This article is about the original, theoretical timeline. For the official Hyrule Historia timeline, see Timeline.
A diagram showing the Split Timeline (click to enlarge)

The Split Timeline is a commonly accepted concept concerning the chronology of The Legend of Zelda games. The Split Timeline is now confirmed according to several official quotes and documents. It was once one of two hotly debated theories among fans, the other being the Single Timeline Theory. The Split Timeline concept 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 Adult Timeline is the continuation of the events after Link's defeat of Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time. The Child Timeline contains the events after Link reappears as a child seven years prior to Ganondorf's defeat and alters history.

The idea 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. The two did not further elaborate on the subject at the time.[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, and Ganondorf not being sealed up at the end to set up 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 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 split timeline has generally been accepted as fact by most of the Zelda community.

It has also been confirmed by Aonuma that Skyward Sword takes place before the events of Ocarina of Time; thus being the only confirmed title set before the timeline split.[3]

According to the timeline included in the Hyrule Historia, there is also a third alternate timeline, in which Link fails to defeat Ganondorf during Ocarina of Time. This timeline proceeds into the Imprisoning War, A Link to the Past, the Oracle games, Link's Awakening, The Legend of Zelda, and The Adventure of Link.

Birth of the Endless Cycle

Spoiler warning: Plot or ending details follow.

Long before the events of Skyward Sword, the goddess Hylia, protector of the Triforce, fought a great evil known as Demise, who threatened to destroy the entire world. Hylia sent the race of humans far into The Sky, above the Cloud Barrier, to protect them from annihilation. Then, together with the remaining races of the world, Hylia battled and defeated Demise and his dark forces and sealed him away indefinitely.

During the events of Skyward Sword, the incarnation of Demise's sword, Ghirahim, successfully manages to release his master from the seal. Demise challenges Link into a battle over the Triforce but is ultimately defeated. Before he perishes, Demise proclaims that he is the eternal embodiment of hatred and evil. With his last breaths, Demise prophesies that his hatred will take a "life of its own" in new, endless cycles that both Link and Zelda's successors will be a part of and live lives of darkness and sorrow. Demise's form dissolves into spiritual energy and is absorbed into the Master Sword. At the end of Skyward Sword, Link places the Master Sword into the Pedestal of Time in order for Demise's residual consciousness to be sealed away and completely dissolved over time.

It is very likely that during Demise's final words, the "life of its own" he was referring to is Ganondorf and perhaps even other primary antagonists from the series. Demise's facial features bear a striking resemblance to those of Ganondorf's. A quote from Eiji Aonuma also stated that Skyward Sword would hint at why Ganondorf appeared in Ocarina of Time; the only known explanation of this statement is that Ganondorf is the incarnation of Demise's hatred spoken of in the game.

Adult Timeline

The events of 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 formed.

An unspecified amount of time after being sealed, Ganondorf escapes from the Sacred Realm and threatens Hyrule once again. No hero appears to stop him, and the Gods are forced to flood Hyrule. Centuries later, the events of The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, and 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 Phantom Hourglass opens up the possibility of other games being set in this timeline. 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, which may indicate the game (and its prequel, the original Legend of Zelda) occur in this timeline. However, this is speculation and does not explain why a town is named after Mido. In The Wind Waker, the secret chamber where the Master Sword is found contains stained-glass windows depicting the Ocarina of Time sages and Ganon.

It is possible that in this timeline, Skull Kid did not get the chance to steal Majora's Mask, and that Majora's ruining of the lives of the people of Termina may never take place in this timeline. One possibility is that Ganondorf's conquest of Hyrule altered the Happy Mask Salesman's plans such that the Skull Kid would never have the opportunity to steal the mask. Whether this transpired, and how these events are different from those seen in Majora's Mask is subject to speculation. As Ganondorf was never sealed away in the Twilight Realm, it is unknown what became of Zant in this timeline, though without Ganondorf he would have no means of usurping the throne of the Twilight Realm or invading Hyrule.

Child Timeline

In the Child Timeline, Link has been returned to his childhood after having defeated Ganon in the future of Ocarina of Time. In this timeline, Hyrule's relationship with Ganondorf changes, eventually leading to the events of Twilight Princess, though the details surrounding this are unclear. In the aforementioned interview with Eiji Aonuma, he states: "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." Many have interpreted this as saying that Link warned Zelda of Ganondorf's intentions. However, Zelda was already aware of Ganondorf's evil intentions through her prophetic dream, which she related to her father, the king, who did not believe her. It is more likely that Link told Zelda to take additional precautions to prevent Ganondorf's entering the Sacred Realm, the most obvious of which would be to leave the Sacred Realm sealed instead of unwittingly opening it as they had done in the Adult Timeline. However, exactly what Link told Zelda and what actions they did or did not take is unknown. Scenes from Twilight Princess strongly imply that Ganondorf, as well as a future Link and Zelda, each possess a piece of the Triforce, though this is never confirmed, and is difficult to explain given the events of the Child Timeline. Upon his return to his childhood in the Child Timeline portion of Ocarina of Time's ending, Link is seen bearing the mark of the Triforce of Courage on his left hand, though it is unknown if this is meant to indicate that he currently holds it, or if the emblem is simply a Mark of a Hero. Both of Princess Zelda's hands are also visible in the Child Timeline portion of the ending, and no Triforce mark is seen. Other information from multiple games would make it appear that the Sacred Realm was never opened in the Child Timeline, and thus that the Triforce could not have been taken from it. The exact events at this point in the Child Timeline, including what happens to the Triforce, are never clearly explained.

At some point afterward, Ganondorf is exposed, subdued, and brought to justice. He is said to have invaded Hyrule, which may have been what exposed him, or his response to being exposed.[4] The Ancient Sages try to execute him; however, Ganondorf survives the attempt; a Triforce emblem on his hand glows, implying that he wields the Triforce of Power despite the altered events of the timeline. He breaks free of his shackles and kills one of the Sages in the process. The remaining Sages manage to banish Ganondorf into the Twilight Realm and seal him there. Aonuma states in the aforementioned interview that the attempted execution takes place several years after Ocarina of Time. All of this culminates in the events depicted in Twilight Princess.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is also placed in the Child Timeline, only a short while after Ocarina of Time. After Link has his meeting with Zelda, she gives him the Ocarina of Time, and he embarks on another quest in which he is looking for a "beloved and invaluable friend", with whom he parted after his previous adventure. After having his Ocarina stolen by the masked Skull Kid, Link follows him into the alternate world of Termina, where the events of Majora's Mask take place.

Since Ganondorf was trapped inside the Twilight Realm, 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. Koume and Kotake would presumably never have been killed. The two appear in the Oracle games, leading some to believe the games take place in the Child Timeline; however, it is unclear if they are the same beings as in Ocarina of Time, or a reincarnation similar to the multiple separate Links, Zeldas, and other characters seen throughout the series. The Hyrule Historia does not place the Oracle games in the Child Timeline. The Great Flood did not occur in this timeline. Also, the bosses of The Wind Waker which Ganondorf created presumably never exist in this timeline. Furthermore, since Hyrule was never destroyed, no Link or Tetra ever go to find a new Hyrule, meaning that the events of Phantom Hourglass would not occur, New Hyrule was presumably never founded, and the events of Spirit Tracks would not take place.

Spoiler warning: Spoilers end here.


Theory warning: This section contains theoretical information based on the research of one or several other users. It has not been officially verified by Nintendo and its factual accuracy is disputed.

It is speculated by some that alternate worlds such as the Twilight Realm and Termina may be unaffected by the timeline split. However, while these two realms are alternate dimensions, there is no evidence to support the idea that they exist outside of linear time. Both realms have demonstrated the ability to receive beings from the Child Timeline and return them to the Child Timeline when they exit back into Hyrule. There is no reason to believe that these two realms would only exist as a single timeline, or that they could "prioritize" inputs from one timeline, and later output these into both the timelines.

In addition, the renowned Youtube show, Game Theory, dismissed the Zelda Timeline, particularly the Defeat Timeline (in where Link fails on his quest) on the grounds that "the hero cannot be simultaneously victorious and defeated". Elaborating, he explained that with Link defeating Gannondorf, two perfectly possible timelines are created; However if Link dies at any point in his journey another separate timeline is created. Explaining that the only way for all 3 timelines to exist is the Many Worlds Theory (the theory that all possible pasts and futures exist in separate timelines). [1]

Theory warning: Theories end here.

Other games

Where the other games in the series fit into the split timeline, if at all, remains a mystery. Although there are many hints and details pointing to possible connections, the way people interpret these hints and which ones they place more emphasis on has led 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 to the split in the timeline are apparently unchanged, as both timelines split off from the same history.


  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. ^ Aonuma confirms 'master timeline' for Zelda series, says Skyward Sword comes before Ocarina. GoNintendo. Retrieved on 2010-08-06.
  4. ^ 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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