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- Minish Cap plot spoilers (in The Peoples of Minish Cap)
- Skyward Sword plot spoilers (in Interpreting the Wall Carvings: Zelda, Prone)
- Twilight Princess plot spoilers (in The Zonai: Connections to the Twili)
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Tears of the Kingdom
(September 2022 Trailer)
My theories, hopes and thoughts based on the September 2022 Tears of the Kingdom trailer.
Latest iteration: December 11, 2022
Archived older versions: rough version (December 8, 2022) on Internet Archive
Archive date: February 8, 2023
Archive reason: New trailer released.
For Further Insight
- E3 2019 reveal trailer for TOTK
- E3 2021 trailer for TOTK
- March 2022 delay announcement video for TOTK
- September 2022 trailer for TOTK
- "Who are the ZONAI? - A Breath of the Wild Documentary" (NintendoBlackCrisis, 2021)
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Creating a Champion (2018, Dark Horse Books)
- The Legend of Zelda: Encyclopedia (2018, Dark Horse Books)
- Breath of the Wild
- Skyward Sword
Anyone who’s kept up with fan speculation since E3 2019 has likely heard the Zonai discussed – if not discussed to death – due to their mysterious presence in both Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom trailers so far. While this may feel like treading water for some readers active in the fandom, going over the Zonai is important to set up my analysis going forward.
What We Know About the Zonai
There’s a distinct theme to the information we have about the Zonai: pointed and alluring mystery. Creating a Champion, the official companion book to Breath of the Wild, offers us perhaps the most concise description, saying that “[t]he Zonai themselves are spoken of in hushed whispers as strong magic wielders who vanished suddenly thousands of years ago.” (pg. 413)
Ruins associated with the tribe, thought most concentrated in the Faron region, are everywhere in BOTW’s Hyrule, dotting the realm with stonework swirls, dragons and owls and boars, dots and circles within circles and squares. Among these ruins are BOTW’s most intriguing areas: the Typhlo Ruins’ shroud of eternal darkness envelops Zonai relics; the massive, hard-to-reach mazes that have “some similarities to the Zonai Ruins in Faron” (Creating a Champion, pg. 342) offer up the powerful armor of an “ancient” and “warlike” tribe said to reside in Faron (BOTW Barbarian Armor descriptions) to only those brave enough to explore them; hulking Zonai statues encircle the dangerous Thundra Plateau plagued by constant, localized thunderstorms until the shrine there is brought back above ground.
Their ruins also appear tied to Hyrule’s history and the cycle of the Triforce. The Spring of Courage lies in the heart of the Zonai’s apparent stronghold in Faron, and the animal statues the tribe is known for symbolically represent “the history of the Triforce from an ancient perspective,” depicting courage through dragons, wisdom through owls, and power through boars. (Creating a Champion, pg. 342) It is worth noting the more literal accuracy of the boar statues, as Ganondorf has been or transformed into a boar, or a boar-like beast in many titles (including the original Legend of Zelda, Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Oracle of Ages and Seasons, Four Swords Adventures, Twilight Princess, A Link Between Worlds, and many non-canon titles). The Zonai may have had intimate knowledge of Hyrule and the Triforce.
Creating a Champion also notes that “the Zonai ruins throughout Hyrule seem to have elements connecting them to the ancient shrines” (pg. 413) built with Sheikah tech. Multiple shrines are also built within Zonai ruins, and, in the case of the maze shrines, house Zonai relics.
Altogether, these bits of information paint the Zonai as a mysterious, ancient, powerful, perhaps important, and possibly dangerous tribe – one it seems we are meant to feel curious about.
The Zonai in Tears of the Kingdom Pre-Release Materials
Zonai ruins are extremely visible in the E3 2019 trailer, and even appear to house Ganondorf’s sealed corpse. Given the way Hyrule Castle seems to rise up first after Ganondorf’s body is disturbed, before any other areas do, it seems likely the Zonai complex where this event is first triggered is directly underneath Hyrule Castle.
In the September 2022 Nintendo Direct trailer, wall carvings in the style of Zonai ruins appear to depict important prophecies and/or histories. (I will analyze the contents of these carvings more in a later section.) The logo presented at the end of this trailer also appears to include Zonai dragons. (I will also analyze this logo more in a later section.)
The green magic we see in TOTK’s trailers also appears to originate in the Zonai ruins where Ganondorf is sealed. This strongly indicates that this magic is Zonai in origin. (This will be very relevant in later sections of my analysis.)
In order to be comprehensive, I would like to mention some other seemingly Zonai-related relics in TOTK’s trailers:
- Link appears to wield a Zonai dragon head weapon in the E3 2019 trailer.
- Link’s shield and the green stone creature in the E3 2021 trailer bear swirl, drop-like, and “dots/circles within circles/squares” patterns associated with the Zonai.
The trailers’ ruins indicate that the group has deep knowledge of and potentially serious involvement in Hyrule’s history and cycle, particularly when taken in consideration with the Zonai ruins in BOTW. The focus on Zonai ruins, magic ostensibly Zonai in origin, and other Zonai imagery in pre-release promotional material also indicates the tribe’s importance to the plot of TOTK.
Connections to the Sheikah
The Sheikah were violently oppressed by the royal family some time after the events of 10,000 years ago (which I will call the ancient era here for clarity) because their tech was seen as a threat to Hyrule. (Creating a Champion, pg. 101, 360, 362, 367-68; also described in Breath of the Wild) The Zonai, if an offshoot of the Sheikah, could’ve been destroyed or forced into hiding as part of this oppression, thus explaining their disappearance, especially if they were particularly powerful and/or chose to not to serve the royal family. The relative peacefulness of the modern Sheikah tribe even in the face of Hyrulean oppression contrasts how the Zonai are described as “barbaric,” so it would make sense that conflicting attitudes toward violence and rebellion could cause a split within the group. (We’ve already seen that the Yiga clan split off for the same reason.) A former association with the Sheikah, servants to Hyrule privy to the kingdom’s deepest secrets, would also explain Zonai ruins recording important events in Hyrulean history and housing Ganondorf’s sealed remains, seemingly underneath Hyrule Castle.
As previously noted, there are architectural connections between the groups: Creating a Champion says Zonai ruins “seem to have elements connecting them to the ancient [Sheikah] shrines,” (pg. 413) and Zonai ruins are often close to or even house Sheikah shrines. These architectural similarities indicate to me a kind of shared “root” – that is, that the Sheikah and Zonai come from the same group, or were otherwise deeply intertwined.
The Lomei labyrinths are worth special consideration here, as Creating a Champion connects them to the Zonai, but leaves room for doubt:
These giant mazes were built long, long ago. They appear to have some similarities to the Zonai Ruins in Faron, but whether or not there is a connection between them is unknown. Regardless, both were constructed in areas that are inaccessible to the average person. (pg. 342)
Zelda theorist YouTuber NintendoBlackCrisis argues that these labyrinths are Sheikah recreations of Zonai architecture, as they are much larger than other Zonai ruins, seemingly newer, and have slight differences in their stonework, (“Who are the ZONAI? - A Breath of the Wild Documentary,” ch. 1) and I’m inclined to agree, especially as the pieces of the barbarian armor – Zonai armor – are also stored in the shrines here. This, and the placement of Sheikah shrines in or near Zonai ruins, indicates to me a Sheikah desire to honor the Zonai, and thus a cultural connection.
The magic Link uses in the trailers, which as previously noted is ostensibly Zonai in origin, also resembles Sheikah tech. Note the “reversed” droplet present in the E3 2021 trailer, which mirrors the way Sheikah pedestals and terminals “drip” information onto the Sheikah slate, and how it appears to be related to the magic that allows Link to “swim” through solid matter. Like the architectural connections, this also indicates some shared root.
There are some other interesting, shaky connections between the tribes to note. Link’s shield and the green stone creature animated with magic in the E3 2021 trailer both seem combine an eye symbol and the swirling, drop-like, and “dots/circles within circles/squares” patterns associated with the Zonai. If this is meant to be the Sheikah eye, in both instances it’s missing the tear, which has been seen in every other iteration of the symbol prior to this trailer. This is quite meaningful: The Legend of Zelda: Encyclopedia says that “The Sheikah live as shadows of the royal family and go to any lenghts to achieve a goal. Knowing this, the eye on the crest sheds a single tear.” (pg. 44) Therefore, the lack of a tear could indicate a lack of affiliation with the royal family, giving credence to the idea that the Zonai didn’t serve Hyrule. (Maybe the tear also symbolizes the suffering the royal family has put the Sheikah through, and it’s missing from ancient relics, Sheikah or Zonai, because they hadn’t suffered genocide yet?) Of course, this is a bit of a stretch, and the eye symbol is closer to Vaati’s symbol than the Sheikah eye, as I’ll discuss later.
Even discarding the tentative Sheikah eyes, there are many reasons to believe the Zonai were an offshoot or subgroup within the Sheikah, and few other explanations for the connections between the two.
I’m curious to see what TOTK will tell us about the Zonai’s disappearance. While I feel it’s related to the horrific campaign the royal family carried out against the Sheikah, I’m not sure exactly what happened to them. Total annihilation by the royal family, including sacrifice to seal Ganondorf away, strikes me as unlikely, given the resilience of the Sheikah and their splinter groups and the supposed power of the Zonai, but also given that it might be a little… severe?
I could talk here about how past Zelda games have historically softened Hyrulean imperialistic violence, most notably in how it frames the Hyrulean Civil War and the driving out of the Gerudo in the child era (and god knows I plan to in the future), but I think dissecting how BOTW and its materials have handled ancient era Sheikah oppression is more useful as it’s more recent and directly relevant to the world of TOTK. BOTW and Creating a Champion acknowledge that the Sheikah were unfairly and cruelly oppressed but both frame the Sheikah responses to this violence very strangely. The Sheikah who complied are “moderate,” “live peacefully,” and accept the “restrictions” on them “out of respect for the long-standing ties to the royal family.” (Creating a Champion, pg. 368) They’ve “chosen” to cast off their technology to live “normal lives.” (Sheikah NPC Cado in BOTW) Meanwhile, those that rebelled, the Yiga Clan, are said to have reacted “violently” and become “militant.” (Creating a Champion, pg. 368) These “sad souls” take an extreme turn and join Ganondorf’s side (Cado, BOTW), and in BOTW’s gameplay become obstacles and enemies. They are thus positioned as unreasonable for pushing back against horrific oppression.
This all is not to say that TOTK can’t turn this all on its head (nor is this to say that BOTW is “bad,” or that you shouldn’t play Zelda games). This is just to say that it would certainly be a change from BOTW (and past Zelda titles) if TOTK presented the royal family as outright genocidal.
Another possibility I’ve seen floating around is that the Zonai sacrificed themselves to seal Ganondorf away, and while I’m not sure about the logistics of this one, it’s certainly interesting in the context of Sheikah/Zonai oppression. Perhaps the Zonai could’ve done so to gain the royal family’s favor and spare the remaining Sheikah further abuse.
My best guess, though, is that the Zonai simply hid themselves away to avoid oppression. Regardless, I’m not sure we’ll meet any surviving Zonai – they may have dwindled away over the years.
Connections to the Twili
Another group the Zonai may be connected to is the Twili tribe, a group of powerful sorcerers from Hyrule who were banished for using their magic to encroach on the Sacred Realm. (Twilight Princess; Encyclopedia, pg. 30) This story lines up with the Zonai mythos.
Additionally, much ostensibly Zonai-related magic imagery in the Tears of the Kingdom trailers bears a resemblance to Twili aesthetics with its green-blue glow and frequent branching shape. Beyond the obvious swirling magic in the E3 trailers and the glowing blue-green of Link’s arm, we must also consider the more subtle magic flowing through the stone creature (E3 2021), the landing strip-like markings in the shot of Link riding the stone glider (Sept. 2022 trailer), and the black tattoo-like branching marks that have appeared near Link’s shoulder (starting in the March 2022 delay announcement footage).
Frankly, I’m not entirely certain what these parallels might mean, as I don’t expect the Twili to return, but they interest me all the same.
I’d also like to take the chance here to talk about BOTW’s Fragmented Monument quest. To complete this quest, Link must locate the missing pieces of an oval-shaped monument with text that glows blue-green at night. The monument has led to some speculation because it sounds a lot like the Mirror of Twilight on paper. However, the Mirror of Twilight should be completely shattered and unusable after the events of Twilight Princess, and the monument is simply inscribed with instructions to open a minor shrine. I believe this is simply an Easter egg, and doesn’t mean much for theorizing.
The Peoples of Minish Cap
While the Zonai have been covered and interpreted endlessly in the Tears of the Kingdom hype cycle, there are some other people I feel deserve consideration: the tribes of Minish Cap, the Picori (also known as the Minish) and the Wind Tribe, as well as the formerly-Picori wind mage Vaati.
The Picori and the ability for Link to shrink down as in Minish Cap were considered at some point in the development of Breath of the Wild, as is visible in “The Making of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Video -- Story and Characters,” part of a series of three official videos on the game’s development. Hidemaro Fujibayashi explains over in-engine concept work and footage of the Picori in Minish Cap that
...we had this idea of including tiny people. Since this is a 3D game, we could have all these tiny-sized towns, and Link himself could shrink. We thought it’d be super fun if we had all these tiny characters all over the place… but with all these other characters that stand out, we thought it would be difficult for these little guys to be able to live out their own place in the game. So we really wanted to have them in there for the gameplay, but sadly had to give up on the idea.
It’s clear that the team was very interested in including the Picori, so it wouldn’t be too far-fetched for them to return to it later. In fact, it appears they’ve already revisted ideas from BOTW’s development. “Breaking Conventions with ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,’” a GDC talk given by BOTW’s game, art and technical directors in 2017, shows some “scrapped” BOTW concepts you might recognize from TOTK’s trailers: Link’s corrupted arm and damaged Master Sword (58:57; also appears in “The Making of the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Video -- The Beginning”), and Ganondorf raising a chunk of land into the sky (59:31).
Further, the TOTK delay announcement video tells us that we will be able to explore “beyond earth and sky” in the game, and exploring areas shrunk-down, while it may still happen on land or in the sky, feels like it could fit the bill.
The Wind Tribe
The Wind Tribe are a group that, after mastering wind magic, were able to lift land and buildings into the sky and now live there. (Hyrule Historia, pg. 83; Encyclopedia, pg. 154; described in Minish Cap) Their powers may have something to do with the floating land in Tears of the Kingdom.
While I previously tentatively connected the eye symbol in Tears of the Kingdom’s trailers to the Sheikah, it’s much easier to connect them to someone else: Vaati, the Picori wind mage. Note the curled corners –- it’s hard to ignore the similarities.
As a wind mage, it’s also possible that he possesses powers similar to the Wind Tribe, and thus the floating land in Tears of the Kingdom may be his doing. He likes to hide out in the Palace of Winds, after all, though the Wind Tribe put it up there first. (Four Swords, Four Swords Adventures, and Minish Cap; Encyclopedia, pg. 153, 262, 267, and 272; Historia, pg. 83; "The Great Hyrule Encyclopedia"; interestingly, there’s currently some debate on Zelda wikis if Vaati’s Palace in Four Swords is technically the same place as the Palace of Winds that Vaati occupies in Minish Cap and Four Swords Adventures, due to slightly differing wording in official sources, but, setting pendantics aside, it’s clear they’re the same locale.)
Vaati was finally sealed away with the Four Sword in Four Swords Adventures, but could return one day. Encyclopedia refers to him as “immortal,” (pg. 210) and Historia teases his potential return: “The evil sorcerer Vaati had become caught up in the cycle of Ganondorf the Thief [...] There may come a time when the land will have need of the Four Sword once again.” (pg. 121) Yet, fan gossip has circulated doubt for years speculating that there’s a licensing problem for his popular, humanoid form, the one at the center of fan adoration in the 2000s, with Capcom, the developers of Minish Cap.
I’m not sure what direction writers could even go with Vaati, though, given his limited influence in Hyrule. Perhaps his eye symbol actually originates from the Wind Tribe or represents a mage class rather than specifically designating him, and that’s who we’ll be meeting.
Interestingly, despite Vaati’s massive popularity in the 2000s fandom, his symbol appearing in Tears of the Kingdom materials hasn’t attracted much attention that I’ve seen. (I wouldn’t be surprised if there was still a Four Swords-era fandom stronghold in a DeviantArt club right now, though, god willing.) Maybe at some point, these hints would’ve garnered a response not unlike the fan response to the Twili hints, with people yearning as hard for Vaati as they do Midna, who remains popular and particularly missed among fans who know her. (And they’ve missed her for a long time -- WantMidnaBack.com, a site petitioning Midna’s return since 2007, is still up, and was last updated in 2018.)
Interpreting The Wall Carvings
The Zonai-styled wall carvings featured prominently in the most recent Tears of the Kingdom trailer have also been subject to heavy fan analysis because they offer us a lot of information and a decent helping of mystery. These scenes could depict prophecies, histories, or the general concept of the ever-repeating and thus timeless cycle that’s haunted Hyrule since its inception – or perhaps a combination.
The Invading Army
One scene in the carving shows monsters attacking humanoid warriors, wrapped in malice. There’s little to tell us when this may have taken place. Ganondorf’s forces have swept Hyrule innumerable times, and the humanoid figures lack detail that could help identify their affiliation or era. The presence of malice could make this the Great Calamity, since it appears that malice was not accounted for in BOTW and thus not present in previous cycle loops, but that doesn’t rule out a future setting, and the malice could easily be symbolic if the scene depicts a technically malice-free past. I don’t have much to say about this scene beyond that, since it ends up being pretty generic.
Another scene depicts a character that seems to be some iteration of Zelda prone in the air. The vulnerability of the pose and the suspension of her body gives the scene a ritualistic or spiritual undertone as well as room for interpretation – is she levitating, or is she falling?
The Zelda here isn’t totally identifiable, and neither is her era. She could be the basic spirit of Zelda, of Hylia, the one reborn over and over bearing the Triforce of Wisdom. She could be the “first” Zelda from Skyward Sword, being sacrificed to revive Demise in the first loop of the cycle (note the incredible similarity in pose and perspective to this ritual in SS). She could be BOTW Zelda (despite the princess’s hair currently being much shorter than the carving Zelda’s) falling into the underground – or being sacrificed once again to fully raise a sealed Ganondorf.
This image also bears a striking resemblance to images of the mummified, sealed Ganondorf in the first TOTK trailer. This might be representative of the balance of good and evil in Hyrule, of the recurring tradeoff between Ganondorf and Zelda, who seem to take turns being trapped. More literally, it might predict Ganondorf turning the tables on Zelda and capturing her, perhaps taking her power to awaken himself.
The Strange Being
Two of the carved scenes depict a strange being. In one, it is surrounded by tear-like objects. In the other, the fallen Zelda is clasping hands with the creature, face to face with it. (It’s hard to tell because the logo covers the “full” version of the scene, but overlaying the logo shot with the shot of Zelda reaching out to clasp hands with someone reveals they are the same scene.)
Currently, the fandom consensus is that this being is Hylia. A popular theory is that the clasped hands scene depicts BOTW Zelda meeting Hylia and awakening. Many have cited a section in Zelda’s diary in Breath of the Wild, in which she dreams of meeting an otherworldly being:
I had a dream last night… In a place consumed by darkness, a lone woman gazed at me, haloed by blinding light. I sensed she was… not of this world. I don’t know if she was a fairy or a goddess, but she was beautiful. Her lips spoke urgently, but her voice did not reach me. Would I have heard her if my power was awoken? Or was my dream simply a manifestation of my fears? I am sure I will know the answer soon, whether I wish to or not…
In a later diary entry written right before the Calamity, Zelda writes, “I’ve had a horrible feeling ever since that weird dream […] I am filled with a strange and terrible certainty that something awful is about to happen.” Taken together, these entries seem to indicate that Hylia, not totally recognizable but otherworldly and beautiful, came to Zelda in a dream to warn her about the coming tragedy.
The popular fan idea is that the carving depicts this dream. However, the clasped hands indicate a connection between Zelda and Hylia, which is clearly missing from the dream. Regardless, the idea of an otherworldly being reaching out to Zelda is enough for people to speculate that it’s the same being. Could this depict the moment BOTW Zelda was awakened, connecting with Hylia and her power? That doesn’t feel quite right to me either, though – we already saw this moment in BOTW (and, in a different form, in Age of Calamity), so why reiterate it?
This doesn’t have to be BOTW Zelda. This could represent Hylia giving up her immortality, becoming the mortal Zelda, as described in Skyward Sword. Or it could more generally represent the Hylia/Zelda connection/separation – perhaps the way that Zelda has been trapped in the cycle by her connection to Hylia, by Hylia’s decisions and by the power and responsibility placed on Zelda’s shoulders. Note the circled hands, indicating a cycle, an unbroken connection, or an eternal seal.
If the being is not Hylia, this scene could represent Zelda, Hylia, or, symbolically, Hyrule making a deal with a third party to seal Ganondorf away. With everything surrounding the Zonai, they’re probably our best candidates for such a deal.
It’s worth noting that Tears of the Kingdom’s name was kept secret so long so as not to give away details. Bill Trinen said in an interview with IGN that Nintendo held back “because, obviously, Zelda names are kind of important […] Those subtitles… they start to give little bits of hints about maybe what’s going to happen.” This indicates to me that the tears surrounding the being in the wall carving are relevant to the plot and gameplay. We’re probably going to collect the tears, given the little carrier on Link’s hip in some shots and in official art.
The most recent place we’ve seen tear items are Skyward Sword’s Sacred Tears, which Link must collect to demonstrate he is Hylia’s chosen hero. If we believe the being in the carving is Hylia, it’s possible she is once again testing him with her tears. Remember, too, the “beyond earth and sky” comment; these tears could open up a third setting: Silent Realms.
We’ve also seen Twilight Princess’s Tears of Light, which Link collects to dispel twilight from the land, and twilight realms or Hyrule under twilight would also fit into the “beyond earth and sky” category. However, as I mentioned before, I’m really not sure how something involving the Twili or the twilight would play out at this point in the timeline. I don’t expect either to return.
As a side tangent, there’s been some fandom confusion about the name: Nintendo actually felt it had to clarify that “tears” is pronounced tears as in crying, and not like tears as in damage to something. (Eurogamer) I’m allowed a little fandom whining every time I document fandom history: frankly, I found this really shocking since tears are featured so blatantly in the wall carving. I don’t know why everyone was confused!
The Ancient Hero
There are two Links in the most recent Tears of the Kingdom trailer: the long-haired Link that resembles ancient era Link, and the Link we know from Breath of the Wild. They both seem to explore the same era. How can there be two Links?
With this development, it’s worth returning to the fan theories about playing in the past, but I still don’t think there’s much merit to this. My issues with the idea haven’t changed since my last analysis: Narratively, why distract from the high stakes present-day plot the writers have set up? What would we be going back to do, anyway? If it’s to seal Ganondorf away in the past, why? The seal, though it’s clearly weakened now, was seemingly successful and held for a long time, and sealing him away in the present day seems like the more obvious option. Why would the Links have the same face, 10,000 years apart? Would Nintendo really copy-paste it like that?
As I previously wrote, I believe it’s more likely that this is the spiritual return of the ancient Link to a post-BOTW Hyrule. The magic BOTW Link seems to absorb may have been the ancient hero’s spirit entering is body. It may have been what was holding Ganondorf back, and would theoretically be freed if Ganondorf was unsealed. Perhaps this is what gives Link the powers we see in the trailers. Maybe he will unlock access to these ancient powers and be physically altered by them as he collects tears. That would explain why they have the same face – they would be the same Link’s body.
A small detail I became aware of only recently is that, in the closeup of Link’s magical arm, Link appears to be wearing the “boxers” he wears in the Shrine of Resurrection – he was injured. This makes me wonder if the ancient hero’s spirit entered his body to prevent the malice from infecting him, or if he had to accept the magic in order to avoid infection. Perhaps this is even why Ganondorf was able to fully break the seal.
The End of the Cycle
Hear me out with this one, y’all.
Parallels to Skyward Sword
There are a lot of parallels to Skyward Sword, where Hyrule’s cycle first began, in the Tears of the Kingdom trailers. As I wrote last time,
The shot of Link diving into the sky in the trailer looks very close to shots of Link diving past the cloud barrier in Skyward Sword, and, of course, there are the islands in the sky. More subtly, they also share the concept of Link diving into the clouds into a new world after Zelda has fallen and must be saved. This is a stretch I'm about to make here, but the timing of the BOTW sequel reveal, on Zelda's 35th anniversary and around the 10 year anniversary rerelease of Skyward Sword (that sort of seeks to rehabilitate that game's flaws), may be very subtly intended to make us think about both of these games at the same time and encourage speculation about a connection between the two.
As discussed previously, we also have the parallels to the ritual Ghirahim performed on Zelda in SS.
Breath of the Wild examines Hyrule’s cycle heavily (as does Age of Calamity), and particularly seems to focus on how much suffering it puts on the characters. They are acutely aware of their fate, and yet are under incredible pressure to prevent something they know is inevitable and embedded in the world itself. Regret and grief overlays so much of the game, and it’s because of the cycle.
However, even in their grief, the characters find the bravery to fight for the future. They live in hope of one day breaking the cycle. An ending feels possible.
The newly-revealed Tears of the Kingdom logo features an ouroboros, a symbol of destruction and rebirth, much like Hyrule’s cycle itself. Unlike other ouroboros, though, which usually have one dragon eating itself, Tears of the Kingdom’s features two dragons – two forces, good and evil, locked in an eternal cycle.
Destruction / Rebirth of The Master Sword / Ganondorf
The Master Sword is itself deeply symbolic of Hyrule’s eternal struggle, of the need to stand against evil despite its fearsome power. In Breath of the Wild, it’s become worn down and fragile, and in Tears of the Kingdom, it seems that it has finally truly broken, worn down by the eons of hate malice embodies, just as Ganondorf has become pure energy, pure hatred, after so long, the way that Zelda has become hopeless from the weight of the Zeldas before her. The cycle is reaching its breaking point. Yet, we also see in the logo a magical extension of the damaged Master Sword. This could be yet a new rebirth – perhaps outside of the cycle, perhaps something new.
Note, too, how the game seemingly starts with Link and Zelda traveling to the source of the kingdom’s pain, to Ganondorf’s body, deep in the earth upon which Hyrule is built. Perhaps this time we will tackle the cycle at its core.
At the End of Things
Breath of the Wild is reportedly not connected to any of the timelines, sitting separated at the very end of the official timeline somehow. (Siliconera) To me, this indicates that the timelines have converged, and that the events of BOTW (and thus whatever happens in Tears of the Kingdom) are an inevitability. The threads of the cycle that have unraveled in so many ways, then, are being wound back together, almost like an ending.
It’s hard to imagine the writers boxing themselves in by giving the Zelda series a concrete “end,” especially since they’ve stated in the past that they don’t consider the timeline much during development, including in the Siliconera article about BOTW’s placement. However, it would be a natural thematic progression from the stakes and the sort of stripping of the cycle to its core in Breath of the Wild. This also wouldn’t rule out making more games, either, of course – they could just go elsewhere in the timeline.
I believe we may be getting an ending.
This section covers miscellaneous thoughts I have about Tears of the Kingdom that didn’t fit anywhere else.
A Return to Skyloft
With sky exploration returning, and such a heavy focus on the cycle and its beginnings, it would be possible and fitting to return to Skyloft and its surrounding islands.
This has been a particularly exciting idea for me, since I love Skyward Sword and Skyloft so much and I’ve always wondered what happened up there. I’ve theorized in the past that Twilight Princess’s City in the Sky might be the remnants of Skyloft, its warped Ooccoo – who used to be able to communicate with the people below (citation) – what became of humans that stayed behind. I bring this up not because it feels truly feasible, but because I’d like to document this train of thought I’ve had before it potentially becomes outdated. If we see Skyloft and it’s not the City in the Sky, then I’ll have no reason to write about this wacky theory I’ve had since high school, so this may be my last chance.
The Return of Fi and Ghirahim
I’m still head over heels about the idea of Fi returning. As I wrote last time,
Fi was actually hinted to a few times in Breath of the Wild, though not by name. Zelda makes a passing reference to a the legend of a voice within the Master Sword in one of the memories. In another, after Link has fallen in battle, Zelda hears instructions from the Master Sword, which glows and plays Fi's signature sound effect, and at the end of the game, Zelda explicitly refers to Fi again, mentioning that she "can no longer hear the voice inside the sword." At the end of the Trial of the Sword DLC, when Link unlocks the Master Sword's new power, the sword glows and makes that same noise again.
With the parallels and possible connection to Skyward Sword mentioned before, could it be possible that Fi might return? It's particularly interesting to me that Fi seems to be tied to Zelda specifically in Breath of the Wild. Since we don't see the Master Sword with Link in the E3 2021 trailer, perhaps it fell with Zelda, and perhaps they'll interact again as Fi helps Zelda escape. (It would also be very cool to see a new design for Fi if she does come back. She would have to be thousands of years old at this point and she's been through a lot -- maybe now she's fancier, damaged, etc.?)
I would also love the return of Fi’s darker counterpart, Ghirahim, since she’s coming back, and since there are parallels to his ritual now, too. I’m not sure what role he would play, but I’ve always liked the idea of a vengeful, cast-aside Ghirahim that Ganondorf has long-abandoned.
The Return of Other Scrapped Content
As I described previously, Link’s messed up arm and sword were lifted directly from scrapped Breath of the Wild concepts. I already talked about Link’s scrapped family in my last analysis, and of course covered the Picori concepts earlier here, but there’s a lot of concept art from Creating a Champion that might fit into TOTK’s more ancient and mysterious look. I would personally love to see the more mysterious and impish early Korok concepts (pg. 145) to come back, if we explore ancient areas or the past.
The Glowing Mark
The glowing golden mark on the back of Link’s hand still doesn’t look familiar, even with the closeup photos of the Link statue Nintendo brought to Tokyo Game Show. If I’m stretching, I could say it looks like Makar’s mask, and has some connections to the Koroks, to the Kokiri, to the Emerald of Courage, but that’s just me bullshitting.
Return of the Dominion Rod
The glowing green power bringing the green stone creature to life reminds me of the Dominion Rod from Twilight Princess. It would be interesting to see the return of the item or similar gameplay.
- Zelda’s turnaround animation from the original TOTK reveal trailer parallels Zelda turning around to meet Link for the first time in Ocarina of Time.
- The tears on the wall carvings look like the tips of Midna’s helmet.
More Possibilities for Beyond Land and Sky
There are some other possibilities for places to explore “beyond land and sky” that I haven’t covered yet:
- Ocean travel a la Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass.
- The Dark World. (It feels better to be safe than sorry and include the Dark World, even though it hasn’t been seen in a while.)