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Over the course of the timeline debate, a plethora of terminology has surfaced to describe various facets of the games and the course of events through which they flow. Enclosed herein are definitions of many of the terms used in mainstream timeline vernacular.
“Backstory” consists of events referred to in a given game, but not actually witnessed in that game. Backstory is very important when determining timeline placement, because often backstories reference events from past titles. An example of a backstory would be the SW/IW with respect to ALttP, or the “Fierce War” with respect to OoT.
- Main article: Timeline Principles
“Canon” is the collective set of indisputable facts throughout the LOZ series. Through canon, timeline theorists can gather information with which to make assumptions or look at evidence to interpret in the hopes of creating a coherent timeline theory. The acceptable foundations of canon are called “Canonical Sources”. While the extent to which sources can be considered canonical varies among theorists, most theorists have accepted the following sources as canonical ones: “Story Text” within the official titles themselves, instruction manual story text, and, in the eyes of many—nay, most—“Creator Quotes”.
See “Creator Quotes”.
- Main article: Timeline Quotes
“Creator Quotes” are statements made by the developers of the games about the storyline of the LOZ series that are released to the press. Infamous creator quotes include the “Two Endings” quotes and the “First Story” quote, and, more recently, the "Parallel Stories" quote. The most common sources of such quotes are Eiji Aonuma and Shigeru Miyamoto, the two chief producers and directors of the LOZ series. Typically creator quotes stand as “Canon” unless there is a compelling argument made to disregard them, since they express the "Creator Intent" of those involved in making the games, but theorists are encouraged to determine whether the developers are a good source of information for themselves.
A “Direct Sequel”, in the context of the LOZ series, goes beyond simply being the next game in the series timeline. A direct sequel features the same Link character from the previous installment. An example of a direct sequel is MM, which features Link from OoT.
The “False Negative” is an ontological situation in which the “Lack-of-Evidence Argument” is used to define something, or rather, the lack of evidence for something, as a “negative”, or the nonexistence of said thing. A False Negative argument states that a lack of objective evidence does not constitute nonexistence, or, to put it another way, that a negative cannot be proven. Just because we do not know whether something did or did not happen does not discredit it from having happened at all.
This term may sound familiar to those familiar with theological arguments. The “Lack-of-Evidence Argument” (LEA) is an ontological argument that states that (with respect to timeline debate) if one game leads into another—for example, if Adult OoT leads into TP—then there should be specific, positive, objective proof of that progression. One example of the LEA is a statement by those who place TP in a “Child Timeline”, which says that if TP came after Adult OoT, the Hero of Time would be referenced by title, not merely as the "legendary hero." When brought into discussion, the LEA is typically met with a counter-argument, the “False Negative” rebuttal. The LEA is also closely related to the "Occam's Razor" principle.
This term may sound familiar to those involved in ontological debates. The principle of "Occam's Razor" states that entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity. In other words, a theory should not make more assumptions than is necessary. Occam's Razor is often employed when a theory delves too deep into the speculative realm or into small, largely irrelevant details.
“Story Text” encompasses any item of text in any official LOZ title, or, more narrowly, any text directly related to the main plot of a title’s storyline or that must be encountered in a playthrough of a game that doesn’t involve sequence-breaking. Story text is considered to be "Canon".
Terms Related to Series Elements
OoT references a “fierce war in our world” that occurred before the king unified the country of Hyrule. During this war, Link was orphaned on the outskirts of the Lost Woods, resulting in his adoption by the Deku Tree as a Kokiri. OoT also implies that the Sheikah were thought to have died out during this war. TP also references a “great battle” that erupted when word of the Sacred Realm spread throughout Hyrule, during which the Sheikah are also referenced as having been thought to have died out. Because of these similarities, for the purposes of this glossary, the two shall be thought of as one and the same.
- Main article: Great Flood
The “Great Flood” is a term adopted by timeline theorists to describe the TWW BS, in which the kingdom of Hyrule is flooded by the gods in order to prevent Ganon from conquering it.
Hero of Men
While never specifically conferred as a title, “Hero of Men” (HoM) is commonly used to refer to the hero in the TMC BS.
Hero of Time
- Main article: Link#Ocarina of Time
The “Hero of Time” (HoT) is the heroic title first mentioned in OoT, later referenced in TWW’s BS. He gained his title because of his power to travel through time.
Hero of Winds
- Main article: Hero of Winds
“Hero of Winds” (HoW) is the title given to TWW Link by the King of Red Lions after it is discovered that he is, indeed, the true hero, thanks to his ability to assume the Triforce of Courage into himself and the appearance of its crest on his left hand. It is likely related to his controlling the winds during that game.
See “Seal War”.
See “Fierce War”.
- Main article: The Imprisoning War
The “Seal War” (usually called the “Imprisoning War” by timeline newbies; often abbreviated “SW”) is a tale that originated in the ALttP BS. It tells of a war that began because the evil thief Ganondorf stole the Triforce from the mystical Sacred Realm. The war ends with Ganon being sealed away by the seven sages.
The “Sleeping Zelda” story is told in the AoL BS. It relates to us the story of a wizard who cast a sleeping spell on Princess Zelda. The prince of the kingdom then brought Zelda to the North Castle and ordered that all ladies born into the royal family be named Zelda.
Terms Related to the Organization of Timelines
- Main article: Hylian Cosmology
The “Adult Timeline” is one of the two timelines originating from OOT. The Adult Timeline is the timeline that continues after the ending of OoT in which Link defeats Ganon as an adult, and includes TWW and its sequel, PH.
The “Child Timeline” is one of the two timelines originating from OOT. The Child Timeline is the timeline that starts at the ending of OoT in which Link is a child, and that includes MM and TP.
A “Linearist” is a timeline theorist who follows the “Single Timeline”.
Not to be confused with a “Split Timeline”, a “Multiple Timeline” is a timeline theory that features two or more timelines with absolutely no relation to one another. Multiple Timeline theories that feature only two timelines are often called “Double Timelines”. Many theorists place the Four Swords Saga in its own timeline, believing that those games are irreconcilable with the other titles. Some Double Timelines break up the series into one timeline for the 2D installments and another for the 3D ones.
A “Single Timeline” is a timeline theory in which there is a single, continuously flowing continuity, unbroken by schisms in time or alternate time realities. STs are sometimes referred to as “Unified Timelines” or "Linear Timelines".
(NOTE: A Single Timeline has been rendered impossible with evidence regarding OOT's relationship to TP.)
- Main article: Split Timeline Disciplines
A “Split Timeline” is a timeline theory in which there are two or more continuities of games, usually resulting from split realities theorized to have been created by time travel. Almost all Split Timelines involve the ending in which Link defeats Ganon leads into one timeline, which follows the storyline of TWW, and the ending in which Link arrives back in the past leads into another, following the storyline of MM and TP.
(NOTE: In some contexts, “Split Timeline” theories are sometimes called “Double Timeline” theories.)
A “Splitist” is a timeline theorist who follows the “Split Timeline”.
2D Child Timeline
- Main article: Split Timeline Disciplines
The “2D Child Timeline” is a discipline of the Split Timeline that proposes that all of the older (2D) titles are to be placed in the Child line, along with MM and TP, and that the Adult line serves as a separate story apart from the older games and thus completely free to continue into its own chronology.
2D Adult Timeline
- Main article: Split Timeline Disciplines
The “2D Adult Timeline” is a discipline of the Split Timeline that proposes that all of the older (2D) titles are to be placed in the Adult line, along with tWW and PH, and that the Child line serves as a separate story apart from the older games and thus completely free to continue into its own chronology.