The Legend of Zelda: The Hero of Time, Explained

The Legend of Zelda Link

The Legend of Zelda: The Hero of Time, Explained

In what is one of the most confusing story beats in all of gaming, each title in The Legend of Zelda series features a hero named Link, but they aren’t the same Link. Each of these titles also invariably features a Princess Zelda and a Ganon too, but neither are the same across each game either. For years, the official timeline of the Zelda series remained shrouded in mystery, with fans resorting to coming up with their own understanding of the franchise’s canon from tidbits of information both in-game and in real-world instruction manuals and strategy guides. Thankfully, that all came to an end in 2011.

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the original Legend of Zelda on NES, Nintendo published the book Hyrule Historia. This massive compendium chronicles not just the events of Skyward Sword (the most recent series entry at the time of its release) but also the entire series chronology, with the official timeline of The Legend of Zelda finally laid bare for the general public. Because Skyward Sword is canonically the first game in the series, the developers and masterminds behind Zelda saw it fit to finally explain the convoluted timeline of the franchise. And, between the plot of Skyward Sword and this official Zelda timeline, we can finally pinpoint the reason behind the multiple Links, Zeldas, and Ganons.

How Skyward Sword Establishes The Hero of Time

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword key art

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword from 2011 takes the sereis back to its very beginning, introducing players to a land that would eventually become Hyrule. After the creation of the world, the three goddessess responsible departed for the heavens, leaving behind the essence of their power in the Triforce. In order to prevent this Triforce from falling into the hands of the evil Demon King Demise, the goddess Hylia forces Demise into a deep slumber and sends the world’s inhabitants to live in the sky.

When the game begins, players take control of Link and quickly realize they share a very special bond with this game’s Princess Zelda. As it turns out, Zelda is the reincarnation of Hylia and the sworn protector of the Triforce. Her hero and sworn protector is none other than Link. Zelda disappears shortly after the beginning of the game, and Link descends from the heavens to the world below in order to find her, guided by the spirit that inhabits the Goddess Sword. With the help of the Goddess Sword, Link begins to track down the person responsible for Zelda’s abduction — a man named Girahim who is a loyal servant to the Demon King Demise.

Girahim is attempting to resurrect Demise so that the evil Demon King can awaken and lay claim to the Triforce. Ultimately, Link defeats Girhaim but not before Demise is resurrected, culminating in a final showdown between the two. With Zelda’s light arrows stunning Demise, Link is able to land the final blow with the Goddess Sword to defeat him once and for all. However, with his last breath, Demise curses himself, Link, and Zelda. Proclaiming that his hatred will never die, he dooms the three of them to be locked into an eternal struggle of good versus evil.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Zelda and Link

With the curse in place, both Zelda and Link are now part of a larger destiny involving eternal conflict with Demise. Demise continues to appear in subsequent games as Ganon, whose firey red hair connects him back to the corporeal form of Demise from Skyward Sword. Similarly, both Link and Zelda reappear from era to era, with one always being a princess and the other being her sworn protector. Thus the Hero of Time is born, destined to return era after era in order to both protect Zelda and the Triforce as well as banish Demise (or, Ganon) through defeat.

Even though these characters share the same name, this helps to explain their differing appearances as well as their apparent inability to age. When the Zelda series began the early games were all part of one continuous storyline, but the addition of new tales has made a complex timeline and chronology necessary. Skyward Sword may mark the beginning of Link’s cycle of rebirth, but it’s Ocarina of Time that has the greatest bearing on the series’ future. After manipulating time to save Hyrule and defeat Ganon, there are three distinct timelines that branch off from the Nintendo 64 classic.

So, not only does the “Hero of Time” moniker refer to the fact that Link is a recurring hero, it also represents his use of time to thwart Ganon. A victory (or defeat) that holds serious consequences for the rest of the official series timeline. Ultimately, as long as the Zelda series continues, there will be a young hero carrying the legacy of Link in his veins, a princess who is the reincarnation of the goddess Hylia, and an evil entity controlling the actions of a thief named Ganon. Who said the only things certain in life were death and taxes?

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