The OoT/ALttP connection is one issue that has caused much confusion and division among Zelda fans. ALttP, in the SNES manual and in the game, tells a story of an Imprisoning War that happened centuries before. At this time, Ganondorf got the Triforce, became Ganon, and was sealed away in the Golden Land by seven Wise Men. OoT tells a similar story. In OoT, Ganondorf gets the Triforce of Power, becomes Ganon at the end, and is sealed away by seven sages.
Many fans conclude that OoT is a prequel to ALttP, and that it tells about the Imprisoning War in more detail. However, the more the two accounts are studied, the more obvious it becomes that they are inconsistent with each other. These inconsistencies have baffled Zelda fans for years. Some resolve the inconsistencies by saying the legend changed over time, or that the Imprisoning War account was an early version, and OoT overrides the old story. Others solve the problem by putting the Imprisoning War account outside of OoT (either long before or long after OoT). Many fans, confused by all the conflicting viewpoints, just give up and conclude that Zelda has no consistent internal storyline.
I believe that OoT is truly ALttP's prequel, and that it is the full, true version of the Imprisoning War account told about in the ALttP manual. I think I have good reasons for believing this, reasons which are supported by good evidence. The reasons are: (1) this is what the true creators intended, and (2) the supposed inconsistencies between OoT and ALttP are due mostly to a bad American translation, not to errors on the part of the creators. Any true inconsistencies (in the Japanese versions) are due to the following reasons: (1) the ALttP backstory is an early version of the story told in OoT, and/or (2) legends do change over time, and the creators knew this and intended for the inconsistencies to exist. That is, they deliberately made OoT different sometimes because it suited their purposes, and because they knew such differences could be resolved internally by saying the legends changed over time.
This is the case that I plan to argue in this article. I do not plan to demonstrate the strength of the OoT/ALttP connection by listing all the positive connections. The connections are quite numerous, and are quite obvious for anyone to see. Instead, I will argue my case by doing away with the major inconsistencies that keep Zelda fans from trusting the OoT/ALttP connection. Also note that I will not get into the issue of what happens between OoT and ALttP. The timeline placement of TWW is an entirely different issue, and will be dealt with at a later time. Nor will I discuss issues related to OoT's ending. That's a whole other can of worms, and it doesn't relate to the topic at hand a great deal. For now, I merely wish to demonstrate that the OoT/ALttP connection, considered simply by itself, is stronger than we once thought.
The authors intended for OoT to be ALttP's prequel.
The above statement I will demonstrate with two interview quotes. If you've read my "One Ganon or Many?" article, you will see that I'm using the exact same quotes.
The first quote comes from the Japanese magazine Famimaga 64. This interview was conducted with Miyamoto-san around November 26, 1997, about a year before the game's release. Miyamoto answered 100 questions about OoT in this interview. This translation was originally posted on IGN64.com, and the whole transcript can be viewed here.
Q: Are the backgrounds different in the child and adult eras?
Miyamoto: During the time when Link is an adult, conditions are intensified. Ganon, from the Super NES game, is a human form before he transforms into a monster. Ganon's elements change during the adult, since he changes into a monster.
The second quote comes from Ki no ue no Himitsu kichi, a Japanese gaming web site. This is an Ocarina of Time interview, parts of which were translated by Zethar-II. The quote is from character designer Satoru Takizawa.
This time, the story really wasn't an original. We were dealing with the "The Imprisoning War of the Seven Sages" from the SNES edition Zelda. To give that game a little "secret" recognition, I thought that keeping the "pigness" in Ganon would be the correct course. So we made him a beast "with the feeling of a pig."
These two quotes should make it pretty obvious that Ocarina of Time is meant to be a further explanation of the Imprisoning War account in the ALttP manual.
How to Resolve the Inconsistencies.
If you accept the above evidence, you ought to be satisfied that the creators intended for OoT to be ALttP's prequel. But the question still remains: why all the inconsistencies? As I mentioned above, I believe most of the inconsistencies are due to translation errors by the NOA team. I will get to the specifics in a moment. But first, some preliminary comments are in order.
It is reasonable to suppose that, even if the creators of a fantasy world intend to make a connected internal timeline, they may nevertheless introduce inconsistencies if they so choose. To some people, this may suggest sloppy storytelling work. And they may be right. Nevertheless, it is a fact that legends change over time, and this is a valid way for creators to "excuse" themselves for any inconsistencies they may introduce. The Zelda creators, in particular, often like to take Zelda off in wild new storyline directions, which means they have to take liberties with earlier games. This is why the Zelda storyline is often so nebulous: it was deliberately made that way so that the creators would not be restricted in further games. Some people might think this is horse pucky; everyone is entitled to their opinion. But I say that the creators of a fantasy world can do anything they please with their world. It is only their intention that counts, not the opinions of fans who may not even fully understand the world as it was intended to be communicated. The creators are guilty of some inconsistency, as we'll see in a moment, but this is no reason to bombast them for having "no storyline consistency." There is a lot of consistency, it just takes some time to find it thanks to the poor translations of earlier games.
Another note about what an "inconsistency" is. An inconsistency is something that is told about in both games, but is told in two different, mutually exclusive ways. If something is told in one game, but not told in the other, this is not an inconsistency. All this means is that neither game tells the complete story. In this article I only deal with true inconsistencies.
Now, without further ado...
Below I take the major quotes or plot points that are supposedly inconsistent and try to resolve them. The inconsistencies are not listed in any specific order, but I did try to keep them chronological and keep the most difficult inconsistencies for last.
ALttP says Ganon was sealed by seven wise men. The manual shows seven human men. The sages in OoT are not all men, and not all of them are even human.
The same Japanese word, "kenjya," is used in both ALttP and OoT. This word can be translated to "wise man" or "sage." The American translators for ALttP unfortunately chose the translation that implies that they are all male. This translation inconsistency has been resolved in ALttP GBA: all instances of "wise man" have been replaced with "sage." It is true that the ALttP manual and intro show human sages. However, from a creation perspective, this can be explained by the fact that the different species of Hyrule had not been fully thought up yet. If you want to look at it from the perspective of internal Hyrulian history, you can say that the legend changed over time as the people of Hyrule forgot about the different species.
The Triforce is in the Golden Land in the ALttP backstory, but in OoT it is in the Sacred Realm. Can they be considered different places?
Translation inconsistency. "Seichi" means sacred place, holy ground, the Holy Land. This same name is used in both OoT and ALttP. In ALttP the translators translated it to "Golden Land," in OoT they translated it to "Sacred Realm." So, the Golden Land is the same thing as the Sacred Realm.
ALttP has the Golden Land change into the Dark World. OoT has the Sacred Realm turn into a world of evil or an Evil Realm. Is there any real consistency here? Or can it be argued that the Dark World was created sometime after OoT?
This is a tricky issue, but fortunately the Japanese games reveal that there is more consistency than we once thought. The Japanese name given for the Dark World in ALttP is "Yami no Sekai," which may be translated to Dark World. (The Light World is called "Hikari no Sekai," which can be translated to Light World.) In the Japanese version of OoT, the name "Yami no Sekai" appears exactly once. The quote from the American version reads like this: "Thank you, Link... Thanks to you, Ganondorf has been sealed inside the Evil Realm! Thus, peace will once again reign in this world...for a time." This is Zelda talking, after Ganondorf has been defeated and sealed away. As you can see, she has just said that Ganondorf has been sealed inside the Dark World.
The whole story is more complicated, however, because before this point in the game the Sacred Realm is called by various other names. But that's a story for another article. The point I'm making here is that the Dark World is definitely referred to here at the end of OoT. One may cite this quote from the ALttP manual to argue that the name "Dark World" did not come about until long after the Imprisoning War: "The king of Hyrule, after counsel with his sages, ordered an investigation of the Imprisoned Dark World (as the Golden Land had come to be known)." However, the Japanese version says nothing about the Dark World at this point. It only says that the King "had the seal studied." So, I am pretty confident that the Sacred Realm became the Dark World in OoT. Possibly not until the end of OoT, but still during OoT.
The ALttP manual has a poem from the Book of Mudora. OoT makes no mention of this.
The American ALttP manual fabricated most of this. For one thing, this poem is not from the Book of Mudora at all. The Japanese manual says it is an old saying about the Triforce passed down in Hyrule. Zethar translates the Japanese version of the poem as follows:
The golden power lies somewhere descended from the heavens. He who claims it as his own shall have their desires granted by the gods.
This sounds suspiciously like the "secret of the Sacred Realm that has been passed down by the Royal Family of Hyrule," which Zelda tells you when you first meet her:
The three goddesses hid the Triforce containing the power of the gods somewhere in Hyrule. The power to grant the wish of the one who holds the Triforce in his hands.
The ALttP manual says that "many aggressively searched for the wish-granting Triforce, but no one, not even the Hylian sages, was sure of its location; the knowledge had been lost over time." But in OoT, the Royal Family knows where it is, and Rauru certainly knows where it is.
The Japanese version of the manual doesn't say the Hylian sages forgot the location of the Triforce. In fact, people knew it was in the Sacred Realm, and were searching for the entrance! People didn't forget that the Triforce was in the Sacred Realm; they just didn't know where the entrance was. We learn in OoT that this is because the entrance was hidden by ancient sages who wanted to protect the Triforce from evil ones.
The ALttP manual says that "one day, quite by accident, a gate to the Golden Land of the Triforce was opened by a gang of thieves skilled in the black arts." But in OoT, Ganondorf didn't open the gate accidentally. He was plotting to open it, and then Link did it for him.
Here's a supposed inconsistency that may have more to do with interpretation than with translation. The Japanese version also says that the gate was opened by accident. But "guuzen" means chance, unexpectedly, suddenly, accident, fortuitously. I think there is a too limited understanding here about what is meant by "accidentally." For one thing, you can be looking for something and still find it accidentally or by chance. In fact, this happens a lot. You're looking for something you lost, and not finding it, when suddenly by lucky chance you find it where you never expected to, possibly right under your nose. For another thing, it is not necessarily implied that the entrance was opened completely by random, out-of-the-blue chance. They aren't saying Ganondorf stumbled over a rock and found the entrance underneath. Rather, he found it "unexpectedly" or "fortuitously." From OoT, we know that Ganondorf planned to enter the Sacred Realm by getting all the Spiritual Stones and attacking Hyrule Castle to get the Ocarina of Time. Ganondorf was about halfway through this plan when, suddenly and unexpectedly, he realized that the young boy Link was gathering the stones for him. What a delightful, unexpected surprise! Link could pull the Master Sword for him, and Ganondorf could slip in behind him! Ganondorf certainly had not forseen this possibility, so in this sense it was unexpected. It's likely that this scenario hadn't been thought up when ALttP was created, which is why ALttP says the thieves opened the gate completely by chance. Nevertheless, I don't think this is such a serious inconsistency that it destroys the ALttP/OoT connection.
The ALttP manual says, "the name of this king of thieves is Ganondorf Dragmire, but he is known by his alias, Mandrag Ganon, which means Ganon of the Enchanted Thieves." OoT doesn't mention either of these names; it just says Ganondorf and Ganon.
These extra names were added by the American translators. The original Japanese reads: "The man's name was Ganondorf, and his common name was Ganon of the race of evil thieves." It also adds: "Indeed, the King of Evil Ganon, the one who has threatened Hyrule so, was born at this time." "Toorina" means popular or common name. This is confirmed by OoT and TWW. In OoT, Ganondorf is known as Ganon (Ganon's Tower) and he becomes Ganon. In TWW, the names "Ganon" and "Ganondorf" are freely interchanged, but Ganondorf is usually used as a personal name.
ALttP says that Ganon got the whole Triforce. But in OoT, Ganondorf only got the Triforce of Power.
This issue might be more a matter of assumption. As my pal TSA likes to say, show me one quote in ALttP that says certainly and finally that Ganon has the whole Triforce in ALttP. Sure, it is implied, but it is never actually stated. Given this kind of assumption, it could be that Ganon never really had the united Triforce at all. But putting that aside, there have traditionally been three responses to this: (1) ALttP only says he got the Triforce, it doesn't say which parts he got. (2) The legends may have changed over time. (3) Ganon could have gotten the rest of the Triforce later, and the people in ALttP are none the wiser. They think he got the whole thing back during the Imprisoning War, but they are mistaken.
The ALttP manual says: "Suspecting that Ganon's power was based on the Triforce's magic, the people of Hyrule forged a sword resistant to magic which could repulse even powers granted by the Triforce. This mighty weapon became known as the blade of evil's bane, or the Master Sword." But in OoT, the Master Sword has already existed for centuries, and is in fact the key to entering the Sacred Realm.
Traditionally, this has been the worst inconsistency, destroying the OoT/ALttP connection for many people. Some have used this inconsistency to suppose multiple Master Swords and an Imprisoning War outside of OoT. Happily, this inconsistency does not exist in the Japanese version of ALttP. The Japanese manual says: "it could not be assumed that only a good person would get their hands on the Triforce. For that reason, the people of Hyrule were told by the gods to make something that would repulse any evil that may kidnap the Triforce: the blade of evil's bane." A few sentences later, the Japanese manual tells how, once Ganon came to power, "the Sages first had to search for the existence of the Master Sword and a hero to use it." So, according to the Japanese manual, the Master Sword was made long before Ganondorf's appearance, in case somebody evil got the Triforce. This accords with what we know about the Master Sword in OoT. Zelda says in OoT: "the ancient Sages built the Temple of Time to protect the Triforce from evil ones." The Master Sword was also forged long before OoT to protect the Triforce from evil ones. It might even have been forged before the ancient sages built the Temple of Time. After Ganon's rise, the sages looked for the Master Sword and a hero to wield it. The Master Sword couldn't have been forged at this time if it couldn't even be found. In OoT, nobody really knows where the Master Sword is (it is never mentioned), but it is legendary, since Navi recognizes it.
ALttP does say that the sages looked for the Master Sword. This doesn't appear to be true in OoT: the sages are awakened by Link, who is using the Master Sword. But after all, this isn't so far from the truth. There was an expectation that a hero would arrive (the prophesized Hero of Time), and I'm sure some people knew about the Master Sword and expected him to use it. Maybe even the owl, who is supposed to be the reincarnation of an ancient sage. Sheik waited seven years for Link: "As I see you standing there holding the mythical Master Sword, you really do look like the legendary Hero of Time..." At any rate, this inconsistency is minor compared to the previous inconsistency of when the Master Sword was forged.
The ALttP manual says: "The Knights took the full brunt of the fierce attack, and although they fought courageously, many a brave soul was lost that day. However, their lives were not lost in vain, for they bought precious time for the Seven Wise Men to magically seal Ganon in the Golden Land." This is clearly different from what happened in OoT. In OoT, between the past and future timelines, the Knights apparently lost the battle, and Ganon put his tower in place of Hyrule Castle. In the future timeline, Link was the one who battled Ganon as the sages sealed him.
This is a true inconsistency between OoT and ALttP. However, I don't think the inconsistency is as serious as some would have it, and furthermore I think the inconsistency is there for a reason. On the first point, consider what happens in OoT. There is a serious battle in which Ganondorf and his forces attack the castle, attempting to steal the Ocarina of Time. The Knights could have been wiped out in this battle alone. In the seven years of Ganon's rise to power, Hyrule Castle is presumably attacked again, and this time is conquered for good. Yet, miraculously, Ganon is not victorious at the end of the day, since he is sealed in the Sacred Realm by the seven sages. My point? The ALttP manual gets a lot right, and could have been a lot more wrong. The ALttP manual correctly reports that Hyrule Castle was attacked and many Knights lost their lives, and that the seven sages successfully sealed Ganon away. This is an awful lot to have happen; it's not likely that such a story could reasonably be told twice and actually be referring to two different events. And in a way, it's true that the Knights did win the day (eventually), if we suppose that Link is in the bloodline of the Knights.
My second point is that the inconsistency is meant to be there. If the inconsistency were not meant to be there, they would have changed the GBA version of ALttP to be consistent with OoT. There are many quotes which talk about the Imprisoning War, and they could have changed any of them. But they did not, so there must be a reason for keeping the inconsistent version of the story in. But what is the reason? Possible reasons include: the creators wanted fans to see that the legends changed over time; or, the creators have reasons for having the Hero of Time forgotten in ALttP; or, the creators may have a certain interpretation of OoT's ending that affects how the legends were passed down to ALttP.
The OoT/ALttP connection has always been a major stumbling block for a lot of people. I have seen and participated in many debates and theories about the major inconsistencies: whether they can be resolved, or if they're simply irresolvable, or if OoT and ALttP are even connected, or whether we're wasting our time thinking there's an internal timeline. Lately, I've seen that more and more people have been putting faith in the OoT/ALttP connection, but still have to deal with the inconsistencies given above. Hopefully some of these concerns have been laid to rest in this article. People who didn't believe in the OoT/ALttP connection before should see now that there's more to it than they previously thought, and should re-play the games to see that there are many solid connections. People who already believed in the connection should find their faith strengthened.
I have one last comment for anyone who may still think OoT and ALttP are too inconsistent with each other, and who still wish to say that OoT is not the Imprisoning War. If anybody wants to put the Imprisoning War outside of OoT, they'll have to make an absurd assumption: that, even though the ALttP backstory and OoT are almost exactly the same in many respects (and only inconsistent in a few places); and, even though the creators themselves said OoT is supposed to be the Imprisoning War; nevertheless, because of a few inconsistencies here and there, it is necessary to suppose that OoT is not talking about the ALttP backstory. Applying Occam's Razor, it is much simpler to assume that, in some parts of the stories, either the legend was changed as it was passed down, and/or the creators decided to change the story to suit their own storytelling purposes, without intending to destroy the internal timeline. I do not find it likely that there's some conspiracy of lies and deceit going on here. If the creators themselves say something is true, and if it seems to be true most of the time, we can reasonably suppose it to be true.
An Italian translation of this article is available at The Lost Woods.