The Split Timeline Theory is one of the commonly accepted theories concerning the chronology of The Legend of Zelda games. This theory, in particular, was one of the two hotly debated theories among fans, the other being the Single Timeline Theory. The theory states that after the ending of Ocarina of Time, the Zelda timeline separated in two timelines thanks to Zelda sending Link back in time to relive his childhood. The two separate timelines have been designated by fans of the series as the Adult Timeline and the Child Timeline respectively.

The theory first came into existence after a 2002 interview with Eiji Aonuma and Shigeru Miyamoto (both developers for the same series) over The Wind Waker. In it, Aonuma stated that Ocarina of Time had two endings, one where Link was a child, and another where he was an adult. However, the two did not further elaborate on the subject.[1] After The Wind Waker was released many fans speculated that the series had two timelines because of storyline problems The Wind Waker had with fitting in with other games in the series (e.g. Hyrule being destroyed at the end, or Ganondorf not being sealed up at the end for A Link to the Past). Despite this however, belief in the theory remained a minority opinion.

However, the release of Twilight Princess brought new life into the split timeline, as Ganondorf's role in the game seemed to contradict his roles in The Wind Waker and The Ocarina of Time. During a 2006 interview with the Japanese magazine Nintendo Dream, Eiji Aonuma reaffirmed what he had said earlier and stated that the timeline within the Zelda series did indeed follow this order. [2] Since then the theory has generally been accepted as fact for most of the Zelda community.

Adult Timeline

The events of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time take place. When Link pulls the Master Sword from its pedestal and is sealed for seven years, he unintentionally lets Ganondorf enter the Sacred Realm and steal the Triforce of Power. Ganondorf then goes on to conquer Hyrule, but Link (who had awakened after seven years as the Hero of Time) defeats him. Subsequently, Ganondorf is sealed in the Sacred Realm by the Seven Sages. As his tasks are done, Link is sent back in time by Princess Zelda to relive his lost years, and the Child Timeline is presumably formed.

An unspecified amount of time after being sealed, Ganondorf escapes from the Sacred Realm and threatens Hyrule once again. Without the Hero of Time to protect Hyrule, the Gods are forced to flood Hyrule. Centuries later, the events of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks unfold. Although the original Kingdom of Hyrule is destroyed at the end of The Wind Waker, the founding of New Hyrule by Link and Princess Zelda in Spirit Tracks opens up the possibility of later games being set in this timeline. This makes it possible that the original Legend of Zelda took place in New Hyrule. In the adult timeline the six sages were awakened by Link and in the Adventure of Link some of the towns are named after the sages. However, this is speculation and does not explain why a town is named after Mido.

It is possible that in this timeline, Skull Kid never got the chance to steal Majora's Mask, so Majora's ruining of the lives of the citizens of Termina never took place in this timeline, therefore Odolwa, Goht, Gyorg, and Twinmold never existed. It is also possible that, since Link never visited Termina, that Skull Kid succeeded in destroying Termina. And another possibility is that Termina, being an alternate world and having Terminan counterparts to people in Hyrule who should only exist in one timeline but manage to coexist in Termina anyway, may be unaffected by the timeline split altogether, thus Link's adventure in Termina is still carried out. As Ganondorf was never sealed away in the Realm of Twilight, it is unknown what became of Zant in this timeline, but as he couldn't have gotten his power without Ganondorf, it is unlikely he could have caused any serious trouble.

Child Timeline

Link, who has been returned to his childhood after defeating Ganon, has a little talk with Princess Zelda, warning her and presumably the rest of Hyrule of Ganondorf's true intentions and as a result of this their relationship with Ganondorf changes. Because of this it was decided that Ganondorf be executed because he'd do something outrageous if they left him be. Sometime afterward, Ganondorf is exposed, subdued, and brought to justice.[3] The Ancient Sages try to execute him; however, because he bears the Triforce of Power, having obtained it by touching the Triforce, Ganondorf survives the attempt and breaks free of his shackles, killing one of the Sages in the process. The remaining Sages manage to banish Ganondorf into the Twilight Realm and seal him there. All of this culminates in the events depicted in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is to be placed in this timeline only a short while after Ocarina of Time. After Link warns Hyrule of Ganondorf's treachery, the sages seal him in the twilight realm and Link embarks on another adventure in which he is looking for a "long lost friend".

Since Ganondorf was trapped inside the Realm of Twilight, it is likely that Volvagia was never revived in this timeline, Phantom Ganon and Morpha were never created, and Bongo Bongo never made it out of the well. However, the fate of Koume and Kotake is shown in the Oracle games. Also, the bosses of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker never existed in this timeline.

Other games

Where the other games in the series fit into the split timeline, if at all, remains a mystery. Although hints have been dropped in the more recent titles, the way people react to these hints has lead to a wide array of different theories. As Ganondorf is impaled by the Master Sword in both timelines, it would seem that he would need to be either revived or reborn to reappear in later titles, thus supporting the Multiple Ganon Theory. Events that take place prior the split in the timeline are believed to have remained unchanged for either timeline, so it may be a speculation that the other games are the unfolding of events leading up to the split which separates the Adult timeline, leading to the Great Flood, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and eventually The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, and the Child timeline, leading to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and so are fixed events. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will fit in this timeline. It will precede Ocarina of Time and all other games where the Master Sword is present.

It could also be assumed that some games do not take place in either timeline, although the similarities between Spirit Tracks' and A Link to the Past's overworld and castle make some people believe that the first three titles of the series take place after this one. Though there would then be question as to how the Master Sword got into Hyrule of "New Hyrule" when it should still be in the ocean depths.


  1. ^ 'Interviewer: Where does The Wind Waker fit into the overall Zelda series timeline? Aonuma: You can think of this game as taking place over a hundred years after Ocarina of Time. You can tell this from the opening story, and there are references to things from Ocarina located throughout the game as well. Miyamoto: Well, wait, which point does the hundred years start from? Aonuma: From the end. Miyamoto: No, I mean, as a child or as a... Aonuma: Oh, right, let me elaborate on that. Ocarina of Time basically has two endings of sorts; one has Link as a child and the other has him as an adult. This game, The Wind Waker, takes place a hundred years after the adult Link defeats Ganon at the end of Ocarina. Miyamoto: This is pretty confusing for us, too. (laughs) So be careful. {2002 Gamepro Interview}
  2. ^ Interviewer: When does Twilight Princess take place? Eiji Aonuma: In the world of Ocarina of Time, a hundred and something years later. Interviewer: And The Wind Waker? Aonuma: The Wind Waker is parallel. In Ocarina of Time, Link flew seven years in time, he beat Ganon and went back to being a kid, remember? Twilight Princess takes place in the world of Ocarina of Time, a hundred and something years after the peace returned to kid Link’s time. In the last scene of Ocarina of Time, kids Link and Zelda have a little talk, and as a consequence of that talk, their relationship with Ganon takes a whole new direction. In the middle of this game [Twilight Princess], there's a scene showing Ganon's execution. It was decided that Ganon be executed because he'd do something outrageous if they left him be. That scene takes place several years after Ocarina of Time. Ganon was sent to another world and now he wants to obtain the power... {Nintendo Dream Interview with Eiji Aonuma}
  3. ^ Ancient Sages: His name is... Ganondorf. He was the leader of a band of thieves who invaded Hyrule in the hopes of establishing dominion over the Sacred Realm. He was known as a demon thief, an evil-magic wielder renowned for his ruthlessness... But he was blind... In all of his fury and might, he was blind to any danger, and thus was he exposed, subdued, and brought to justice. {The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess}
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