Having recently finished Ocarina of Time 3D, the ending and how it relates to the Zelda timeline has been on my mind. Now I know Nintendo has already released an official timeline, but I still think it’s fun to form some theories on one’s own. So that’s what will being going on here. Also, I’m a fairly recent convert to Legend of Zelda, so I haven’t played many of the games (and I’ve finished even fewer of them), so please keep that in mind when reading. If I make some kind of claim that is disproved in a subsequent Zelda game, this is why. ^__^;;;

Before we begin, I think it is worthwhile to have a link to the ending, so that everyone can refresh their memory:

A few points of interest from the ending:

  • Ganondrof has been sealed in the Dark/Evil Realm with the Triforce of Power.
  • Zelda says that once Link lays the Master Sword down, the door between times will be closed
  • Zelda uses the Ocarina to return Link to his time, but Link returns like he normally does, via the Temple of Time and by putting the Master Sword back in place.
  • Zelda looks sad to be sending Link back.
  • There is a group of characters celebrating around a campfire in the future (since Maron and Epona are all grown up).
  • We see the Sages moving through the sky and returning to the future on a mountain top.
  • Navy flies away (I guess because her work is done), and Link leaves the Temple of Time as a young child again.
  • We then see Zelda looking through a window like she was when Link first met her.
  • Link has his triforce on his hand. However, it isn’t present in the 3DS version!
  • The two look at each other and a THE END comes.

Official rendition of the sacred realm

The first thing I think is important in establishing is that the Sacred Realm has to be timeless. I say this because it is odd that Ganondorf took 7 years to finally launch his plan to destroy Hyrule. (I say this because it seems that he has only just recently started his reign of terror as the Gorons must have only recently been locked up- otherwise, they would have already been eaten if they had to wait 7 years for Link). The seven year gap only makes sense if the Sacred Realm is timeless. So once Ganondorf got the Triforce of Power, he, by coincidence, exited into a Hyrule that was 7 years in the future. This is also the case why nothing changes in the past, even though by then Ganondorf must have already entered the sacred realm. I believe this also allows us to believe that the sacred realm is connected to all times and that the “door of time” that Zelda speaks of in the end is a special link created between two doorways in the sacred realm using the Master Sword as the key. It works like this: When child Link pulls out the Master Sword he marks that doorway (namely moment in time) through the act of pulling it out. We then know that Rauru, the Sage of Light puts Link to sleep and awakens him in 7 years time. I believe adult Link, by putting the Master Sword down 7 years in the future, connects the first doorway that was opened by him as a child with the second doorway (namely the moment he put the sword back down) and thus that linked doorway is what allowed him to return to the past. Every time he picks up the Master Sword, he is creating a new doorway and every time he puts the sword back down, he also creates a new doorway, and it is through this constant marking and re-marking that Link is able to travel through time without getting lost like Ganondorf. That’s how I think time travel works in Ocarina, or at least that’s my guess based on how time is treated when you play (i.e. you always return to a point in the past where you last left off).

The only exception being the first time Link pulled out the sword. When he pulls the sword that time, he creates the first doorway but since it is not his body that seems to be travelling (if it were then a young Link would be thrust into the future time rather than Link alternating between a child and an adult), but some sort of essence-like his mind- between these two bodies so to say. But back to the point, when he first picked up the master sword, he only marked that point in time. No time travel actually happened since Rauru put Link to sleep for 7 years so his body could mature. The first actual time travel occurs when he put down the Master Sword, which links the second door to the first and from then on causes Link’s mind to be travelling between time to two distinct bodies. This two body aspect is very important because it raises some interesting problems later on.

So what’s happens at the end? Well the obvious thing is Zelda does something different because the “door of time” will now be closed. Before the Master Sword was acting as the literal key that was opening this door of time and I believe Zelda, by using the Ocarina, is permanently closing Link’s access to that future. Why? Because Link isn’t being allowed to put down the Master Sword in the future and without doing that, the second doorway cannot be marked and thus the door to the future is permanently lost. I also believe the Sages exit out this door before it is permanently “closed” (i.e. indistinguishable from other exits) and that is the significance of them being shown as lights at the end.

Now the thing that’s curious about this is what happens to adult Link? Clearly there are, so to say, two bodies, but one Link. The fact that Link has always been carrying around his stuff with him suggests that the actual body is undergoing these changes when he travels, but that would be odd since it would mean Rauru has no reason to actually put Link to sleep if the time travel actually changes his body. But considering it further, maybe the problem was that a Link must exist in the future as an adult for the exchange to happen. Maybe the reason Rauru had to put him to sleep was that for someone travelling between two times that interchangeably, it can only happen if they exist at those two times. I mean, when Link travels, he doesn’t seem to be leaving behind a lifeless body, but rather his body is also taken into the future and becomes an adult. My theory is as thus so: Rauru, aware that Link had to mature before facing Ganondorf in the future did not allow a young Link to wonder through the sacred realm and into the future, but put him to sleep in an isolated area of the sacred realm where time still passed normally. Since this part of the sacred realm still has a normal flow of time, it must be located close to the actual realm of time (Hyrule). Due to the proximity, the door that Link exits out is the door that coincides with how long he has been away from Hyrule. If he had woken up in five years time, he would have exited out at 5 years. If he left a minute after entering, he would exit a minute into the future. Why? because the area of the sacred realm where time still flows (and where the doors are located) flows with Hyrule and the door moves with the flow of time. To exit at a different time, one must first go into the core of the sacred realm to remove time itself. Once time is removed, true time travel can be achieved because from a timeless plane, one can exit into any time. I think of it roughly like this:

The lilac part is the subsection of the sacred realm that connects with Hyrule and where time still flows normally. The green dot is Link, who because he is “trapped” in the subsection of the sacred realm that still has time, flows with time (i.e. grows up just as if he were sleeping within Hyrule and wakes up exactly 7 years later). Ganondorf, who went after the triforce (and caused it to split and two parts to join with Link and Zelda) must have went into the core of the sacred realm where time doesn’t flow anymore. This means that there was no Link in Hyrule for 7 years. Now with this in mind and the fact that the Master Sword opens a door right when Link pulls out the sword and that Link isn’t travelling through time randomly like most people when they go through the Sacred Realm (i.e. Ganondorf), something special happens when Link time travels. Because he enters and exits at very specific points, guided by the Master Sword, I theorize that this special travel creates a sort of effect where his lingering self (the one that pulls out the sword) is still momentarily present and the Link that comes through must conform to that Link that still exists (for mere moments when the exchange happens). That is to say, to avoid there being two Links, one gets sent into the sacred realm and the one that comes out must conform to his image to take his place – so to say. The thing is, there is still only one Link, but the exchange that happens, happens because of the Master Sword. For Link’s first time travelling back, for example, he is exchanged with the Link that gets sent into the sacred realm for the first time and who sleeps for 7 years. That Link is up in the sacred realm sleeping, while this Link is down in Hyrule doing things. Same applies for all future travel, when Link picks up the Master Sword again, he is exchanging the position with the adult Link that just put the sword down for the first time. Once again, because there are two Links for a moment, the one coming in is forced to conform to the one who already exists there, the one whose existence (as in the act of being at that given moment) he is to replace instantaneously, but since there cannot be two Links in the same exact place, at the same time, one of them returns to the sacred realm. That is the magic behind the door of time and Link’s very exact time travel. Well according to me. :)

The literal key to Link’s precise time travel is the Master Sword

This chain of events, however, is eventually broken by Zelda, who sends Link back in time via the Ocarina. It is precisely because she does this that the “door of time” closes. For now there is no Link in the future to exchange with, so there is no way for Link to travel back to the future like he would have before. So what happened then? Why is Link suddenly back to being young? Well if my theory is correct, all Zelda did was sent Link back to the last moment of exchange (i.e. the last time Child Link picked up the sword, went to the future, and defeated Ganon). It was done specifically to “close the door of time”. With the door to the future now unmarked, there is no way for Link to travel back and when he finally puts down the sword, now in the past, it merges the two doors into one because he puts it down right at the moment he picked it up and when the final exchange happens (since Zelda sends him back to that moment to permanently close the door).

However, this leaves a few unanswered questions: namely, why is Zelda back at the castle (shouldn’t she still be in hiding?) and why does everything play out in the same way it did when Link and Zelda first met? Didn’t Zelda send him further into the past (i.e. prior to everything starting)? Isn’t this the part that causes the split in the time line since Link warns Zelda and Ganondorf is then captured and sealed away?

The meeting at the end isn’t a repeat in a new timeline, but their second meeting in the altered past.

Well, for one, if Zelda does send Link further into the past, what happens with the Link that was there? I think it makes more sense to think Link is returning to the last point from which he travelled, than to a point further into the past, as that would lead to two Links existing and living at the same time, which I think is too much. However, there is a real question of why Zelda is back in the castle when she was supposedly hiding for 7 years from Ganondorf. First, we have to assume that if Zelda was in hiding all those years, then Ganondorf must have had some sway in Hyrule for those 7 years he was absent in the sacred realm. This is hinted at with the castle guards noting something has happened at Hyrule Castle, but they don’t know the details. So now I’m going to go into speculation again. Since the sacred realm is timeless and is connected with all time, and since Ganondorf is a great sorcerer (based on the final battle with him). Perhaps Ganondorf used magic to take over Hyrule Castle and continued to exert that magic from the sacred real until he returned to Hyrule and personally killed everyone and redid the castle to his liking. I think of it like this: to seize power, Ganondorf tainted the guards in the castle and kept the King prisoner (sort of like what happens in a Link to the Past ;) ). This is also what prompted Impa to escape with Zelda and go into hiding. Now because the sacred realm is connected to all times, Ganondrof was able to continue to taint the guards using his magic while in the sacred realm. However, once Link defeated him, he was sealed within the Sacred Realm (called the Dark Realm after he tainted it). Finally, once Link closed the door of time, I speculate the seal on the Sacred Realm was finalized and the magic that was coming from it and controlling Hyrule Castle in Ganondorf’s absence was dispelled (because the sacred realm was sealed off and no longer connected to all times and that includes the past). Furthermore, the act of sealing had a ripple effect: since the Sacred Realm is timeless and connected to all times, the act of sealing it up once Link closed the door permanently, lead to all doors being sealed into the future going forward. This means that the Ganondorf that entered was stopped from exiting the Sacred Realm because the doors were permanently sealed (and why Zelda says peace has returned).  Now this is the weird thing about time travel and having malleable (that is changeable) time. Since Link and the Sages sealed Ganondrof and the sacred realm away (at least the inner most parts), Ganondorf was not able to exit out 7 years into the future. In short history was changed and those changes rippled back into the past and changed it and likewise, they would change the future. This is why the split occurs! There are not two pasts, but two futures! One where Ganondorf exits the sacred realm and is killed by Link (and later sealed), and one where the changes of that sealing directly affect the past to create a new future, one where there is no Ganondorf (because he was unable to leave the sacred realm). Thus in the past that was now cut off from Ganondrof’s influence, Impa, being a spy, was quickly able to gather that things returned to normal and comes back to Hyrule Castle with Zelda. Zelda, wanting to see Link again, waits in the same exact place where they first met. That is what is going on, in my opinion.

Yes, I know, this isn’t how the creators thought about it, but to me this is the only way I could accept everything that happens in the game and still make sense of it. Am I thinking about this way too hard? Yes. But it’s fun and that’s why I did it. Thoughts? Suggestions? Any feedback on this theory is much welcome~