Disclaimer: The following article takes a speculative look at the time period between Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker. Aside from the given backstory from The Wind Waker, little is known about the intricacies of this timeframe. This article is not intended to be an explicit theory, but rather to get people thinking about the possibilities, and how minor details fit together. With that said, please enjoy.
The Wind Waker is widely considered to take place a few hundred years after the Hero of Time defeats Ganon in the adult ending to Ocarina of Time. However, very little is known about this time period in between Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker. The opening to The Wind Waker reveals Ganon’s return, thus explaining the reasoning for the Great Flood, but aside from these events this time period remains unseen. We are only left with a few subtle hints within The Wind Waker to speculate on what may have happened to the lost society of Hyrule.
Since a few hundred years is a rather vague timeframe, we must first better understand time itself, as expressed within the series. Because there are no definite clocks or calendars within the game, our main reference to time is life expectancy. As suggested by the games introduction, very few people from The Wind Waker remember anything about Hyrule aside from the few villagers on Outset Island. Even their knowledge seems limited since their only reference to the past is the coming of age celebration Link participates in on his birthday. Essentially, the citizens of The Wind Waker know nothing about Hyrule’s history.
This is easily understandable considering the turmoil that must have occurred during the reconstruction period after the Great Flood. All previous documentation was surely lost, so the only way to learn about the past was from word of mouth. The game intro says the “legend survived on the wind’s breath” which confirms one generation told the next. But after a few generations, history would become less clear and soon be lost forever. Unfortunately, this information doesn’t help explain a timeframe.
While we can’t pinpoint a date, we can narrow it down to a minimum of three generations. The original survivors of the Great Flood obviously knew their past. When they raised their children, the kids probably had at least a vague idea of what happened, even if their parents avoided talking about it. But by the third generation, parents may or may not have wanted their children to know their past. From this generation forward could be a potential time that The Wind Waker begins, but this is still not a very concise estimate.
Even with this smaller timeframe estimate, we cannot easily approximate a number of years without knowing a person’s life expectancy. In reality, our life expectancy is around 80 years but we live in a fully industrialized society full of hospitals and medicine. Without any of these, our life expectancy would be much lower at around 30 to 40 years. During the first few years of reconstruction after the Great Flood, life expectancy was probably even lower since people had to relearn how to survive. This by itself could explain the loss of history, since children of the first generation survivors may have lost their parents at a very young age.
Unfortunately we know almost nothing about the life expectancy in The Legend of Zelda universe. Graves are never dated and we rarely witness someone’s death, so people could potentially live for hundreds of years for all we know. People from The Legend of Zelda are not necessarily required to live within the same lifespan as us. Even if we could just assume what the life expectancy is, it would only explain so much. The time period between the end of Ocarina of Time and the return of Ganon remains unexplained.
In the adult ending of Ocarina of Time, Hyrule is in utter ruins with its people scattered, and Hyrule Castle destroyed. Since the old location of the castle was turned into a pit of lava, the Temple of Time, the biggest surviving structure, was remodeled into the new Hyrule Castle. This is why the Master Sword is now secretly located beneath the castle in The Wind Waker. Since the castle was such a bigger structure than the original, it probably took many years to build. Hyrule had such a small population to begin with, but with even less people to help rebuild, the castle looks like it could take a hundred years to make.
However, the castle had to be built within King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule’s lifetime. He is assumed to be the reigning King from Ocarina of Time, since he had no known heir at the time of Ocarina of Time. While it is possible that he had a son not mentioned in Ocarina of Time, the idea of an extra generation strongly conflicts with the few hundred year time limit considering all the other major events that must fit in. We can explain the new Hyrule Castle by some divine intervention or perhaps a sacred technique unknown to us. If the Gorons, the Zoras, and even the Gerudos all help the Hylians, they could potentially build such an impressive structure in a shorter time period. While this ambiguous era is impossible to estimate a time span for, what we do have is an idea of what had to take place before the Great Flood.
Now that we know a little more about this stage in time, we can take a deeper look at what happened to Hyrule. Within the new Hyrule Castle on the upper floor is a large painting of a young Princess Zelda with several servants. This seems to suggest that Princess Zelda from Ocarina of Time may have had a daughter before the flood, since she was well into adulthood at the end of Ocarina of Time. This would further complicate the few hundred year time limit, by adding an additional generation. But this picture could also be just a very old picture of the Ocarina of Time era Zelda that somehow managed to survive Ganondorf’s initial attack on Hyrule. Once again, this is a dilemma that would be solved if this time period were more precise.
Unlike Ganondorf’s first attack on Hyrule, his second attack after his return probably wasn’t as sudden as before. Defense was probably taken much more seriously after such an embarrassing defeat earlier. This clarifies why the Hylians were able to wait for the Hero of Time to return. To their disappointment he did not come, so they turned to the Goddesses to ask for aid. If Ganon overtook Hyrule in a day, this realization that Link wasn’t coming would not have occurred. Still, Ganon’s forces eventually broke through the castle defenses where Hyrule’s losing battle continued. Somehow, Ganon’s forces are mysteriously frozen in place mid combat, perhaps allowing the few survivors to escape. Ganondorf later reveals the Master Sword was responsible for these actions, which is why his minions are released after the new Link retrieves the Master Sword years later.
The survivors of Hyrule climbed to the mountain tops as the Goddesses drowned the rest of Hyrule. Since there were few mountains in Ocarina of Time, the Goddesses likely created several mountains moments before drowning Hyrule, which then became numerous small islands. When Link leaves the castle of the sunken Hyrule, we can see several unnatural mountains in the horizon that could likely make up these islands, strongly suggesting divine intervention.
So the survivors of the Great Flood take refuge on the newly made mountain tops. After just having to rebuild their society after Ganondorf’s initial attack on Hyrule, they already must start over once again. Not only that, but what little population they built back after Ocarina of Time was quickly split between several islands. Just imagine those first few days. Everything you own is destroyed and you are stuck on an island with only a handful of people. There’s no rescue boat coming to save you. This is the life the Goddesses left for their people. One couldn’t help but resent the Goddesses for what they had done. Many probably shared Ganondorf’s disgust with the Goddesses for what they had done to Hyrule. Perhaps this alone forced the loss of history. Parents probably didn’t want their children to acknowledge the Goddesses after they took away so much from them.
In Ocarina of Time, Hylians were recognized by their pointy ears:
“They say we Hylians have big ears in order to hear the voices of the gods…but I’ve never heard them!”
The resentment towards the Goddesses likely severed this link, gradually separating the Hylians from the Goddesses. Probably out of spite for these attitudes, the Goddesses removed their pointed ears, visually signifying the end to the Hylian race and the end of their once sacred bond. This explains how the majority of citizens within The Wind Waker do not have pointed ears. The few long eared survivors that remained must have still been loyal to the Goddesses, but are now nothing but a remnant of the lost society.
Despite all their misfortune, the survivors were probably pretty good at starting over at this point. Shelters were quickly made, boats were built to connect each island, and the population size picked up once a society was established. Still, for the first few years, survival was key. As Ganondorf points out, the flood actually killed off the fish, making fishing impossible.
“They are vast seas… None can swim across them… They yield no fish to catch…”
The Fishmen in the game seem to contradict his claim, however, it is apparent that the King of Red Lions made some sort of deal with them so they would help Link. Perhaps the King of Red Lions assisted in their survival over the other fish. The Fishmen seem largely unknown to most people, so they are unaware to fish for them. Of course this brings to question how they continue to survive, since they cannot live on Link’s bait alone, but perhaps this is part of their deal with the King of Red Lions.
Without any fish from the oceans, the survivors of Hyrule needed a different source of food to survive. Land space was limited, so agriculture would be incredibly restricted. Pigs play a regular theme in The Wind Waker, which likely explains their source of food, livestock. The Rupee is still a working currency, so once sailing became common, an economy could develop. Windfall became the central hub for trade. While the low population level would still be difficult to overcome, there was still likely someone to trade goods with.
The Gorons seemed to have the biggest advantage in regards to trade. While their home is beyond the borders of the game, they manage to have several merchants able to trade and deliver supplies longer distances than any of the Hylian descendents. This could be attributed to the fact that the Gorons already lived on Death Mountain before the flood. While Death Mountain isn’t specifically marked on The Wind Waker map, we can speculate that the mountain top probably turned into an island, leaving their home almost untouched by the flood. Such an advantage would explain their success in trade, since they could focus on goods and transportation rather than worrying about survival.
The Zoras on the other hand were probably less fortunate. While Laruto suggests that some Zoras survived, the lack of fish in the ocean would advocate that most of the Zoras died in the flood. One would think more water would be beneficial to the Zoras, but so much water so quickly would actually mean death. Zora’s Domain would be under hundreds of feet of water, so any living thing left down there would be crushed by the water pressure. The Zoras that made it to the surface have a different dilemma altogether. Ocarina of Time suggested that the Zoras’ main source of food is none other than fish.
“I want to buy a fish, but they are a little too expensive… I have no choice but to catch one of the fishes that’s swimming around out there.”
Knowing their primary source of food is fish, the Zoras would quickly realize there is none left for them to eat. Such a rapid change in sea level would destroy a fish’s ecosystem, promptly killing them off as Ganondorf indicates in the game. With nothing left to eat, the race would quickly die. Their only other option is to turn to the Hylians for help, but all things considered, the Hylians were probably less than charitable due to their own circumstances. So the Zoras were mostly on their own, and had to quickly adapt to the situation if they were to survive.
The Rito are widely considered to be descendents of the Zoras. Medli is a Rito who is the descendent of Laruto, a Zora. Whether or not their connection is biological may be debatable, but this may explain what happened to the Zoras. Of course the idea of a Zora evolving into a Rito contradicts the given time period, since it would take hundreds, if not thousands, of years for it to happen. While Valoo’s origin is unknown, his ancient Hylian dialect suggests he predates the flood. Since a single scale grants a Rito wings, perhaps Valoo possesses the power to change the Zoras. His own scale creates wings for the Rito, so possibly Valoo could have turned the Zoras’ scales into feathers. This would also explain how the Rito grew to honor Valoo, since he literally became the Zoras’ savior from their own extinction.
The home for the Rito, Dragon Roost, is often speculated to be the top of Death Mountain. According to the Ocarina of Time overworld map, and the location of Hyrule Castle beneath the ocean, Dragon Roost is approximately located where Death Mountain should be. This suggests that the Zoras may have turned to the Gorons initially after the flood. By the time the Rito replaced the Zoras, perhaps the Gorons had moved away in order to expand their trade operation and search for new goods.
When Link first arrives at Forsaken Fortress, Tetra mentions a rival pirate gang used to convene at that location. Since Ganondorf and his minions resided within Forsaken Fortress at the time, we can speculate that Tetra was referring to the Gerudo Thieves. The Gerudos were the only missing race from The Wind Waker, and the similarly named Gerudo Fortress and Forsaken Fortress both support this claim. At the end of Ocarina of Time, the Gerudos were left leaderless. Any Gerudo that remained loyal to Ganondorf were now powerless, and the Gerudos that may have stayed loyal to Nabooru were leaderless as well since Nabooru took up the role as a sage. While there is little to speculate off of for them during Hyrule’s initial reconstructive era, it is likely that after the flood, the Gerudo Thieves did what they do best, and stole from the other Hylian survivors.
During the early post-flood reconstruction period, the Gerudos, like everyone else, desperately needed resources to survive. The mountain top island they occupied probably did not offer the supplies necessary to support their numbers, so they stole in order to survive. Being the most militaristic race to endure the flood, there was very little that could rival them. With no law or authority to protect the Hylians, the Gerudos soon became notorious across the Great Sea. Desperate to protect the lives they had salvaged from the flood, the Gerudos began construction by carving stone from the mountaintop, gradually shaping it into the new Gerudo’s Fortress. The construction of such a base, essentially declared war on all other races, which quickly developed a new problem for the Gerudos.
In Ocarina of Time, the Gerudos were an all female race, with the exception of Ganondorf. Despite their distaste for men, the Gerudos had to seduce young men in order to keep up their population:
“They say that Gerudos sometimes come to Hyrule Castle Town to look for boyfriends.”
Initially, it was likely quite easy to find desperate young men willing to cooperate. A small lonely island with only a few other survivors most likely became very lonely. As society began to turn on the Gerudos for their actions, the Gerudo possibly even threatened the other citizens. For instance, in exchange for their assistance, their resources will remain un-pillaged. But without Ganondorf, and their rising level of infamy with the other races, the Gerudos were soon, unable to reproduce, and their population size began to drop. Out of desperation, the Gerudos were forced to dig into their past, or face extinction.
The Goddesses succeeded at stalling Ganon after his return to Hyrule, but it would not last forever. The Master Sword had locked Ganon’s forces inside Hyrule, and the Goddesses trapped Ganon within the barrier of Hyrule beneath the ocean. While it is unknown exactly when Ganon’s Tower was constructed, Ganondorf was alive and well, and he was busy. Ganondorf eventually found a way to break the barrier and reach the surface with a dark portal, opening an entrance into the Gerudo’s Fortress. Likely arriving during their time of need, the Gerudos welcomed their former leader with open arms. With most of his army still trapped in Hyrule, Ganondorf slowly built back a new militia and began his search for the Triforce and stop the new sages.
Out of desperation, the other survivors had to quickly turn to war in order to overcome this new threat. While Ganondorf’s presence probably remained secret, Moblins slowly make their return to the world, along with the already looming Gerudos. Hylian survivors slowly begin to arm themselves out of self defense, and the art of war slowly builds itself back into society. It is this time that men like Orca were brought up, and taught how to defend themselves. With the slow return of Ganon’s forces, men like Orca began to covet the Knight Crest, which fabled a powerful sword technique he sought after for so many years.
As the fighting spread itself throughout the new world, the scars of war began to surface, as seen in The Wind Waker. Link’s missing parents suggest an untimely death possibly caused by the conflict with the Gerudos. Scattered islands depict destroyed buildings or ruins also suggesting a struggle. Not to mention all the rafts, boats, submarines, and several outposts all on top of Forsaken Fortress. This equipment didn’t assemble itself overnight just to battle Link. The Gerudos probably took a huge role in developing this war machine for Ganon, while he slowly rebuilt his Moblin army. With so much equipment, this small war quickly escalated itself turning the fate of the remaining races into a battle for survival.
While Ganon’s forces recuperated from the flood, Hyrule’s forces recovered as well. Before the flood, King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule tried his best to protect his weak kingdom from Ganon’s return to Hyrule, but in the end his efforts were futile. As it became more evident that Hyrule would not hold and the Hero of Time was not coming to their rescue, the King began to make preparations for defeat. Knowing that Ganon would come after Zelda, the King took a piece of the Triforce of Wisdom for safe keeping. If nothing else, the Triforce would become that much harder for Ganon to obtain.
The sages may have taken a prominent role in the final days of Hyrule. Being closely connected to the Master Sword and the Hero of Time, they were likely the first that realized Link would not return. After pleading with the Goddesses for aid, they learned of the Great Flood and perhaps helped provide Hyrule with the opportunity to escape. As Ganondorf says in The Wind Waker, the Master Sword was the key to locking up his minions within Hyrule Castle. Since the Hero of Time was not present, the sages are the next closest beings to the Master Sword. Two of the sages’ descendents were able to empower the Master Sword years later, so the original sages may have unleashed the Master Sword’s might on Ganon’s forces, in Link’s absence. This would explain how the Master Sword lost its power to repel evil.
After unleashing the Master Sword on Ganon’s Forces, the Hylians were provided with the opportunity to escape the castle, just before the Goddesses flooded the earth. Since the sages were unable to repower the Master Sword, they likely fell to the flood or perhaps Ganon himself. King Daphnes drowned with the rest of Hyrule as well, like a captain going down with his sunken ship. Filled with regret for his kingdom, the King found new life in the form of a boat. It is unsure how the King was granted this second chance, but the Zelda universe has often extended the lives of the fallen that left with unfinished business. The Hero’s Shade from Twilight Princess and Darmani from Majora’s Mask both shared a similar fate as the King. Taking the form of the boat, The King of Red Lions, he begins his search for the Hero of Time in hopes of avenging his fallen kingdom.
Right after the Great Flood, two new sages are awakened, Laruto and Fado. We know it occurs very soon after the flood because the original sages are gone, Laruto is still a Zora rather than a Rito, and Fado is still a Kokiri rather than a Korok. How they were awakened is unknown, but perhaps the King of the Red Lions had other objectives than just finding the Hero of Time. The King of the Red Lions likely anticipated the return of Ganondorf, and quickly sought to repower the Master Sword.
Once awakened, these two sages sought access to the former Temples in order to re-empower the Master Sword. Once these Temples were reopened to them, Ganondorf became aware of their presence and put a stop them. Filled with regret for their failure to restore the Master Sword, the sages remained behind, much like the King, waiting for their descendents to reveal themselves.
While the fate of Princess Zelda is unknown, her lineage, if nothing else, survived the flood in order to pass on the Triforce of Wisdom. Using the three generation minimum discussed earlier, Tetra never met Princess Zelda, since Tetra had no idea of her destiny. However, Tetra did know a lot more about Hyrule than others. Within Tetra’s quarters on the Pirate Ship, we find several pictures lining her walls. We see a recycled picture of Hyrule Castle also seen in the introduction to the game. So Tetra did know something about Hyrule and the events of Ocarina of Time. Another image depicted the Hero of Time wielding the Master Sword, also seen in the introduction, meaning Tetra knew of these also. We also see an image of a dark haired woman. This woman is either Tetra’s mother or guardian, and the original captain of her ship.
Tetra may not have been raised to fully understand her past, but one thing that was well established was her willingness to help what was left of Hyrule. The descendents of the original Princess Zelda’s tenants became the crew of the pirate ship. While Tetra’s mother knew of her destiny, the initial goal of the ship was to conceal and protect Tetra’s true identity, even from herself. This may have worked for awhile, but the pressure of the growing Gerudos army changed their plans. If the Gerudos continued to pillage every island, there soon wouldn’t be anywhere left to hide. This forced them to go on the offensive against the Gerudos, and Ganondorf’s growing forces.
Being so outnumbered, the crew likely had to engage in less than honorable tactics in order to significantly fight back in anyway. Since no known Gerudo was left by the time of The Wind Waker, this indicates that the crew had to kill a lot of Gerudos. It wouldn’t take long before their ship became infamous and developed the persona of pirates. Others likely became scared of the pirates despite of their good intentions, and they soon became black listed, forcing them into dirty deals and money gouging. But these sacrifices needed to be made for the greater good, and maybe to further conceal Tetra’s identity. This is likely how Tetra shaped her personality, based on such behavior. While loosely learning about her past from her mother, being a pirate was the most important to Tetra at the time.
At some point, Tetra’s mother dies, likely from the conflict with the Gerudos. Tetra takes the role of captain at a surprisingly young age, and continues the war. With the collective strength of Tetra’s crew, Orca, and all the other citizens who fought back against the growing threat, the Gerudos, with their already dwindling population, were thoroughly defeated. With the Gerudos mostly gone, and the rise of the Moblin, Gerudo’s Fortress was appropriate renamed to Forsaken Fortress.
The untimely death of her mother probably left Tetra with several unanswered questions about her past, since parts of it were kept from her on purpose. After inheriting her mother’s necklace and the gossip stones, Tetra decided to look into her past. The final picture we find in Tetra’s cabin on the pirate ship is a sea chart, outlining the three Triangle Islands. Drawn in between is the Triforce, suggesting that Tetra knew about the Tower of the Gods, and the access to Hyrule. Once the Helmaroc King expressed his interest in Tetra, she knew the war with Forsaken Fortress must continue, and to do so, she needed the Master Sword, even if the Hero of Time was not there to use it.
After an unsuccessful run against Forsaken Fortress, and what she assumed was the unfortunate demise of Outset Islander, Link, Tetra decided to shift her interest back to the Master Sword. Her first stop was Jabun, the keeper of Nayru’s Pearl. After finding Greatfish Isle utterly destroyed, she knew she had to find him quickly before the pearl was lost for good. Upon hearing that Jabun was secretly relocated to Outset, her duty to protect the innocent chimed in for her to realize that Outset needed to be evacuated immediately. Confused by her motivation, the pirates even comment on her concern for Outset over the rumored treasure.
Tetra must have connected Link to the Hero of Time from the beginning, because from here on, Tetra willingly took a step back to see what he could do. After essentially letting Link find Jabun first, she later meets up with Link at Forsaken Fortress. To her surprise, Link actually found the Master Sword. She even questions him in disbelief. From this point on, she knew Link was somehow connected to the Hero of Time, like the picture in her cabin. It wasn’t long before Link takes Tetra down to Hyrule to meet King Daphnes for the first time. The rest of the story lies within in the hands of the new Hero of Winds.
With such a rich history, it is sad to see so little of it survive the flood. While it was intriguing to interpret each little piece, we can only speculate about the big picture, which is really a shame. This is the first time we ever saw Hyrule completely collapse because Link was not there to intervene, but because of the flood, we almost missed it entirely. Then again, it is quite sad to see Hyrule fall. In Ocarina of Time, we worked so hard to stop Ganondorf, but for The Wind Waker, our efforts were in vain. In other titles, our efforts weren’t a complete success either, since Ganondorf will always return, but never before have we watched a society we wanted to save, inevitably fall. For once, it would be nice to see a game where Link rises before the initial fall of Hyrule. To see Link stand by his King, in Hyrule’s hour of need, not stroll in several days too late, but this is not likely to ever happen. Link has always been the last hope of Hyrule, only to appear when no one else is left to step in, which is such a lonely destiny.
The Wind Waker backstory is full of mysteries that may never be solved. We witnessed the return of Ganon, the fall of Hyrule, the Great Flood, the complete reconstruction of society, a total loss of Hylian history, and the rise of the new princess all within a few hundred years. While we can speculate how each piece may have fit in, we may never know the entire truth. The upcoming title, Spirit Tracks, may reveal some key information. Link and Tetra built the new Hyrule in the Sprit Tracks backstory within 100 years after Phantom Hourglass. Additional details like these may help explain how long it takes Hyrule to rebuild. It has since been confirmed that an elderly Niko will be present, giving a great example of potential life expectancy, which may help pinpoint each generation gap. For now, we can only speculate about The Wind Waker‘s reconstruction period until a future title reveals the truth.