More About Zelda's Split Timeline

I’m actually not “against” a split timeline when it comes to Zelda, I just find the idea clunky and adding further confusion where there need not be any. I continue to support my position that Ocarina of Time itself does not support the split timeline and will point out that such a notion was never even spoken of in the Zelda community until Eiji Aonuma’s comments prior to The Wind Waker’s US release.

Though pretty much canon for years now, I personally wasn’t able to take the split timeline seriously in my mind until the release of Twilight Princess.

According to Aonuma, Twilight Princess takes place following the “past” ending of Ocarina of Time, while the “future” era which Adult Link left behind leads to the events of The Wind Waker. The split timeline concept is actually rather nifty and elegant when dealing with the more recent games in the series which actually have stories somewhat built around the idea. I love the idea of The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, with all their contrasting developments and visuals styles, taking place simultaneously in different dimensions.

My understanding of the “official” interpretation of Twilight Princess’ back story, as far as I know, stands as follows:

After Link returned to the past at the end of Ocarina of Time, he meets with Zelda in the garden of Hyrule Castle, perhaps effectively re-living the scene from early in the game where Link first meets Zelda, who shows him Ganondorf feigning loyalty to the king through the garden window.

The notion seems to be that Link, with his knowledge of future events, is able help Zelda warn the King of Ganondorf’s plans, and effectively prevent the events of Ocarina of Time, as experienced by the player, from unfolding in that universe.

As we see in the Sage’s flashback in Twilight Princess, Ganondorf is sentenced to death at the Arbiter’s Grounds. Because Ganondorf is endowed with the Triforce of Power, he is unable to be executed, and he is cast into Twilight Realm, which leads us directly to the events of Twilight Princess.

If my conception of the connection between Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time is accurate, then Twilight Princess is a fairly well conceived continuation of Ocarina of Time’s “childhood ending” that actually pleased me enough to finally start taking the split timeline idea seriously, however, they are still huge continuity problems.

First off, this scenario for Twilight Princess’ back story would require Link, at the end of Ocarina of Time, to have traveled back further into the past than is shown during gameplay to be possible, and for practical reasons of the game’s storyline itself must be impossible.

Secondly, we can clearly during the ending cutscene that Link returns to the past in the Master Sword chamber, and that the Door of Time is already open. This is not even up for debate, in fact this is one of the few concrete observations that can be made during this sequence.

Therefore, how is it even conceivable that Young Link and Young Zelda, following their meeting in the final scene of Ocarina of Time, are able to warn the king about Ganondorf and have him arrested to be trialed be the sages at the Arbiter's Grounds? By the time the Door of Time was first opened by Link, Ganondorf had already exposed himself as a traitor by threatening Zelda for the Ocarina of Time, forcing her to flee with Impa just minutes before Link opens the Door of Time, so why would he be back in the castle feigning loyalty to Link, as we had seen prior to the opening of the Door of Time?

The second Young Link unsealed the Sacred Realm by removing the Master Sword, the events which lead to the remainder of Ocarina of Time’s storyline have irrevocably been set into motion. Once Link removes the sword, Ganondorf enters the Temple of Light and obtains the Triforce of Power, even when Adult Link goes back in time by returning the sword, he can only travel to the moment just after he first removed the Master Sword as child, so obviously he can’t just go back in time and “undo” opening the Door of Time to begin with and therefore avert the entire rest of the Legend of Zelda saga from taking place.

Why then, during the ending of Ocarina of Time, would Link be able to travel so far into the past that Ganondorf is still posing as an ally to the King? Didn’t we see Ganondorf being sealed away in the Sacred Realm with the Triforce of Power still in his possession?

Link’s quest in Ocarina of Time shows Link’s actions in the past can significantly alter the future he returns to as an Adult. If Link, during the ending, went far enough back in time for him and Zelda to prevent Ganondorf from entering the Sacred Realm, then wouldn’t that have nullified the entire “future” portion of Ocarina of Time from having unfolded in that simultaneously existing “future”?

For this to be true, than the past Young Link returns to must be absolutely divorced from the universe in which Link, as an adult, defeated Ganon. This would not only be inconsistent with the way in which the Temple of Time was able to control time throughout the game, but it would mean that every possible course of events that takes place from the moment after Young Link first drew the Master Sword from the pedestal in the Temple of Time has unfolded as a parallel, equally valid alternate universe akin to the many worlds hypothesis of quantum mechanics, in which every possible outcome of every chance event splits new universes which then branch off infinitely.

One might even playfully speculate that the over 8 million copies of Ocarina of Time featuring over 24 million unique save files are representative of a few of these universes, and that each and every Game Over received during an Ocarina of Time session represents a universe in which Link died before he could complete his quest.

For Ganondorf to, at the end of Ocarina of Time, be both trapped in the Sacred Realm in one ending and captured and trailed at the Arbiter’s Grounds in the other, it dashes the point of even attempting to seal Ganon after Adult Link defeats him, because it means that in some other unfolding of events, he will walk free and once again pose a threat to all creation.

So what about Zelda? Is she split into two completely divorced beings by the time travel? Is the Zelda that Young Link meets in the courtyard in the final scene of Ocarina of Time the same Sage of Wisdom who assisted Link disguised as Sheik, or is she the the princess Link met at the beginning of the game, a child knowing nothing of what is to come?

Obviously Link must retain his memories when he travels back in time, since according to the split timeline theory, Link literally leaves the future behind to go on without him while he returns to the era of his childhood, presumably to the moment immediately after he first pulled the Master Sword from the Temple of Time.

Though I started writing about Twilight Princess’s backstory, this only leads me into more evidence that Ocarina of Time itself doesn't support the idea of a simultaneously existing past and future, and therefore does not support the split timeline theory.

I feel it necessary to remind readers that after first obtaining the Master Sword, Link didn’t literally “travel” to the future akin to traveling between universes or even fast forwarding through a VHS tape, he was simply sleeping in the Temple of Light while seven years passed normally.

Keeping this in mind, when Adult Zelda, at Ocarina of Time’s conclusion, returns Link to the era of his childhood, it would make more sense to imagine that she is literally rewinding time back like a tape, not that she’s sending Link to a dimension in which he vanished from time seven years prior, which in turn lends itself to the idea of linear time travel rather than travel through parallel, simultaneously existing past and future eras.

Going back to Ganondorf at the Arbiter’s Grounds during the flashback in Twilight Princess, if that Ganondorf, the Ganondorf of the Young Link’s ending, had yet to enter the Sacred Realm, than why would he be protected by the Triforce of Power during the failed execution attempt?

I suppose the idea is that the Triforce’s power transcends time, and therefore since the Ganondorf sealed in the sacred realm in the Adult Link’s “universe” has the Triforce in his hand, the Ganondorf put on trial in the Arbiter’s Grounds in the past possesses the Triforce as well.

You could even propose that the end events of Twilight Princess and Wind Waker are taking place simultaneously, and that the Triforce of Power mysteriously fading from Ganon’s hand at the end of Twilight Princess was the direct result of King Daphnes Nohanson commanding the reunited Triforce to wash away the remnants of Hyrule, after which the sacred relic rises to the heavens.

My original point in writing this is that as nicely as Wind Waker and Twilight Princess parallel each other and connect to the dual endings of Ocarina of Time, they are still problems and paradoxes dealing with the very nature of time travel in Ocarina of Time that will likely never be resolved.

I wish that issues of parallel universes or split timelines would actually be addressed within the games themselves, rather than only in interviews with the creators of the games, because as it stands today, no where in the Zelda games is it stated that different adventures involving Link and the Triforce could be taking place simultaneously in an alternate timeline.

The more and more I look in to it, the split timeline theory is looking more and more like a split universe theory.

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