by Arturo and Jumbie
Of all the theorizing about The Legend of Zelda, finding out a sensible timeline that orders all the games chronologically is undoubtedly the master discipline. After all, a good comprehension of the series as a whole is much more intriguing than just seeing each game for itself.
First off, there are two different approaches that can be made for a timeline theory: either a Single Timeline (linear order), or a Split Timeline (linear order in two separate dimensions). While the basic structure of a Single Timeline is self-explanatory, the Split Timeline may require some words of introduction. This theory claims that after Ocarina of Time, the timeline splits in two independent branches - Adult timeline and Child timeline. For a long time, this theory was considered to be groundless by most people because it seemed to be a complicated fan fiction rather than the actual intention of the Zelda creators. … Until The Wind Waker came out. This game further built upon OoT's implications of a timeline split as it completely ignored the events of A Link to the Past, the game that had been supposed to take place around the time that now TWW seemed to occupy. As a logical consequence, a timeline split became the only theory able to explain the complicated relation of OoT, ALttP and TWW without involving the usual lot of fan fiction.
But how come that the Split Timeline theory is still rather unpopular among the community? To deal with this important issue, we, two supporters of the theory, have put our heads together. Read our thoughts on it here.
Now, many people think the Zelda timeline has to be one single, straightforward line because the idea of a timeline split is not scientifically backed up. But in fact, multiple timelines are nothing else than parallel universes, which according to quantum mechanics may exist in reality. Also, Stephen Hawking, the most well known cosmologist of our time, has explained in his books that one of the possible consequences of travelling to the past is creating a split in time: an unaffected dimension and another one, affected by the time travel.
Also, if such things are possible in other fiction (like Dragon Ball Z), why not in The Legend of Zelda? What should keep Nintendo from creating two timelines existing parallel to each other? We're dealing with a fantasy series here that also involves magic, rebirth, ghosts, body fusion (Twinrova), body division (FS), and Tingle… So, what should make a split timeline the only "odd one out" in this row of absurdities? We can imagine, actually: "I'm just not comfortable with the idea of two co-existing timelines."
Well, that's right in a way, none of us would've felt the need to split Hyrule's history in two halves. But the developers just chose to touch the subject of time travel, and now we are left with the consequences of their decision. It's undeniable that they already did create separate dimensions in Zelda - the world of Hyrule, the Sacred Realm, and the parallel world of Termina - so the theoretical possibility of a Split Timeline is ensured.
Now let's proceed with the actual evidence for it. In our opinion, the theory of one single Zelda timeline is a utopia because of three things: -- OoT's two endings leave little room for a Single Timeline to apply. -- It's impossible to put TWW and ALttP into the same timeline, as both refer to OoT as their prequel. -- Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma hinted at a timeline split quite unequivocally.
Of all the Zelda games, OoT is certainly the one with the most confusing ending. Here's a short summary:
-- Ganondorf is sealed in the Evil Realm by the Seven Sages, uttering a last threat to kill the descendants of them and of Link.
-- Adult Zelda and Link are seen floating above the clouds, having a conversation. Then Zelda uses the Ocarina of Time to send Link to the past.
-- After an overview around a seemingly deserted Hyrule, a great party at LonLon Ranch is seen. All the inhabitants of Hyrule celebrate Ganon’s defeat. The Six Sages (except Rauru) fly to Death Mountain.
-- The sky is absorbed by a vortex and then we see Link, a child again, arrive in the Temple of Time and leave the Master Sword in its pedestal.
-- Bearing the Triforce of Courage, Link once again goes to see Princess Zelda in the castle courtyard. THE END
-- Meet the Skywalkers: While we can't explain why Zelda and Link are in the sky of all places, their dialogue there is quite interesting in regards of a timeline split. Take this quote of Zelda: “You must lay the Master Sword to rest and close the Door of Time... However, by doing this, the road between times will be closed... Link, give the Ocarina to me... As a Sage, I can return you to your original time with it."
Closing the road between times means there will be no more communication between the time Link leaves and the time he goes to, but both times do continue to exist, the future doesn't suddenly cease. Zelda talks about returning Link, and only Link, to his original time. She doesn't say that she nor anybody else will follow him there; and why should they, now that peace is restored in Adult Hyrule. If Link's departure really erased the future where Adult Zelda lives in, as many Single Timelines suggest, then she would essentially commit suicide.
-- The same goes for the celebration: Isn't it beautiful to see each and every good Hyrulean (except for Link and the Sages) rejoice at their freedom together? Way too beautiful an event to just be erased by Link travelling back, we would say. And consider how much time it must take the people to realize that Ganon is gone, to organize a party, and to get everybody to the location (even the Kokiris) - Link and Zelda's chit-chat is much too short for all of this plus the actual celebration happening exactly simultaneously. Thus, the party does NOT find an unspectacular end disintegrated in the mists of time at the moment Link arrives in the past. ...Unless you'd say Link and Zelda talked in a dimension beyond time and space, telepathically if you will. But this is easy to dismiss since they touch each other, and the material Ocarina and Navi are present, none of which could possibly happen in a telepathic dialogue.
- -OoT’s second half would be useless without a timeline split. Why bother to awaken the Sages if Link could simply go to the past and close the Door of Time to prevent Ganondorf from ever entering? The only logical answer is that Link's time travel splits the timeline. This way, two Hyrules come to exist, and even if Link was idle in Adult Hyrule, there'd still be a happy Child Hyrule. Of course, a Hyrule with everyone suffering because the Hero of Time hasn't come would not be fair; therefore Link has to save Adult Hyrule first before returning to Child Hyrule.
-- A Single Timeline would require Link never coming back from Termina. In TWW it is implied that the Hero of Time left the kingdom of Hyrule to never return again. This is inconsistent with MM, where Link travels looking for a lost friend and appears, quite by accident, in the land of Termina. Whether he finds the dear friend at the end of the game or not is irrelevant to the debate, since Link was looking for that friend in Hyrule. Furthermore, the ending clearly implies Link going back to Hyrule: the Mask Salesman tells him to (“Shouldn't you be returning home as well?“) and the last scene is situated in the woods, the very same woods as in the beginning situated almost certainly in the Hyrulean Lost Woods, as hinted by Saria’s Song. If there was a Single Timeline, in TWW they wouldn’t have said that the Hero disappeared, because in fact, he came back to Hyrule, but that he, in the end, passed away, or something similar. But if we have a Split Timeline, there wouldn’t be any reason for Link’s death to be remembered, since he is only known in the Child Timeline by the Royal Family and in the Adult Timeline he has disappeared to never come back.
-- And the Triforce? When Link returns as a child again, the Door of Time is open, meaning he had already received the Ocarina of Time from Young Zelda and that she had already escaped with Impa from the Castle, and the final scene in the castle courtyard cannot be a mere flashback of their first meeting anyway because it clearly shows the Triforce of Courage in Link's hand. If the timeline was divided in two, so was everything in it, also the Triforce. In the future, the Triforce of Courage is left behind when Link travels back, then possibly broken into eight shards as TWW requires. In the past, however, Young Link is assigned this timeline's Triforce of Courage as soon as he materializes in the Temple of Time, meaning that this point in time must be shortly after he and Ganondorf first entered the Sacred Realm where they both got their pieces, a fact that is further implied by Young Zelda's presence back in Hyrule Castle which wouldn't be possible if Ganondorf was not sealed in the Realm.
Young Zelda, however, isn't shown to have obtained her Triforce of Wisdom, so one can assume that it still is in the Sacred Realm. We know that Link's Triforce is bound to abandon him again when he leaves Hyrule for Termina. Since the three Triforce pieces tend to combine into one when left without a holder and not hidden away, it's likely that the two released ones will reunite with the one in Ganondorf's clutches, who according to the evidence mentioned above must be sealed in the past as well (more on how that works below). This would explain why Ganon is in possession of the complete Triforce in A Link to the Past, whereas he only has the Triforce of Power in TWW because the Triforce of Wisdom is kept with the Royal Family and the Triforce of Courage is divided and hidden in treasure chests.
When I finished The Wind Waker for the first time and witnessed the King of Hyrule preventing Ganondorf from raising the ancient country above the ocean once again, I immediately thought, "Okaay.. so Hyrule remains flooded for all times to come, making TWW the last game in the timeline, and all other titles must take place between OoT and TWW."
But then I became aware that hardly anybody on the Internet shared this thought, which really disturbed me. Re-playing TWW, I noticed that the game actually didn't allow other games to happen between itself and OoT/MM - even more confusing since OoT was designed as a prequel to another game, bearing the name A Link to the Past. (For all those who still deny the OoT+ALttP connection, davogones, on his last Storyline article, wrote a fantastic defence of the OoT-AlttP connection, resolving all the inconsistencies and showing that the creators implied OoT to be AlttP’s prequel)
So, how can there be two direct OoT/MM sequels, ALttP and TWW? Many timeline theorists put ALttP after TWW for the sake of a linear timeline and say that FSA is the true Seal War, even though it's a long shot to assume that Hyrule will, contrary to the Triforce’s doing, rise above the Great Sea again someday. With the material we have up to now, we can are sure that Nintendo intends the buried Hyrule to stay where it is and how it is: kind of wet. Otherwise they could've granted Ganondorf's wish to raise Hyrule right away and let the final fight happen in a dry Hyrule.
The two other possibilities how a New Hyrule could originate (that Link and Tetra discover one in Phantom Hourglass, or that the Koroks' trees will connect the islands to a new continent) are out of question since the King of Hyrule sort of forbade the kids to name any other land "Hyrule": "Ah, but child... That land will not be Hyrule. It will be YOUR land!"
We don't say that dry land will never be discovered on the Great Sea, but that it simply won't be called Hyrule. The emergence of an all-new Kingdom of Hyrule wouldn't suit ALttP anyway: this one game, at least, features geography almost identical to OoT's ancient Hyrule. What's more, the legends in ALttP only mention the sealing of Ganon, not the whole country being flooded and drained again. So our opinion is: Neither can any Zelda games other than Twilight Princess take place between OoT and TWW, nor can any Zelda games other than Phantom Hourglass happen after TWW. Such is only possible with the Split Timeline theory.
Now we'd like to juxtapose ALttP and TWW to show just how their similarities are arguments in favour of the Split Timeline. Both games begin with a legend of old about the defeat of an Evil One. Although those legends differ quite a bit, they undoubtedly refer to one and the same event: OoT. Going with a Single Timeline, it requires fabulous fan fiction to be included in your theory to fit the account of the Seal War in AlttP with FSA; applying a Split Timeline, however, you do perfectly fine without contradictions. The following texts are taken from the intro sequences in ALttP and TWW respectively, but since ALttP's in-game legend remains silent about some important facts of the manual legend (Ganon, Knights, Master Sword), we had to mingle it with bold-type excerpts from the (Japanese) manual. While reading, compare the two games in each paragraph - it might surprise you.
|ALttP's Intro Legend:||TWW's Intro Legend:|
|Long ago, in the beautiful kingdom of Hyrule surrounded by mountains and forests… Legends told of an omnipotent and omniscient Golden Power that resided in a hidden land.||This is but one of the legends of which the people speak… Long ago, there existed a kingdom where a golden power lay hidden. It was a prosperous land blessed with green forests, tall mountains, and peace.|
|Many people aggressively sought to enter the hidden Golden Land… [One day, quite by accident, a gate to the Golden Land was opened by a gang of thieves. ... The roaring laughter of the leader (= Ganondorf seizing the Triforce) echoed across time and space and even reached the far-off land of Hyrule.] Evil power began to flow from the Golden Land…||But one day a man of great evil found the golden power and took it for himself… With its strength at his command, he spread darkness across the kingdom.|
|So the King commanded [Seven Sages and the Knights] to seal the gate to the Land of the Golden Power. [The people had been told by a divine oracle to make a blade of evil's bane that would repulse any evil that may seize the Triforce. ... At first, the Sages searched for the Master Sword and a hero to handle it. ... However, the situation was urgent as Ganon's evil power pressed on towards the royal palace. ... The Knights took the full brunt of the fierce attack, and although they perished when their strength had exhausted, this had bought precious time for the Seven Sages to complete their seal.]||But then, when all hope had died, and the hour of doom seemed at hand... ...a young boy clothed in green appeared as if from nowhere. Wielding the blade of evil's bane, he sealed the dark one away and gave the land light. This boy, who traveled through time to save the land, was known as the Hero of Time.|
|That seal should have remained for all time… ...But, when these events were obscured by the mists of time and became legend…||The boy's tale was passed down through generations until it became legend...|
|A mysterious wizard known as Agahnim came to Hyrule to release the seal. He eliminated the good King of Hyrule… Through evil magic, he began to make descendants of the [Seven Sages] vanish, one after another. And the time of destiny for Princess Zelda is drawing near.||But then... a day came when a fell wind began to blow across the kingdom. The great evil that all thought had been forever sealed away by the hero... ...once again crept forth from the depths of the earth, eager to resume its dark designs.|
|The people believed that the Hero of Time would again come to save them. ...But the hero did not appear. Faced by an onslaught of evil, the people could do nothing but appeal to the gods. In their last hour, as doom drew nigh, they left their future in the hands of fate.|
|What became of that kingdom...? None remain who know. The memory of the kingdom vanished, but its legend survived on the wind's breath. On a certain island, it became customary to garb boys in green when they came of age. Clothed in the green of fields, they aspired to find heroic blades and cast down evil. The elders wished only for the youths to know courage like the hero of legend...|
-- BOX 1: The contents of box 1 on either side are identical, even down to Hyrule's landscape details.
-- BOX 2: Now the differences begin: ALttP speaks of many people that tried to access the Sacred Realm (possibly meaning the fierce war before OoT) and Ganondorf is the one who eventually manages it; but TWW notes only Ganondorf claiming the Triforce. This shows that ALttP also remembers the times prior to OoT, whereas in TWW those times are too long ago to be remembered.
An interesting side note: Where ALttP's manual says, "the roaring laughter of the brigand leader echoed across time and space and even reached the far-off land of Hyrule", there's only one word for time/space used in the Japanese version (the same as the one used in the Japanese title of Oracle of Ages). This is due to their totally different world view, and taking that into account it's likely that the Japanese don't have such problems with accepting a Split Timeline as fans in the west do.
-- BOX 3: (This one's going to take some time..) While TWW's account is rather authentic to what we saw in OoT's future, the Sealing War account in ALttP seems to be a mixture of real and invented events. It's possible that this "war" was made up by Young Zelda to explain to the commoners what had happened to Ganondorf in OoT's Child half. After all, from their point of view, the Gerudo King had just attacked Hyrule Castle, found the Door of Time open, entered the Sacred Realm and never returned from there. This is where the Hero of Time comes in.
In TWW's intro legend he is the praised protagonist, whereas in ALttP's account a hero was merely hoped for but didn't actually turn up - this matches perfectly with nobody in OoT's past noticing that Young Link was a hero. Moreover, ALttP substitutes him with the Knights of Hyrule, although later in-game it does say that a hero is destined to appear from the Knights' bloodline whenever Hyrule is in danger. Originally meant as a reference to ALttP's Link, this is nowadays possibly true also for OoT's Link. And look what it says in the intro of MM:
“In the land of Hyrule, there echoes a legend. A legend held dearly by the Royal Family that tells of a boy...”
Some months after OoT, Young Link was already a legend - held by the Royal Family, which could mean that the common people of Hyrule did not know of a hero. Only Young Zelda did, as Link had probably told her in the castle courtyard scene of the events that had taken place in the future timeline. But since Link was now supposed to relive his seven missed years, it's comprehensible that Zelda did not shout from the rooftop that he actually was the saviour of Hyrule. Rather than that, she passed on a legend of the "Knights of Hyrule". This name may either refer to the Hylian soldiers fighting off the evil power that leaked out of the Evil Realm until Ganondorf was sealed through Young Link's return, or the Knights are a mere invention altogether, meant as a metaphor for Link's battle against Ganon in the Adult Timeline. Either explanation may fit ALttP's legend, since the deceased father of OoT's Link is said to have been a castle soldier in the non-canonic European Ocarina of Time Comic, providing a connection between Link and the Knights regardless of which version you prefer.
This view is further supported by what ALttP's Japanese manual tells about the Master Sword:
"At first, the Sages searched for the Master Sword and a hero to handle it."
"However, the situation was urgent as Ganon's evil power pressed on towards the royal palace."
Don't let the inaccurate mention of Sages confuse you, what's crucial is that Ganon was originally supposed to be stopped by a hero wielding the Blade of Evil's Bane (as it did happen in the Adult timeline), but neither the Master Sword, nor the Hero were found, for they were in the Sacred Realm, but Young Link's sudden return from the future made it unnecessary to use the Master Sword here - Ganondorf was sealed automatically because he was still in the Evil Realm when Link re-emerged in the Temple of Time. And to explain this wondrous sealing to the broad masses, the part about the Knights was added to the legend.
Let's look at TWW's account for a second. "A young boy clothed in green appeared as if from nowhere." This is exactly how the people in OoT's future experienced it: Link's seven year long slumber in the Evil Realm did make it look like he appeared from nowhere to save Hyrule.
Next is the issue with the Seven Sages. Although TWW's intro doesn't mention them, they were certainly known to the King of Hyrule, as the detailed and authentic stained glass images in sunken Hyrule Castle's basement show. Whereas in ALttP's legend people are completely unaware of the exact members, depicting all Seven Sages shrouded in cloaks like Rauru's.
Why is the degree of fame that the Sages still have in later centuries so different in the two games? It's once again that prior to TWW the Sages actively sealed Ganon in the Evil Realm, whereas prior to ALttP there was neither a battle nor an actual sealing of Ganondorf. It's very hard to explain how the Evil King could be sealed in the past when he was beaten only in the future, but this question arises the same in both Split or Single Timeline theory. There are several explanations:
a) One possibility is that the Sages seal Ganondorf twice, i.e. first in the Adult timeline, then Link returns to the Child timeline and there awakens the Seven Sages who seal Ganondorf in the past as well. This explanation is the most consistent with the SW account from ALttP, though it sounds improbable.
b) The Sacred Realm is timeless and thus connected to both times of OoT: When Ganon goes from Hyrule's future into the Sacred Realm, he simultaneously is there in Hyrule's past, too. This would mean in turn that Link does not sleep for years really, and that Rauru is not aging.
c) Young Link closes the portal between Hyrule and the Evil Realm with the Master Sword, thus locking Ganon in.
In our opinion, the most likely scenario is a variation of b): Not the Sacred Realm is timeless, but the so-called Sages’ Seal is. We say so-called because it’s also the goddesses Din, Farore and Nayru who seal Ganon in the void of the Evil Realm, as seen in this quote by Rauru: "Ancient Creators of Hyrule! Now, open the sealed door and send the Evil Incarnation of Darkness into the void of the Evil Realm!!”
This quote of the King of Red Lions in TWW says the same: “...He who obtained the power of the gods, attempted to cover the land in darkness, and was ultimately sealed away by the very power he hoped to command.”
Since the Golden Goddesses are omnipotent, they should be able to have their seal transcend timelines. The events would be seen like this: -- In the Adult timeline, Link beats Ganon and the Seven Sages / Goddesses seal him in the Evil Realm. -- In the Child timeline, Ganondorf enters the Sacred Realm, touches the Triforce and is automatically sealed. Link comes back to Child Hyrule and tells Zelda what has happened and who the Sages are.
There is yet another problem: To keep the seal intact, an unbroken line of the Sages' descendants has to be provided - but how can the ALttP maidens descend from Sages who have never been awakened in OoT's past?
Well, Link could have woken them "a second time" after his certain return from Termina. Even if he did not, the Seven could have woken all by themselves (after all, in OoT's future, four of them already knew beforehand that they were or would become Sages without Link’s intervention: Rauru, Zelda, Impa and Saria). Another possibility is that the maidens are descendants of the Ancient Sages (constructors of the Temple of Time), this would explain why they are all Hylians. In any case, there must have been a way to pass on their powers until ALttP.
-- BOX 4: Everything's similar here.
-- BOX 5: This is where the fates of Child Hyrule and Adult Hyrule really begin to take a different road. Although Ganon hatches a plan to break the Sages' Seal in either timeline, ALttP explicitly shows us that he uses Agahnim to free him, whereas TWW just says he returned somehow. What this "somehow" will actually look like will possibly be explained on TP.
-- BOXES 6+7: These boxes have no counterpart in ALttP since the latter ends before the Great Flood comes down in the other timeline, but here there's one sentence in TWW that matches up pretty well with a line in ALttP's Japanese manual.
TWW: "Faced by an onslaught of evil, the people could do nothing but appeal to the gods. In their last hour, as doom drew nigh, they left their future in the hands of fate."
ALttP: "The only thing people could do was to pray to the gods."
A praying occurs before both games. In ALttP the eventual victory of Link over Ganon is what the people get in answer, while in TWW Ganon is not allowed to conquer Hyrule because of the Great Flood.
After pointing out the correspondence between the intro legends of ALttP and TWW, there are still more similarities in the games themselves, the most striking of which is the prophecy of the Great Cataclysm. The ancient Hylian inscription on the Master Sword's pedestal in ALttP reads like this (quoting Japanese original): "When the Great Cataclysm befalleth, the Hero carrying three crests shall come, and by those hands shall he draw out this sword. That person will be one who doth carry the blood of the Knight Family."
Later in the game, the maiden in the Skull Woods dungeon elaborates on the prophecy (q.J.o.): "Do you know the prophecy of the Great Cataclysm? This is the way I heard it... 'If an evil-hearted person claims the Triforce, a Hero is destined to appear and defeat the one who will cause the Great Cataclysm. However, if the Hero were to fall, the world would be engulfed by the evil-hearted one'..."
The second quote describes just what a failure of the Hero would mean - the end of Hyrule, as depicted prior to TWW. This is what Aginah, a descendant of the Sages, has to add about the prophecy (q.J.o.): "From the Seven Sages to the descendants of the Hylians, a prediction was passed down that tells of a Great Cataclysm. In that prophecy, it is said that 'The Hero will stand in the desert, holding the Book of Mudora'..."
So the Great Cataclysm was predicted by the Seven Sages - but when in OoT did this happen? Look at this quote of OoT's Princess Zelda, the leader of the Sages: "Thus, peace will once again reign in this world... for a time."
This is nothing but a prediction that Hyrule will be in trouble again someday, and knowing that Zelda has visions in almost all of the games, it's only logical that the Cataclysm was foretold by her, as well.
We certainly won't say ALttP's Great Cataclysm has always been intended as a reference to some Great Flood happening in a future game. Yet from a nowadays view, it's just another nice detail that retrospectively matches. Did you know that "kataklysmos" was originally the Greek expression for the Biblical Great Flood, and translates to nothing else than "wash down"? Even though in today's English "cataclysm" can refer to any kinds of catastrophe, and the according word in the Japanese ALttP also means simply "catastrophe", it still is a nice coincidence.
With all that showing that the events of TWW and ALttP are so similar but yet incompatible in regards of how they end, placing both games after one another in the same timeline would be much too repetitive to still be plausible. We're convinced that Nintendo intentionally created TWW to be one more scenario taking place after OoT, one that has no narrative connection to the other sequel, ALttP. To make this possible, the developers' only choice was to take the already split-up ending of OoT and continue either timeline with ALttP and TWW respectively.
Majora's Mask obviously happens right after OoT's Child ending, thus, according to our logic, before ALttP. Still there are some things in TWW which seem to be references to MM, leading many people to think that both games have to happen in the same timeline. First of all, TWW's intro shows the Hero of Time leaving on horseback, like in MM. However, due to the simplistic style, you cannot tell if Link is supposed to be young or grown up in this painting. Although the English text calls him a "boy", the Japanese carefully speaks of him as a "person" only. Also, Epona is depicted with bridle and saddle, unlike the young Epona in MM who went bare. Now look at those Hylian symbols around all the paintings. They can be transcribed into Japanese and then translated into English, an effort that both Beno and Zethar-II took upon themselves in the hope of finding out something new. Although one should assume that the symbols told word for word the same story as the subtitles, in fact they don't. Further along the intro, next to the image of praising people, the hieroglyphs read as follows:
"The people anxiously waited for the legendary hero to appear once more, but since he had travelled the flows of time and left the country behind, he did not appear."
This decisive fact about "the flows of time" is neglected completely in the subtitle! Thus, Link did indeed leave the country through time travel, exactly as in OoT's Adult ending, and not on Epona like the illustration falsely suggests. The scroll must show an imaginary scene that didn't actually happen: Most Hyruleans did not understand time travel, and having seen Adult Link ride a horse during OoT's future half, they explained the hero's sudden disappearance with him riding away.
Next is the quote of the King of Red Lions as he tells TWW Link about the Hero of Time: "When the Hero of Time was called to embark on another journey and left the land of Hyrule, he was separated from the elements that made him a hero."
Often mistaken as a reference to MM, his wording can very well be understood in a different way. Seeing as "journey" and "travel" are synonyms, the said "journey" would be a poetical term for "time travel". The words "called to embark" simply mean that another person caused Link to set out, which has to be Adult Zelda since the lost friend in MM never actually "called" Link.
There are also some minor Easter Eggs in TWW that are often misunderstood to connect the game to MM. For example, in the Nintendo Gallery you can see masks from MM, but knowing that masks are popular in Hyrule too (OoT, TMC), this doesn't mean a thing.
The swords of all Phantom Ganons bear a Hylian inscription that reads "Zubora Gabora” - the names of two smiths in MM. But seriously, how could they be responsible for swords made of dark energy, crafted centuries later in a different world than Termina? Writing this on the sword was just meant as a gag for us players to enjoy.
A third oddity to be clarified is the Rito postman Koboli, whose Nintendo Gallery entry states that "an ancestor of his in an age gone by was also a postman", and indeed he shares the same facial features with the workaholic postman in MM. Frankly, this appears to be more than a mere Easter Egg, but thinking about it, does it really make any sense for the Terminan postman to come over to Hyrule? Fortunately The Minish Cap, which also includes an identic-looking postman character, can be seen as a late explanation for the Koboli oddity (while this requires to put TMC before OoT).
Finally, there is the infamous "Legend of the Fairy" in TWW - an ancient inscription found in the Tower of the Gods if you complete a sidequest with the Tingletuner. It reads as follows:
"It is said that long ago, a boy garbed in green known as the Hero of Time saved this land. However, on a certain island, there is also a story of the fairy who saved that hero...
It is said that the Hero of Time met the fairy in the midst of his travels. The fairy appeared before the Hero, who had found himself lost in darkness. With a strange power, it would float in midair, dancing above his head like a burst balloon.
After the fairy handed the lost Hero a map, it flew off as quickly as it had appeared. Better able to foresee places of danger than the Hero, the fairy marked them on a map. The Legend goes on to say the quest of the Hero of Time was saved by this plump figure...
Fairies live for thousands of years... but this odd fairy was a bit different. This mystical fairy was born near a lake, and when he met the Hero, he was but 35. Beyond that, there is little known about that fairy...
The Little-Known Legend of the Fairy's 35th Birthday:
On one island, they celebrate one's 35th birthday with a green coat and red pants. They do this in the hope of becoming like the legendary fairy, Tingle!"
Yes, it is an “exact” retelling of MM, thus one could be inclined to put MM into the same timeline with TWW. But ask yourself one question, should such a minor text that can only be seen using the GBA connectivity really decide which timeline concept applies? If yes, and you really want us to justify the Legend of the Fairy, we do have an explanation:
Keep in mind that Termina is located in a completely different dimension than Hyrule and is therefore not affected by Hyrule's timeline split. So logically, the portal through which Link entered and left Termina must be connected to both Child Hyrule and Adult Hyrule. The only way this "legend" could make it from Termina to Adult Hyrule is that Tingle himself travelled through the interdimensional portal (after all, it was certainly not Link passing on the story of his traumatic encounter with the map salesfairy) and by chance arrived in Adult Hyrule instead of Child Hyrule. There Tingle either found a way to access the Tower of the Gods, or the Goddesses themselves felt like recording his story inside the tower… Maybe it has something to do with Tingle's Rupee Land? Duh, that Legend of the Fairy makes one sick, so let's file it away, at last!
That would be that. No MM references in TWW at all.
Let's stay with MM for a little longer. Since the basic idea of the Split Timeline theory is that time travel in OoT divided the timeline in two, some people fear that the same applied to MM, only with infinite dimensions. They argue that Link was constantly travelling back to the past and seemingly leaving behind hundreds of new timelines that would all end in an apocalypse, but this is obviously so cruel that it simply has to be wrong. Don't forget that time travel doesn't always have to work the same way. While we do think that in OoT the future timeline remains existent after Link abandons it, the situation in MM is entirely different. We are able to give a reason for this.
In OoT, Link is forced to sleep for seven years until he is old enough to be the Hero of Time, so to make up for this unnatural sacrifice, destiny "saves" his original past timeline and simultaneously "opens" a new future timeline. In MM, however, Link willingly asks the Goddess of Time to let him rewind the flow of time as a last escape, creating a time loop of three days in the act. Just like in the movie "Groundhog Day".
Link's primary objective in MM is to collect the masks of the Four Giants, so whenever he rewinds time back to Day One, each major item he has found stays right in his pockets, meaning that the respective item of the new cycle is exactly the same one that Link brings from the old cycle. All it has done is change its place, because all the events in the old cycle have been rewound, with Link and Tatl as the only ones who have kept their memory. That's why there has always been only one single timeline in Termina - all Link ever did was rewind the flow of time.
When Link starts the final cycle and rids this world of Majora, there is no more reason for him to rewind time to Day One - the time loop opens up with the dawn of a new day. The credits show that this new day suddenly includes the totality of Link's achievements, as if the Goddess of Time had taken the best of all the cycles and so repaired the one timeline of Termina.
We chose to point out all the game evidence first because they're generally considered more canonic than what follows now as a last defence of the Split Timeline theory: the infamous interview from 2002 in which both Eiji Aonuma and Shigeru Miyamoto explained the connection between TWW and OoT, and in fact implied a timeline split. For it was held in Japanese, then translated and edited by various sources, the exact formulation differs from version to version, but nonetheless the basic idea is identical in all of them.
Here is the relevant excerpt from the GamePro version:
Q: Where does The Wind Waker fit into the overall Zelda series timeline?
Eiji Aonuma: "You can think of this game as taking place over a hundred years after Ocarina of Time. You can tell this from the opening story, and there are references to things from Ocarina located throughout the game as well."
Shigeru Miyamoto: "Well, wait, which point does the hundred years start from?"
Eiji Aonuma: "From the end."
Shigeru Miyamoto: "No, I mean, as a child or as a..."
Eiji Aonuma: "Oh, right, let me elaborate on that. Ocarina of Time basically has two endings of sorts; one has Link as a child and the other has him as an adult. This game, The Wind Waker, takes place a hundred years after the adult Link defeats Ganon at the end of Ocarina."
Shigeru Miyamoto: "This is pretty confusing for us, too. [laughs] So be careful."
But this argument is lame because the "hundred years" issue is tricky. Japanese doesn't always have plural, so one of the interview transcripts says "a hundred years" while another one says "centuries". With in-game evidence in TWW clearly saying centuries (anything in the game shows that 100 years are much too brief to spawn a new culture like that), there's no point in claiming Eiji talked about 100 or 107 years.
May it be that Eiji simply took for granted that everybody would correctly take "ending" as a metonymy for "timeline"? It may well be, as becomes clear if you have a look at an edited version of the same interview, printed in Nintendo Power:
Q: Where does The Wind Waker fit into the overall timeline of The Legend of Zelda?
There's also a more complicated explanation. If you think back to the end of Ocarina of Time, there were two endings to that game in different time periods. First Link defeated Ganon as an adult, and then he actually went back to being a child. You could say that The Wind Waker takes place 100 years after the ending in which Link was an adult."
The major difference here is "different time periods", the equivalent expression of which is a dull "two endings of sorts" in the GamePro version...
Anyway, there you have it, Eiji clearly stated that TWW happens in the Adult Timeline, and by no means did he care about those puny seven years that the Adult ending is ahead of the Child ending. It's not about whether TWW happens 100 or 107 years after OoT - no, with this statement Eiji claimed that time continued to flow after both endings, and placed TWW in the Adult Timeline. What will be the reason that Majora's Mask was not mentioned at all in this interview? It certainly would have been mentioned if they had put it in between OoT's two halves (so that TWW's intro had really referred to MM).
Let's resume. Countless people claimed that TWW was created to "overwrite" the place that originally ALttP had occupied, pushing the older game further upwards in the timeline. We've shown that this assumption is based on nothing. Before OoT's release, the creators had emphasized time and again that OoT is a direct prequel of ALttP. Years later, Eiji Aonuma explained that TWW follows OoT's Adult ending, which meant as a consequence that ALttP has to be after the Child ending and after MM. To show that this doesn't pose any problem, we gathered lots of evidence for the two games being the direct sequels to either ending of OoT - matching the creators' intention - and we provided significant arguments that make a Single Timeline impossible. The few cons that have made fans unsure, e.g. the Legend of the Fairy, have been explained away while keeping the use of fan fiction to a minimum that's still appropriate dealing with minor issues like that.
Before we finally come to an end, we'd like to say one more thing. The Split Timeline theory is often called a deus ex machina. Yes, we admit that it is an easy way out. But what is wrong with making things as easy as possible? After all, there's still so many Zelda mysteries left to rack our brains…