The following article contains fanmade theories. It only reflects the opinions of the writer and of the architects of said theories, and not ZeldaInformer as a whole. That said, enjoy the article!
Here’s another nearly forgotten article for our “Lost Treasures” feature. Parallel timelines and multiple dimensions are always bound to cause confusion and The Legend of Zelda is no exception. With two versions of Hyrule and the mysterious world of Termina, it’s no wonder the internet is filled with different theories on how the worlds coexist. This article attempts to sort out this mystery once and for all.
Let’s begin with a few basic facts:
1. There are two timelines, each of which is a “parallel world” to the other. These timelines came about as a result of changing the past via time travel.
2. Termina is in a “parallel world”. It exists in a physical dimension separate from the light world of Hyrule.
3. The Dark World is a “mirror” of the light world, implying that it, too, is a “parallel world”. Like Termina, it exists in a physical dimension separate from the light world.
There’s three examples of “Parallel Worlds”, obviously that are not all congruent. One is an alternate timeline, one is another World, featuring similar characters, the other is another World, featuring different characters but a vastly similar landscape. In order to help us figure out the nature of these three Worlds, we’re going to have to delve into the nuances of the Multiverse.
According to Wikipedia:
”[A] Parallel universe or alternate reality in science fiction and fantasy is a self-contained separate reality coexisting with our own. A specific group of parallel universes is called a multiverse, although this term can also be used to describe all the parallel universes that comprise physical reality. While the terms “parallel universe” and “alternate reality” are generally synonymous and can be used interchangeably in most cases, there is sometimes an additional connotation implied with the term “alternate reality” that implies that the reality is a variant of our own. The term “parallel universe” is more general, without any connotations implying a relationship (or lack thereof) with our own universe.”
My own rehashing of these definitions:
Parallel Universe – a separate and different reality, existing on another physical World
Alternate Reality – a Parallel Universe that is related/similar to our own, but with telling differences
Multiverse – the collective group of parallel universes that are accessible to one another via various means (time travel, physical travel, etc.)
A split timeline, in my opinion, would qualify as a set of Alternate Realities, albeit, in perhaps the most literal sense possible. Each is literally the same physical World, but with Alternate Histories. Termina is a Parallel Universe. While many of its characters bear similarity to people from Hyrule, the World itself does not. The Dark World is sort of a conglomeration of the two concepts—it is literally shaped by the light world, a “shadowy mirror of Hyrule”, but is separate and different, existing on another physical space, and is not an Alternate Reality in the sense that the two timelines are alternate versions of the same World.
Between these three Worlds, I would say that there are two Multiverses: (1) the Historical Multiverse and (2) the Physical Multiverse.
I: Alternate Histories – the Historical Multiverse
When considering the question of Termina, the first is of utmost importance, since it helps us understand what exactly the nature of the split is, as well as how exactly this relates to time travel in Majora’s Mask.
Citing Wikipedia again:
“Alternative history is a subgenre of speculative fiction (or some would say of science fiction) that is set in a world in which history has diverged from history as it is generally known. Alternate history literature asks the question, “What if history had developed differently?”…While to some extent all fiction can be described as “alternate history,” the subgenre proper comprises fiction in which a change or point of divergence occurs in the past that causes human society to develop in a way that is distinct from our own.”
So, to put it in my own words, an Alternate History is a world created through a deviation from a prior History, via time travel, in most cases, or through hypothetical analysis (although this would not an actual ‘reality’, merely a hypothetical). To apply this back to the ‘real’ Historical Multiverse, the Multiverse includes all histories in which deviation from any prior History has been actuated, since, of course, we’re unconcerned with the hypothetical Histories.
Additionally, one could say that there are Historical Multiverses existing within Historical Multiverses, and that this would essentially allow for infinite Histories (albeit, departing from one History makes it just as infinitely difficult to influence the course of that same History to expand the Multiverse, so this process, of course, has limits).
The wiki article additionally spells out some criteria which I think are important to acknowledge and understand:
“There are certain elements which are common to all alternate histories, whether they deal with history on the micro-level (personal alternate histories) or the macro-level (world-changing events). These elements include:
- a point of change from the history of our world prior to the time at which the author is writing;
- a change which would alter history as it is known; and
- an examination of the ramifications of that change.”
Using this criteria, we can identify whether a given Parallel World is an Alternate History or not. Let’s do this for the split timeline.
There is a point of change from the History of the Adult events of Ocarina of Time that occurs after Link returns to the past. That point of change is in the past, when Link stands in the Temple of Time. The change itself is, broadly, that instead of drawing the Master Sword and inevitably sealing himself away to wait for the future, Link closes the Door of Time and sets into motion events that will lead to Ganondorf’s execution, and inevitably the storyline of Twilight Princess (this as opposed to him returning to the past sufficing as this “change”, since the creators suggest that it is his actions, not his presence, that creates this Alternate History; the exact point of divergence, however, is not as important as the changes themselves). This covers both the change itself and the ramifications.
The parallel timelines fit the criteria for being Alternate Histories, and our previous assumption about the general type of Parallel World the two timelines each represent is correct.
In review: Time travel is the cause of the change; the change is the cause of the split. If there was no change, it would simply be another case of time travel, returning to an earlier point in history, and the timeline itself would remain the same. One could argue that the simple fact that Link was there was a change, and that would be acceptable, but the timeline did not split because he traveled back in time. It split because something in the past was changed as a result.
What about time travel in Majora’s Mask? Does it create a number of Alternate Histories? Let’s examine:
The point of change for the history of the world of Majora’s Mask is the point at which Link returns to the past. Link is invariably different upon his return after each trip—for example, after the first, he carries the Ocarina of Time, whereas he did not before. That in and of itself is definitely a change, so, unlike the Ocarina of Time ending scenario, his presence is enough to cause a change. Barring the unlikely event that Link would literally repeat the same actions as before, his actions upon returning to this past would consequently affect the rest of the History. He would not take the Ocarina back from Skull Kid because he already has it (whether or not Skull Kid still has it at all is a matter entirely up to you). After he originally creates the Deku Mask, he will never create it a second time. Et cetera and so on.
So yes, I’d say that Majora’s Mask operates on the Alternate Histories principle. Whether or not those Histories are permanent like the Ocarina split is supposed to be is rather inconsequential, since none of them are going to lead into any sequels, as far as sane judgment dictates. It is not a necessary property of Alternate Histories to be permanent; that is, they could be erased under certain circumstances, as opposed to a split timeline being created.
We’ll examine this again later once we determine the nature of Termina and the Dark World as Parallel Worlds, so that we can redress the Original Topic, that is, the effects of a split on the Physical Multiverse.
II: Parallel Worlds – the Physical Multiverse
I’ve had a bit of difficulty in finding a solid source on Physical Universes and Multiverses, to be quite honest, so I’m going to have to examine a few of the more notable ones, with the closest comparisons to Zelda-style fantastic storytelling.
The first that comes to mind is C.S. Lewis’s fantasy world, Narnia, and its relation to its sister worlds: our own World, and Charn. Specifically important to this examination is the relationship between the Parallel World and the passage of time. It is a theme of the series (however inconsistently) within the Narnia books that time passes much more quickly in Narnia than in the real world. One of the more drastic examples of this is in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when the main characters, after spending fifteen years in Narnia and aging to adulthood, return to their home World to find that they are children, and that only a few hours have passed. This is perhaps the most famous precedent of a Parallel World in which time passes differently than in other worlds, establishing that the idea is plausible.
There is a key difference between Narnia and Termina that discourages the idea that Termina is based on Narnia, and therefore can be presumed to perhaps behave like it. Termina, unlike Narnia, features a selection of ‘alternates’ of characters and peoples who are present in other Worlds. For example, Anju of the Stock Pot Inn is very different in history and personality from her Cucco Lady counterpart in the Hyrulean light world (who may also be named Anju, looking at TMC), and the Deku Scrubs, instead of siding with evil, are presented as intelligent and relatively peaceful. That Termina is a Parallel Universe seems to be hinged on this very fact, which seems to have been an explanation to account for the recycled character models used in that game.
However, there is one especially important key similarity between Narnia and Termina, and that is the nature of the connection between them and other Worlds. Narnia features a “linking-room” between the Worlds called the ‘Wood between the Worlds’. Through this Wood, the characters can use magic to enter different Worlds through a number of magical pools. Similarly, Majora’s Mask features a similar wood connecting Termina and Hyrule (which may be the Lost Woods itself, or the underground cave Link stumbles into when chasing the Skull Kid). This concept seems to have been the only feature of Termina directly inspired by Narnian lore. A similar concept was used in the Tim Burton film The Nightmare Before Christmas to connect Halloween town to Christmas town and the other holiday Worlds.
Another fantasy universe of sorts that could be compared to Termina is Wonderland from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the classic story, Alice falls down a rabbit-hole into an entirely different World, much like Link’s own journey into Termina. Both worlds share a certain eclectic bizarreness, but beyond that, the similarities vanish. It should be noted, though, that the events in Termina were not a dream (for this reason, Wonderland might be also compared to Koholint Island in Link’s Awakening).
Beyond these, the nature of Termina as a Parallel World is for the most part seemingly unrelated to classic fantasy literature, so our understanding of its creation, existence, and so on is incredibly limited. To recap, our knowledge is limited to the following: (1) that Termina is a Parallel World to Hyrule, (2) that several people with identical appearances to persons in Hyrule exist in Termina under different identities and (3) that there is a Narnia/Wonderland-esque borderland/portal between the two Worlds that is used by the main characters.
Another Parallel World to Hyrule, one that we do know quite a bit about, is the Dark World. While the Dark World itself has undergone many functional, aesthetic, and historical ‘changes’ throughout the series, one of its resounding features is that it is a World entirely apart from Hyrule, yet one that literally mirrors it, having many of the same geographical features and so on, or, in the case of Twilight Princess’s twilight realm, it is the light world’s antithesis.
The two best examples of the Dark World’s relationship to the light world lie in Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past.
In Ocarina of Time, the Evil Realm (as it is called in that game) is the twisted Sacred Realm, transformed by Ganon’s evil heart. Link opens a doorway to that realm by drawing the legendary Master Sword, and is sealed away there for seven years. He awakens in the Temple of Light at the center of the Sacred Realm as an adult, seven years older. It should be noted that this seems to indicate that the Sacred Realm and Hyrule share the same timeframe. At the end of Ocarina, this realm is sealed by the sages, and as of yet this status has not been shown to have carried over into the Child timeline, further supporting this idea.
In A Link to the Past, the Dark World mirrors the light world. As certain things change in the light world, they are changed in the Dark World. This is a rather outlandish concept, even among fantasy universes, and it has not been shown to apply to any other cases in the series thus far. However, it should be noted that this further establishes an equivalence of the timeframes for the Sacred Realm/Dark World and the light world/Hyrule, as Dark World counterparts of things in the light world are changing literally while those things are being changed in the light world.
In both games, the realm was accessed through magic portals. The realm was considerably easier to enter in A Link to the Past, since the portals were easier to access and more numerous.
Based on this, we can determine that the Sacred Realm (1) is a Parallel World to Hyrule, (2) that the landscape is a universal counterpart to that of Hyrule (to the point that it mirrors Hyrule’s landscape), and (3) there are portals between the two Worlds used by the main characters. In that, the only real difference between the Sacred Realm and Termina as far as their status as Parallel Worlds is that Termina reflects Hyrule’s citizens while the Dark World mirrors its landscape. Which leads us to our next topic, and that is…
III: Refuting Termina as a separate history within the Historical Multiverse
Really, the meat of the topic. This topic obviously stems from discussion here, and, as such, I will be formulating my arguments and counterarguments based on the arguments presented there.
First, I will refute Ogmios’s conclusion that “since a timeline is a series of events, or a chronology, it’s basically a History. Since Hyrule and Termina share no history, they share no timeline.” This conclusion, to him, means, in essence, that Termina has its own timeline, and that the split in the timeline therefore does not affect it. This allows, then, for the Legend of the Fairy from The Wind Waker to appear in the Adult timeline—the timeline of Termina exists independently and exclusively of the Child or Adult timelines, and therefore can connect to both. Indeed, this is basically the only reason the theory exists, from what I can tell.
I would argue that this claim, while reasonable, is unfounded in the games themselves, and therefore most likely incorrect (still no less reasonable, of course). This is not to be misconstrued as an attempt to belittle the argument, just as my analysis of what I believe is the more likely, more consistent explanation.
I agree with the premise, that a timeline is a History. A split timeline has two Alternate Histories, literally two timelines. I disagree with the ramifications proposed, however, that Termina and Hyrule share no history, and that this fact is what allows for Tingle to bring the Legend of the Fairy to the Adult timeline.
We know that Child Link left Hyrule in the Child timeline, meaning that he did so in the past, after the split was created. This event occurred in the Child History only, not in the Adult History. He then enters Termina, obviously after leaving Hyrule in the Child timeline, and, considering the Ogmios model, only enters Clock Town in the Termina timeline (since Termina itself doesn’t exist in the other timelines). This second even still would not have occurred in the Adult History, since the Adult History, according to Ogmios, is separate from Termina’s History (and from the Child History).
We’ll call the event in which Child Link leaves Hyrule in the Child timeline Point 1, and the event in which Child Link exits the Clock Tower in the Termina timeline Point 2.
Operating under this model, so far our three timelines look like this:
NOTE: Still no contact with the Adult timeline.
From Link’s perspective, the events proceed as follows:
(1) > (2)
NOTE: We’ll call this “Link’s timeline”, for future reference.
Link eventually recovers his Ocarina of Time and uses it to travel back to the past. For the purposes of catering to Ogmios’s idea, and based on our conclusions in Section I, we will assume that this causes a timeline split in Termina’s timeline. Like the split introduced in Ocarina, this split has absolutely no effect on the Child or Adult Histories.
We’ll call the event in which Link goes back in time Point 3, and put it in its own line. Note that Link returns to a point in time equivalent to Point 2, the only difference being that he now carries the Ocarina of Time, which had been lost when he first arrived at Point 2. For the sake of simplicity, we will not create a Point 4 to signify this point in time, but simply continue to refer to it as Point 2.
We now have four timelines, which look like this:
Termina: [(2)—> (3)]
New Termina: [(2)
NOTE: Still no contact with the Adult timeline.
(1) > (2) > (3) > (2)
Link does heroic stuff from Point 2 in the new Termina timeline, then inevitably plays the Song of Time to return to the past again. He creates yet another Termina timeline split.
We’re going to continue to call the point of return Point 2. We’re also going to continue to call the point of initiation of the time travel Point 3, and label it as a variable within any given Termina timeline.
We now have FIVE timelines, which look like this:
Termina: [(2)—> (3)]
New Termina: [(2)—> (3)]
New Termina: [(2)—> (3)
NOTE: Still no contact with the Adult timeline.
(1) > (2) > (3) > (2) > (3) > (2)
Lather, rinse, and repeat this process until the final day cycle. We now have ‘X’ number of Termina timelines (including the final cycle), the same number of Point 2s, and one less Point 3, since Link won’t be time-traveling in this cycle. Link defeats Majora and saves the day. He then returns to Hyrule.
This is when I begin to disagree outright with the sentiments of the idea. Ogmios proposes that upon Link’s return to Hyrule, the nature of Termina’s separation from Hyrule in time would allow for him to return in both timelines, and, indeed, this would be an inevitability, since only one way to Hyrule exists in Termina, and two ways to Termina exist, one in the Child and Adult Histories. The way out of the Termina timeline into Hyrule, because it is impartial to the split, would lead to both Hyrulean timelines.
We’ll call the point of Majora’s defeat Point 4, and the point of Link’s return(s) to Hyrule Point 5.
We now have ‘X’ timelines, which look like this: