Hello to all you great Zelda fans out there! My name is Christopher Jenkins (Chris to my friends), also an avid Zelda fanatic, and I am a new staffer here at ZIMP. I have been tasked by my old friend and colleague Alter with starting a new line of articles for this site, and I was more than happy to accept. To speak a bit about myself, I have been a Zelda fan for basically all of my life, the series sharing an almost identical age to myself (July 1987) here in America. I loved the sense of adventure and excitement the games had to offer, as I’m sure most all of you reading this also did. I have done extensive research on the series for many long years hoping to unlock some of its secrets, a testament to how fascinated I’ve been by the series even to this day. Now, Alter has offered me the chance to come onto an actual Zelda site and discuss my ideas with all of you and to hear some of yours as well so as to share our ideas and insight into the series. You never know which topic I may pick up on each time I write for the site, though as the site’s name implies most will involve the handheld Zelda games that many tend to overlook due to the epic scope of the main console games. Each topic on which I write for the site will be chosen at random, though there may be times where some will relate to others in one way or another.
My first topic will focus primarily on one of the more curious and quite epic of the handheld games, The Minish Cap. This game seemingly tells the origin story of one of the series’ major villains, Vaati (originally a Minish sage’s apprentice who lusts for power), as well as the Four Sword that has been known to be capable of vanquishing him. In the game, Vaati comes to Hyrule from the Minish world when the portal that links it to Hyrule opens for a brief time as is customary once a century. He hopes to obtain the mythical Light Force, a source of limitless magical power originally owned by the Minish and hidden somewhere in Hyrule. Throughout the game, gamers are introduced to classic characters such as Link and Princess Zelda and even new ones such as Link’s compatriot on his adventure, Ezlo, a talking bird-like hat that, as it turns out, is the Minish sage that shared a past with Vaati. After a long and arduous journey, Link gathers the Four Elements (generally thought to become the four Royal Jewels of Four Swords Adventures fame) and transforms the ancient Picori Blade into the Four Sword. With the sacred blade in hand, Link confronts and battles Vaati (who discovers that the Light Force is embodied within Princess Zelda and uses part of it to transform into his classic wind mage form) to save both Princess Zelda and Hyrule from a terrible fate, ultimately sealing Vaati within the sword’s enchanted blade.
One fascinating topic about this game is the contention of some within the Zelda community that this game is the origin story for the entire series, most basing this assertion upon certain past statements made some time ago by Mr. Eiji Aonuma that the Four Swords subseries constitutes “the oldest tale in the timeline”. While at first glance this appears to be a very consequential statement, I would like to take a step back and discuss a few things that could put the debate more into perspective. I do not aim to take any sides in the debate over whether or not this game really is the first in the timeline or not, but I would also like to bring to light certain elements that could help the entire community see all angles of the issue at hand. First, I would like to discuss the potentially fatal pitfalls in basing anything solely upon statements from Mr. Aonuma or his superior, Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto, the series’ creator credited by many as being one of the greatest video game designers of all time. First I would like to point out that while Mr. Aonuma’s statement initially seems definitive, it was never actually corroborated with or confirmed by Mr. Miyamoto, whose confirmation would have given considerably more weight to it as both now have a hand in shaping the course of the Zelda series. Now some will argue that Mr. Miyamoto cares little about the timeline and that Mr. Aonuma has had to, at times, help Mr. Miyamoto grasp issues regarding the timeline. However, taking this a step farther, one must also keep in mind that Mr. Aonuma ultimately answers to Mr. Miyamoto (who unlike Mr. Aonuma has been with the series since its inception) and that while it is true that Mr. Miyamoto has shown little interest in how the story goes in the recent past, he himself has stated in the past that Ocarina of Time was the true origin of the entire series as he intended, though this was many years ago. Mr. Aonuma also erroneously suggested at one time that The Wind Waker (which Mr. Aonuma himself directed) is only separated from Ocarina of Time by a mere hundred years, something refuted by King Daphnes Nohnasen Hyrule in the game itself when he states that “hundreds (plural) of years have passed since then (the time when Hyrule was flooded, which itself likely took place any number of years following the end of Ocarina of Time)”. The point: Due to conflicting statements and a lack of consistency on the part of both men, it is potentially dangerous to simply base one’s timeline upon any one statement made by the game creators, who have at times contradicted the very games they have directed in regards to the timeline of the Zelda series.
A second issue to consider from The Minish Cap itself involves in-game characters and events. While it is true and somewhat obvious that the game provides an origin story for the Four Swords subseries within the over-arching Zelda series, it remains unclear whether the game is truly an origin story for the entire series, largely because of the game itself. About mid-way through the game, gamers are introduced to King Gustaf, an ancient former ruler of Hyrule from a time long ago. He returns to help Link reach the Cloud Tops and obtain the fourth and final element, the Wind Element. While this may not seem like much to look at initially, one may find it interesting to consider that Gustaf states that he “ruled Hyrule countless ages ago” at one point. Where this gets interesting is the fact that Gustaf implies that Hyrule has had a functioning monarchy governing the entire land for “countless ages” by the time of The Minish Cap and possibly even further back beyond his reign. Bearing this in mind, let’s go for a moment to Ocarina of Time. In this game, fans learn that roughly a decade (judging by Link’s age in the game) before the events of the game, Hyrule was engulfed in a massive, bloody civil war that resulted in the uniting of all the tribes of the land under the banner of the Royal Family of Hyrule. Now some will argue that, sure, the Royal Family had likely existed long before these events. However, taking that a step further, it is seemingly established that they did not rule over all the tribes of Hyrule until the war preceding Ocarina of Time. Rather, they more likely ruled over their own tribe alone for a good many years until the time of the war, where they were installed as the governing body of the entire land of Hyrule and all of its domains and tribes. Now, bearing this in mind, let’s go back to The Minish Cap. Gustaf states that he “ruled Hyrule” countless ages ago. This would seem to imply that he ruled over the entire realm of Hyrule and all its domains just judging from the statement itself. If this is indeed true, it would cast serious doubt upon Mr. Aonuma’s statement that this game, when grouped with its counterparts, constitutes the oldest tale in the timeline, and here’s why: Gustaf states that he ruled Hyrule countless ages before the events of The Minish Cap, yet we seemingly learn in Ocarina of Time that the Royal Family of Hyrule did not come to power over the entire realm until just a short time before Ocarina of Time. Now, all of these events are supposed to predate the split in the timeline that is forged at the end of Ocarina of Time and seemingly confirmed by the game creators.
A third issue to consider comes from one of The Minish Cap’s successor games: Four Swords Adventures. Now, I think most would agree that The Minish Cap predates Four Swords Adventures. What is interesting in this game is that Ganon features in it as Ganondorf, but he is described at the end of the game as the “ancient demon reborn”, the key word here being “reborn”. Now, let us once again jump to Ocarina of Time for a moment: Ganondorf’s origins are seemingly established in Ocarina of Time, where he is shown to have originally been the Gerudo King of Thieves and was transformed into Ganon after he shattered the Triforce in that story. Now, bearing this in mind, let’s go back to that statement at the end of Four Swords Adventures: Ganon is described here as the ancient demon “reborn”. This would seem to imply, at least to me, that there was another Ganon some time before the events of Four Swords Adventures and that he was vanquished. We seemingly learn of the first Ganondorf (and by extension Ganon) in Ocarina of Time. Now by logic, it would seem that the Ganon featured in Ocarina of Time was the first and that the one featured in Four Swords Adventures was likely a reincarnation of him. However, this would mean that Ocarina of Time predates Four Swords Adventures and likely, by extension, The Minish Cap. We hear nothing about Ganon in The Minish Cap, but his seeming reincarnation is featured in one of its successor games. Mr. Aonuma implies that the Four Swords subseries as a whole constitutes the “oldest tale in the timeline”, yet we have what appears to be a reincarnation of Ganondorf/ Ganon appearing in it while what appears to be the first Ganondorf/Ganon is featured in Ocarina of Time. Now how can this be?
This brings us to some very interesting questions that could shed some light on the debate:
1) If The Minish Cap (along with Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures) truly does predate Ocarina of Time, how is it possible that Hyrule could have had countless ages of monarchs governing it before it was even unified under a single governing body? How could “countless ages” of monarchs have governed the entire realm of Hyrule in such a short amount of time (between the time of the war mentioned in Ocarina of Time and the events of that game, roughly ten years estimating from Link’s age)?
2) How could the Four Swords subseries predate Ocarina of Time if Ganondorf/Ganon’s reincarnation features into the Four Swords subseries while what appears to be the first Ganondorf/Ganon features into Ocarina of Time?
Bottom Line: While Mr. Aonuma’s statements regarding the timeline may at first glance seem defining and unquestionable, the inconsistency and at times erroneous nature of said statements and the confusion they generate when involving Mr. Miyamoto give some, such as myself, pause. This pause is all the more potent when considering that Mr. Aonuma has even contradicted some of the very games he himself has directed, such as the aforementioned example of The Wind Waker. Personally, while I feel the game creators likely do have a general idea of how the timeline goes, I think it likely that even they themselves have lost track of it due to the numerous plot holes they have generated, likely due to the need for good game-play. Do I believe that Ocarina of Time is definitely close to the beginning of the series chronologically and seemingly an “origin story” for many of the over-arching elements of the series as a whole? The obvious answer there would be “yes” due to how that game establishes the origins of such elements as Ganondorf, the Triforce, the Master Sword, etc. On the other hand, do I believe that The Minish Cap is an “origin story” for the Four Swords subseries of games? Once again, the obvious answer would be “yes” due to how it establishes the origins of elements including Vaati and the Four Sword. But as to which of the two (if at all) is the origin story for the timeline of the entire series is anyone’s guess. Considering that most of the games revolve around Ganondorf and the Triforce as a plot scheme, I would be willing to bet that certainly Ocarina of Time is an excellent candidate for that title. While it remains possible, albeit harder to fit due to such in-game chronology problems as the ones described here, that the Four Swords subseries could indeed predate Ocarina of Time, I myself have found it harder to see this being the case upon closer inspection of the games involved. I myself do not feel that statements made by Nintendo or the game creators mean all that much anymore due to the aforementioned inconsistency and lack of coherence and collaboration in regards to the in-game events. Personally, when I am trying to figure out the overall timeline of the series for myself as many have, I disregard statements and opt instead to go by the in-game material as ultimately the games are king due to the ever-changing and inconsistent stances of the game creators. My suggestion: Do not be so quick to base one’s timeline strictly upon a single person’s statements, especially when that person is known to have contradicted in-game material in the past. Rather, take a closer inspection of the games and judge for yourselves whether or not you still feel you agree with said statements. Such an inspection completely reshaped my opinion in regards to statements from Mr. Aonuma or Mr. Miyamoto, and it could do the same for you. And who knows, with such an inspection, you may also find other things that could help the Zelda community decipher the great mystery that is the Zelda timeline. So is The Minish Cap really the “origin story” of the entire series as some in the community claim, or is it merely the origin story for an isolated part of the series?