three different ocassions, before it was ultimately crushed under the Statue of the Goddess and destroyed. Soon after, however, Ghirahim enters the past and frees Demise there, before Link ultimately defeats him. It is this sequence of events that triggers the second timeline split.
In the original timeline, as previously mentioned, Hylia sealed Demise underground, where he sat for millenia. However, Ghirahim later frees him in this same era. This creates a time paradox- several, in fact:
- If Demise were freed in the past, he would not have been able to sit underground to become The Imprisoned. As a result, Link would never have been able to fight The Imprisoned- yet he very clearly fought The Imprisoned three times before defeating Demise.
- Likewise, with Demise removed from underground and defeated in the past, there wouldn't have been any need for Zelda to entomb herself to keep him sealed (the seal having already been broken and Demise having been destroyed). Her past self should have therefore been freed from her crystal- yet this never occurs, and couldn't have if Zelda had emerged in the present.
- Ghirahim would also have had no reason to kidnap Zelda, as his master would have already been eradicated, preventing him from being ressurected. As such, the events of Skyward Sword would have never happened- yet it was only after they did happen that Demise was defeated in the past.
- With Skyward Sword having essentially never occurred, the Triforce would have never descended to the Surface and the Master Sword would have never been reforged, thus precluding every later Zelda game on the timeline from ever taking place.
- Impa claims that she will "take care of" the Gate of Time once Link, Zelda, and Groose pass through it; once they do so, the Gate bursts into light and so is destroyed. However, this same Gate was originally sealed in the present, and its activation served as the catalyst in forging the Master Sword. Impa's statement indicates two real possibilities: that she destroyed the Gate in the past (which would explain its destruction in the present, but would have prevented its later activation and use in the present), or she sealed it in the past (which would be consistent with its activation and use in the present, but fail to explain its destruction).
Nature, whether in this universe or the Zelda one, abhors a paradox, and the events of most of Skyward Sword do not synergize with its final arc, leaving us with multiple paradoxes. As such, we can logically conclude that a timeline split occurs in Skyward Sword, leaving us with two (or perhaps three) additional timelines. The first of these, which I call the "Sound" timeline (as it flows relatively smoothly from past to present) stems from Demise remaining imprisoned in the past, and eventually leads to the official Zelda timeline. The second, which I call the "Unsound" timeline (owing to the aforementioned paradoxes it creates) is as-yet unexplored, but it would be a timeline in which Demise was defeated in the past, a parallel version of Zelda was freed from her crystal, a parallel Ghirahim was left masterless, the Master Sword was never forged (although a parallel version still exists in the Sealed Temple), and the Triforce never descended to the Surface. These two timelines actually overlap somewhat, due to the Gate of Time in the Sealed Temple. Initially, these two timelines were unified and shared a common beginning; and thanks to the Gate of Time (which provided both a physical wormhole through which objects could pass, and a catalyst for quantum tunneling, in which information in one timeline would affect the other) certain objects and events (e.g. Zelda's entombment, the Life Fruit Tree, the Master Sword in its pedestal, Impa getting the bracelet, etc.) are shared by both timelines. After the Gate's destruction, however, the two timelines could no longer overlap, thus becoming separate and distinct.
A third possible timeline also exists, which I call the "Fallen" timeline. As with the Downfall timeline, it is possible for Link to lose to Demise, in which case the latter could pass through the Gate of Time and take the Triforce (or at least the Triforce of Power, as, like his successor, he would most likely he out of balance, thus fragmenting the Triforce). This timeline would be truly unique, as it would originate in the Unsound timeline, but then flow into and diverge from the Sound timeline.
So, to summarize: in Skyward Sword, three additional timelines are formed from the fight with Demise: Sound, Unsound, and Fallen. The former eventually leads to the official chronology, while the latter two have yet to be explored.
Demise and Lorule
It's been established in A Link Between Worlds that Lorule has its own, inverted version of the Triforce. Once this fact became apparent, fans everywhere immediately connected it to the inverted Triforce shown on Demise's sword in Skyward Sword. Here's my take on the connection.
Hilda mentions near the end of the game that, as with Hyrule's Triforce, there were wars over Lorule's Triforce. However, Hilda never specifies when these wars occurred. Therefore, it is possible (and, in terms of this theory, certain) that these wars could have occurred even before the events of Skyward Sword. As such, Demise may well have been one of the entities fighting over the Lorulean Triforce, thus originating in the country (which would explain his sword's insignia). Moreover, Hilda is the Lorulean counterpart of Zelda, who in turn is descended from the goddess Hylia. It would therefore be logical to assume that Hylia had a Lorulean counterpart as well, whom I have dubbed "Lylia". Following this theory, Lylia was the one who destroyed the Triforce and began Lorule's decay. Once she'd realized her mistake, Lylia gave up her divinity in shame, thus founding what would become the Lorulean Royal Family.
Demise, meanwhile, was furious over the loss of the Triforce, and desperately sought a replacement. His search led him to Lorule's Sacred Realm, where he was the first to discover the existence of Hyrule and it's Triforce. Seeking it for himself, Demise used his power to open a breach between the two worlds, from which he and his armies emerged; to the peoples of the Surface on the other side, it seemed as though they were emerging from underground. After Demise's eventual defeat and sealing, Hylia sealed the cracks linking the two worlds; but as her bloodline withered in the Downfall timeline, so too did the seal on the cracks. Thus do we have the backstory to A Link Between Worlds.
The Light Force's Origins
The Light Force has been shown to have some similarities to the Triforce, such as being a yellow triangle, having incredible power, and being able to, in a limited sense, grant wishes. It has been suggested that the two "forces" may thus be connected. Here's my idea.
The Minish, despite never being shown until TMC, would've logically existed well before then, perhaps even prior to the backstory of SS, and would have at one time lived amidst the other races of the Surface. However, once Demise emerged, all of the races became vulnerable, particularly the Hylians and the Minish. Hylia therefore put the former onto Skyloft- but what if the latter were also sent up? In the Force Era, the Minish were said to have come from the sky, and so could hypothetically have come from Skyloft. Their tiny stature meant that they were never seen in-game, but this would mean that the Minish were present during the events of SS.
Once up in Skyloft, both the Hylians and Minish were left contemplating their shortcomings, and the Hylians began to train themselves in swordplay and build an army. But what about the Minish? They took another route, researching magic, life energy, and the power of the Triforce. They knew that Demise planned to seize the Triforce, and that its power would grant him omnipotence. While Hylia represented the greatest hope of stopping him, a contingency plan was thus called for, and so the greatest magicians among the Minish set to work. In time, they succeeded in creating a (as Ezlo later put it) "source of limitless magical power". While much weaker than the genuine Triforce, the Light Force would nevertheless have enough power to allow it to somewhat counteract the Triforce's if Demise should seize it, and so the Minish hid it away for in the event that Demise succeeded.
Ultimately, Demise was defeated and sealed, rendering the Light Force unneeded. Impressed by the Minish's cleverness and forethought, however, Hylia praised their efforts and gave them a failed prototype of her Goddess Sword, so that, in the event that the latter blade was unusable, a backup could be used. The Minish kept the Light Force and the sword, which would later be called the Picori Blade, safe in the islands of Skyloft.
Later, in the Force Era, the world was overrun by darkness, but neither the Triforce nor the Master Sword were accessible. So, the Minish descended once more to the Surface, giving their two greatest treasures to the Hero of Men. After the War of the Bound Chest, the Minish then decided, as a way to both safeguard the Light Force and honor their late Goddess, to seal the Light Force within Hylia's descendant, the then-princess of Hyrule. The Minish then discovered a mysterious portal, leading to a gem-encrusted sanctuary, and beyond that, a new world. Seeking true safety from the horrors of the world, the Minish placed reliefs in this sanctuary telling about the War and Light Force, before passing through the portal to their new homeland.
The backstory of A Link Between Worlds doesn't seem to synergize with the events of A Link to the Past and the Oracle games- in the latter, Ganon was destroyed, ressurected, and destroyed again, while the Triforce was made whole and stayed such through the end of Link's adventures in Hollodrum and Labrynna; while the former indicates that Ganon was sealed and the Triforce split. These events seem to be mutually exclusive, but there may be a way to reconcile them.
At the end of A Link to the Past, Ganon's body was actually broken, but his spirit remained alive, and was sealed within the seven crystals Link carried, and by extension the Maidens within them. After Link restored Hyrule with the Triforce, the Maidens expunged these latent fragments of his soul. Later, Zelda summoned Link to Hyrule Castle, in order to use the Triforce to wish the Oracles to Hyrule. However, the Golden Goddesses decided instead to send Link to personally rescue them, using the Triforce as a medium for their power. As a result, Link was sent on his journey, but because the Goddesses had used the Triforce (an impossible act according to Skyward Sword), the relic was split again. Link received the Triforce of Courage, Zelda received the Triforce of Wisdom, and Ganon once more received the Triforce of Power. After Ganon's resurrection, Link defeated him, once more shattering his spirit, which broke into eight fragments; these fragments merged with the seven Maidens, as well as the Loyal Priest, thus sealing away both his spirit and the Triforce of Power. Zelda continued to pass down the Triforce of Wisdom, while Link left Hyrule with the Triforce of Courage.
Centuries later, all eight fragments of Ganon's soul were passed through the Sages' line, dwelling in the bodies of Gulley, Osfala, Rosso, Irene, Oren, Seres, Impa, and Zelda. Yuga later gathered all eight of the vessels together, merging them together and thus resurrecting both Ganon and the Triforce of Power. Over the course of the game, the Triforce was reassembled, while Ganon's body was once more broken; however, Yuga's influence strengthened Ganon's spirit, allowing it to remain whole and reincarnate centuries later.
Yuga, as noted by many, looks very much like Ganondorf, sharing his red hair (complete with dreadlocks similar to how Ganon wore his hair in TP) and greenish skin. This has led many to assume that he's Ganon's Lorulean counterpart. While this is the most likely explanation, however, it suffers from two problems. First off, Lorulean counterparts have been shown to look nearly identical to their Hylian equivalents. There are obvious differences to distinguish the two, but the basic phenotype is virtually synonymous. This is the case with Zelda and Hilda, Link and Ravio, and even boss enemies like the Helm- and Gemesaur Kings. Yuga, however, differs greatly from even the humanoid form of Ganon, having a long but small, pointed nose where Ganon's is large and rounded; being thin and lanky where Ganon is muscular; and having seemingly little power, where Ganon's was immense even before gaining the Triforce of Power. None of these factors outright invalidates the idea that they're counterparts, but they do cast some doubt on the idea. How, then, to explain their similar appearances?
The answer, believe it or not, might lie in Ocarina of Time's Forest Temple. The boss of this temple was none other than Phantom Ganon- a precise doppelgänger of Ganon. After being defeated by the Hero of Time, this creature is banished to the "gap between dimensions" by Ganon. This is an interesting detail in light of the events in ALBW, as crossing between Hyrule and Lorule requires Link to briefly pass into what is, quite literally, the gap between these universes. This opens up the possibility that Ganon sent his phantom to this region, which would in turn open up the possibility that this creature inadvertently ended up in Lorule.
Thus, Phantom Ganon and Yuga are one and the same. Other details in support of this idea are Phantom Ganon"s ability to enter and exit the paintings in the Forest Temple (a very different, and yet at the same time very similar, ability to Yuga's power to become a painting), and the fact that Phantom Ganon wielded a trident that he used to enter the paintings, as well as to generate lightning- both of which are abilities demonstrated by Yuga's staff.
The Dark and Twilight Mirrors
Prior to the release of Hyrule Historia, many believed that these two mirrors were one and the same, as they share some similarities- the Mirror of Twilight was used to seal a malevolent tribe (popularly called the Interlopers) in the Twilight Realm, while the Dark Mirror was used to seal away a so-called "dark tribe". Fragments of the Mirror of Twilight (and thus, hypothetically, the mirror as a whole) were also shown to corrupt and mutate those who came into contact with them; the Dark Mirror, meanwhile, was said to give life to the darkness in people, and created Shadow Link as Link's dark reflection. And of course, the two even look somewhat alike, both being round mirrors.
However, with HH's release and the official timeline, this theory was debunked- TP (in which the Mirror of Twilight was shattered) occurs centuries before FSA (in which the Dark Mirror is whole), and it is even directly stated that the relationship between the two mirrors is unclear, a statement that still confirms that they are, in fact, two separate mirrors. It would seem, then, that their similarities are just uncanny coincidences... but then, maybe not.
What if the two mirrors are, in fact, linked- not only figuratively, but in a literal manner? The Mirror of Twilight is used to banish people, sending them through the Twilight Realm; while the Dark Mirror is used to draw out dark reflections of people. What if these two functions are interrelated? If so, this would once again allow the histories of the two mirrors to synergize. The Mirror of Twilight was used to send the Interlopers (whose name and nature would be forgotten as time wore on, eventually leaving only vague mentions of a "dark tribe") to the Twilight Realm. Once in the Twilight Realm, they could not leave- unless pulled out via the Dark Mirror, which was the only way to circumvent the one-way sealing. With the Dark Mirror sealed away in Hyrule's forests, however, this was not a viable option, leaving the Interlopers trapped. However, when Zant later overthrew Midna, the Dark Mirror was rediscovered in Hyrule, and was briefly activated. Zant seized this opportunity to escape from the Twilight Realm, with Midna following close behind. Zant was then free to corrupt and take over Hyrule, while Midna could find Link. It is likely that Zant took the Dark Mirror with him soon afterward, and utilized it in summoning Shadow Beasts to Hyrule. He then fragmented the Mirror of Twilight, thus preventing Midna from returning to the Twilight Realm. Later, both Zant and Ganon were defeated, and Midna would shatter the Mirror of Twilight, leaving only the Dark Mirror to link the two worlds. Centuries later, the Dark Mirror was reactivated by Ganon II, and his predecessor's lingering hatred in the Twilight Realm was pulled through it, manifesting as Shadow Link.
This idea isn't entirely free of problems, of course. The first and perhaps most glaring one is the issue of just how the Dark Mirror was found and reactivated. There's admittedly almost nothing that can be said about this and no evidence that it even occurred at all. However, it would still answer the nagging question of exactly how Zant left the Twilight Realm in the first place- many, myself included, have assumed that Ganon and the Triforce of Power provided the means to do so, but if this was the case, why didn't Ganon just leave on his own immediately after being banished? And if the Triforce of Power COULD allow him to return to Hyrule, wouldn't the Sages have taken steps? Their banishing him was a hasty, panicky act driven by desperation, but once it was done, wouldn't they prepare for its inevitable flaws? On the other hand, if Zant used the Dark Mirror to reach Hyrule, it would explain why Ganon didn't immediately leave; and if the Sages weren't aware of the Dark Mirror (which is entirely possible, as they may not have been told about it, to keep it a secret from everybody), they would not have prepared against it.
The next problem deals with how Zant returned to the Twilight Realm for the penultimate battle- even if he reached Hyrule with the Dark Mirror, the latter could only pull things OUT of the Twilight Realm, not send them back. However, if the two mirrors are indeed linked, it would follow that activating one would remotely inflyence the other. Therefore, if Zant had the Dark Mirror, he could hypothetically use it to activate the last remaining fragment of the Mirror of Twilight in the Mirror Chamber, thus returning to the Twilight Realm. This way. This would explain why he left the last Mirror Shard in the Chamber, rather than hiding it in another part of Hyrule.