a part of The Missing Link series of articles
Article By Bastian

In nearly every The Legend of Zelda video game we explore a vast landscape, usually called “Hyrule”, and yet no two Hyrules are ever identical.

Are we meant to believe that Hyrule is constantly suffering cataclysmic natural disasters which are dramatically changing its features? Or are we to assume that there are many different lands all called Hyrule within the same world? Or possibly worlds? Or should we believe that somehow all of these lands called Hyrule are in fact one in the same?

I fancy the latter, myself, and my aim is to show how this can be possible, despite the contrasting popular opinion.

In the Beginning…

Let’s travel back in time to the beginning, to the earliest documentation of this magical land. In the instruction manual for The Legend of Zelda, it indicates that this game takes place “in a little kingdom in the land of Hyrule.” As we discover in the direct sequel, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, such a description couldn’t be more accurate. In this sequel we are presented with a tiny representation of the vast landscape we traversed in the first game. Clearly we are to believe that Hyrule as we knew it in The Legend of Zelda is but one tiny piece of a grand land.

Comparing LoZ Hyrule to AoL Hyrule

I assert that nearly every video game that takes place within “Hyrule” actually takes place within the same vague area of Hyrule seen in The Legend of Zelda.

A Story and a Map

In each Zelda video game we are provided with two important documents: a legend regarding the history preceding the story of the game, usually entitled “Story,” and a rough map of the geography that Link will discover in that particular adventure.

Sometimes these two artifacts are very accurate and detailed in accordance with the particular adventure at hand, but more often than not these documents are so vague that they border on impressionistic.

Take, for instance, the original The Legend of Zelda: in the instruction manual we are presented with a highly detailed clay representation of the landscape matching almost identically the geography we see in the 8-bit game.

The Legend of Zelda's Hyrule

Now consider the map provided in Ocarina of Time: while it unquestionably gives an accurate notion of the geography, it is by no means one-to-one indentical.

Ocarina of Time's Map

Are we then to believe that The Legend of Zelda’s blocky clay map of Hyrule is more accurate than Ocarina’s merely because it better matches the in-game landscape of its game? Certainly not. It would be absurd to believe that geometric series of square features could ever naturally exist as a landscape. We must then assume that “Hyrule” as depicted in The Legend of Zelda is an impression, only. If we take both the instruction manual map and in-game landscape as impressionistic for The Legend of Zelda, why then should we take any other representation of Hyrule any more literally?

In The Adventure of Link we are presented with two seperate maps, both rather vague when it comes to comparing the landscape with that presented in the videogame, and yet very different each from the other.

The two maps in the instruction manual for AoL

I take this varying degree of vagueness in the hand-drawn cartography, along with the “legendary” verbage of the prehistory provided as “story” (but that’s another topic for another time) as the key to this controversial approach to the accuracy of Hyrule’s geography in comparison to its cartographies.

Many insist that all of these Hyrules cannot possibly be the same Hyrule because the geography is wildly changing and transforming between games. I assert that the geography is not changing at all (or, at least not all that dramatically). The actual problem instead stems from the degree of accuracy of the cartography presented both in-game and via the map provided.

Ancient Maps of Earth

When we consider antique maps of our own world, we are often surprised at the shapes and sizes of the continents. We wonder at the seemingly arbitrary position of the major geographic features we are all so familiar with. How can they have thought North America was so tiny? Why is China shaped like a boomerang? Where is Greenland?


Antique Earth Maps

These antique maps display vastly different shapes and sizes of landmasses than we know today. Why the dramatic difference? We know, of course, that these continents and their features have not radically transformed since that era. The true transformation is found in the improved accuracy of cartography tools and theories. When we look at these antique maps and see the shapes and proportions and complete juxtaposition of features we do not assume we are looking at a different Earth. No, we understand that these are simply archaic understandings of what Earth was thought to look like at that time.

All Hyrules Are One Hyrule

The notion that each game takes place in a different Hyrule is as absurd to me as the Columbus-era idea that the Americas were actually the Orient. Clearly each videogame deals with the same continents collectively known as “Hyrule.”

The majority of the Zelda games take place in the region I term “Southern Hyrule.” Beginning with the original The Legend of Zelda, then A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, The Minish Cap, Four Swords/Adventures, and Twilight Princess. Even The Adventure of Link utilizes “Southern Hyrule,” albeit limitedly in a miniturized rendition to give scope to the vastness of what I term “Northern Hyrule” (the land just north of Death Mountains) and “Eastern Hyrule” (the continent to the east of North/South Hyrule). It is my belief that Phantom Hourglass also takes place in a flooded Northern and Eastern Hyrule.

Three Continents of Hyrule

So how can all these different landscapes be one and the same when their geographies are so extremely different? It is because we are intended to take these cartographies with a grain of salt. Sometimes it is as simple as “up is NOT north, north is to the right” (as is the case in The Minish Cap).

Similarly: with Ocarina of Time we find north to have shifted about 45 degrees counter-clockwise. As long as we orient Death Mountain at the top of the map, we find the basic major features orient themselves in roughly the same areas.

A Link to the Past vs. Ocarina of Time

The only thing changing in the geographies is the cartographer’s understanding or impression of it. It is then unsuprising when we take a simplified snapshot of a portion of Southern Hyrule in each of these cartographies that we always find the Death Mountain(s) to the north, Hyrule Castle just south of that, an enormous lake to the east, and an equally large desert to the west.

Comparing the Hyrules

The Moving Village and Castle

What of Kakariko Village? It seems to be leaping about the landscape wildly. If the other major geographic features are fairly static map-to-map why then does it seem as if Kakariko and Hyrule Castle can never stay in the same place in each game? This can be explained in two very different ways:

  1. As these maps are highly impressionistic, the village remains in the same place throughout history, but each cartographer’s notion of where it existed is different (consider legendary Camelot and the debate concerning the three different argued locations of Cadbury, Camelford, and Caerleon).
  2. The Kakariko Village presented in Ocarina of Time has been destroyed/deserted (and thus is the “hidden town” found in Twilight Princess) with a New Kakariko having been built further west.

Along that same line: could it also be possible that an earlier Hyrule Castle (presented in Ocarina of Time) has been destroyed at some point prior to Twilight Princess, with a new Hyrule Castle having been built farther east, closer to where Lon Lon Ranch once stood? If so, this could explain the ruins found all throughout Twilight Princess‘ Lost Woods, including the ruins of the Temple of Time. Later, then, we would find that these are the same Lost Woods found in A Link to the Past and that the only thing left of the ruins of the Temple of Time is the dias and pedestal where Link discovers the Master Sword. In this A Link to the Past-era Hyrule, Kakariko now stands just south of the ruins of the Temple of Time/Lost Woods… precicely where the ancient Hyrule Castle from Ocarina-era stood.

Then again, perhaps these are all simply misinterpretations or slightly different notions according to each cartographer.

The True Map

So which of all the maps is the most accurate? That remains to be seen. Perhaps they are each equally accurate/inaccurate. Or maybe it stands to reason that the most recent telling (Twilight Princess) is the most accurate; as our Nintendo staff cartographers’ tools (advancement of realism of graphics) improve, so too does the accuracy of the geography. If the rumors of Eiji Aonuma’s desire to release a 3D A Link to the Past ever comes to fruition, it will be exciting to see how this cartography compares to that of it’s 16-bit predecesor.

One thing remains certain, however: regardless of its geography, Hyrule never ceases to prove full of fun and adventure. And, really, that’s all that matters in the end.

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  • sugar

    This Bastian guy sure is one heck of a writer. ;] Quite the interesting read- great work!

    • That sugar girl is far too sweet. Like, sick-to-my-stomach-sweet. 😛

      • That Bastian guy seems more like a Bastion of Solitude 😛

        Nice article!

  • Thareous33

    All right, Bastian! How you vary words is a superb gift many of us do not own. Terms like “impressionstic”… I’ve never even seen that word used in any news article (though I am somewhat of a newbie myself). This was a very enjoyable read and a fresh view of the the Hyrule cartography. I look forward to what else you can come up with! 8D

  • ibrahim

    I agree; but I feel what they should do is combine all the maps in2 1 big map

    • XEGPNXjackX

      maybe they will, but anyways. I'm pretty sure that there are more than one continent of Hyrule.

  • ToonLink1Fangirl

    wow! i never realized that all the different maps of Hyrule have a few things in common, like where Hyrule Castle and Death Mountain are, which is quite similar. Very intersting. 🙂

  • I always knew there were similarities between each depiction of Hyrule, but it never really dawned on me how similar the overall geography has remained in each title. Excellent observation. 🙂

    And now I really really want to seen a new impression of the rest of Hyrule seen in AoL. It's a huge shame they've left that whole area untouched ever since. =/

    • I wonder if PH is Northern/Eastern Hyrule from AoL, now flooded? In the northeastern-most corner is an island called "Maze Island" in both instances. . . There are other tiny, less-obvious hints this might be the case.

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  • X x7

    I've been wondering about this for so long! and now finally someone actually has the time to write down everything that i didnt! thank you.

  • Nintenfan81

    Just a few things I want to point out: Phantom Hourglass took place in the ocean kings own world, not all Hyrules are the same (Spirit tracks), and perhaps we are looking into this to much. The article was great and all, but these ARE just a series of games. the lands shift as the the creators want them too, and every map is made by the same people who created the actual world. I'm writing a Sci-fi novel, and every time i have to redraw the maps it comes out a little different from before. Twilight wanted to make Hyrule bigger and grander, but Ocarina was focused on making the first 3-D enviroment.

    In any case, i agree that most Hyrules are supposed to be the same as in the other games, just not all of them.

    • Nintenfan81

      And before anyone tries to fry me alive for being unappreciative, you did do very, very well on this article and picked up on very interesting things, like map similarities. Good job. (and if that came across as sarcastic, it was not. i was100% serious on that good job thing.)

      • Ever thought that The Ocean King being a god resides in a spirit world. The spirit world being a plane of reality Higher than normal Hyrule doesn't mean that it's going to be different.
        I'd take it that it'd be the same and only the dwellers of the world are going to be different.

    • X x7

      yeah but theres only been one game with new hyrule in it and that's spirit Tracks, so you can't really say that not all hyrules are the same, even though that is now correct, maybe the older hyrules were all the same.

      • GenoKID

        What if ST comes before ALttP? What if other games spawn from THAT Hyrule? (trust me, play with the timeline, it can work well many ways.)

        • X x7

          That wouldnt make any sense Ive thought of this before and the spirit tracks would still be there so why would ALttP come after ST?

          • GenoKID

            I thought that without Malladus or the spirits around, they would be unneeded and unmaintained, and eventually vanish. Not that this is undeniably true, but a reasonable idea.

      • Nintenfan81

        Again, i do agree most Hyrules are supposed to be the same. except ST and perhaps the minish cap/four swords ones, based off their histories.

  • JrM

    Amazing explanation

  • xfghsfh

    "PO-LAR SHIFTS"

  • ChainofTermina

    cool. I've been wondering about the whole Map thing myself lately. this is very well done.

    on another note, why do people keep saying that the Hidden Village looks like Oot kakariko? I don't think it looks all that similar, it looks more like the traditional "Western Shoot'em up" kind of town. I honestly can't see any resemblance.

    • E. Bell

      From the zeldawiki.org "Another area in Twilight Princess, called the Hidden Village, bears resemblance to Kakariko in Ocarina of Time. In fact, a sign on the outskirts reads "Welcome to Old Kakarico"[sic] — not Kakariko in Hylian. The name has been misspelled, which is likely a simple mistake given that the original text was written by a Japanese person, likely without knowing the official English spelling of "Kakariko". The sole inhabitant of the town, Impaz, is believed to be one of the only Sheikahs left, Renado being the other, which is strengthened by Impaz's claim that she was named after the creator of her village, suggested to be Impa from Ocarina of Time."

    • Thareous33

      Wow, that's something I've never thought of or considered. It could be somewhat of a possibility, I guess…okay, I admit, it's a bit more likely than I most may assume. As a matter of fact, I would be willing to bet my whole life's makings it is.

    • Nintenfan81

      i agree on that point.

  • GenoKID

    I've wondered this as much as the timeline. The ALttP and OoT Pi/4 rad. twist thing is something I've never considered before. I've a;so never considered accuracy. I think that the TP map expands from OoT's though, by which I mean OoT is the southern half of TP, leaving everything in its original place except Zora's Domain and the Temple of Time (maybe it was moved and disguised as a ruin?). This works with TMC and ALttP, too. Put TMC's map as the southern half, expanded more in the south, though. Oh, yeah, I forgot! Also consider ST, it actually IS another Hyrule. Maybe other games come from there, too! It might not be the end of a timeline there, and its map is a little similar.

  • veeronic

    for the twilight princess map to match up with ocarina, it needs to be rotated 138 degrees and be the wii version of the map, otherwise it matches up pretty good and I now suspect that snow peak ruins could very well be the forest temple… if not than its oddly close to the same region…… however for this map to work it would mean that gerudo desert shifted south, which I suppose is not all that far-fetched when you see the cracks all through it.

    • Well there are theories that the various games happen hundreds of years apart on occasion. With TP in relation to OoT this is definitely the case. Earth landforms change over time so what's to keep Hyrule from being the same?

      Deserts here have shifted 🙂

  • Consider one more thing. Who does Link receive his maps from most often? Tingle! This guy only floats so high above the ground you know. It's not like there's a Tingle satellite taking superbly accurate snapshots of Hyrule. In addition, the guys a little weird. What would you expect a map from that guy to look like?

    • Tingle probably isn't that good a cartographer either. He seems pretty good with the ancient languages but we all know academics can be a little… scattered. 😛 (no insults to any out there)

      • Yeah that's exactly my point. If Tingle is the one making the maps, and assuming it's a different Tingle almost each game, the maps are bound to be skewed just like the antique maps used in the article.

  • Logan

    I've felt for a long time that this is pretty much the reason Hyrule is laid out differently between various games. This is the "Legend" of Zelda. I feel that each game is supposed to be a 'legend' of some sort rather than a 'happening-at-the-exact-moment' thing. It seems that the legend of the Hero of Time in TWW has a few details confused (including many that will always make me disbelieve the split timeline thing); why would it be unreasonable to think that, over time, people have constantly reimagined what Hyrule was like in the past?

    • It's almost certain that people are going to romantise the past. Look at people today thinking that say elizabethan england was all amazing and there was nothing wrong with it. Or take the arthurian legends.

      Split timeline theory is interesting. you'll always have adherents to both believing in it and not believing in it.
      Majora's Mask is considered a prime example of split timeline.

      There's also a lot of theories about Earthly history claiming that every key event in history could have gone two or more ways. The Gunpowder Plot for instance with Guy Fawkes. I came across a really interesting fantasy book which gave an alternate with a different future where it was actually pulled off.

      In the end it's up to the person looking at it to believe what they want. But split timeline theory can really explain some of the inconsistencies in Zelda.
      On the other hand it could be the variances that are the given with any mythos 😛

  • X x7

    I can see how they all match up, but when you look at the map and the land, they do match up very well, like if you just go riding around on the land, the map is entirley accurate, but that was just so video games could be as accurate as possible.

    • If the maps are designed according to the graphic style of the game, they will obviously be different. LOZ used 16bit and WW used cell shading. Looking at each map as a work of art really helps to put the differences in perspective. The cartographer uses a different style of art each time he develops a map creating some major differences in interpreting the landscape.

  • RandTherrin

    Over all it seems pretty sound. One issue is with the TP map…you MUST use the game cube version since the wii version is mirrored. With the wii version even if you turned the maps and factored in the move of kakoriko village and temple of time the locations of the land marks wont work.

    …I admit that I fell into this very trap i just explained while reading this because i have only played the wii version so in my mind that is the zelda canon map not the gc version.

    • GenoKID

      It also can't be canon because there are a disproportionate number of lefties. Worse, since when does the sun set in the east? Even greater of a taboo, Death Mountain on the west!? What!?

  • Matt17

    I don't believe that some of these zeldas are connected. most zelda games have hyrule, but its a different hyrule. some zelda games weren't meant to be connected.

    the only zelda games connected are minish cap –> oot, then splits the timeline into two, on the left we have majoras mask then zelda wii, on the left we have wind waker and phantom hourglass and spirit tracks. the rest of the zeldas are made for the hell of it

    • Clearly you haven't read enough of the theories out there.

      Take into account Split timeline, many years between different legends, and different continents and it makes a lot of sense.

      Link's awakening among many others shows that Link sails, possibly between continents. The events themselves may be a dream (to an extent :P) however Link is on the high seas. This could place it anywhere on the timeline, For instance after the great flood, Between various games, etc.

      There's a theory somewhere that the oracle games are towards the end of the timeline and at that point the split timelines are merging again.

      And didn't you read the article? Bastian discusses how there could be several continents. If we take Hyrule as being the planet, With a kingdom being named hyrule in it it could work. Countries shift borders after all.

      Or we could take it as a game and decide that some things don't have to make absolute sense. It's called the LEGEND of Zelda for a reason maybe! 😛 Legends aren't always logical 😛

  • Nice article.

    • Mayo Defender

      Put more beef in your comment!

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  • Moriquendi

    Great article, I loved reading this =)

  • this is a real good theory, i think the landscape has changed over the years and cities and castles have been destroyed over the years, just like thousands of years ago, all land mass in the world were right next to each other, took thousands of years for it to seperate, this is a good article, i never read good articles on here, only thing on here is some nerdy guy or girl on cam answering pointless questions that no one wants to see.

    • sugar

      Readers submit those questions, so obviously *someone* is interested in having them answered. :]

    • I'm glad others are thinking in terms of ages when it comes to Zelda 🙂

      Also you've got to really look through the news archives but there are actually a lot of Genuine articles on the site. Some of them are incredible.

      It's just that over the last few months it's been rather slow on the article fronts.

      I'm on the forum as Lockx so feel free to PM me and I can give you a list of good articles I've found.

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  • Selhyia

    Where does Termina fit in?

    • Well Termina is supposed to be through a crack in reality. If that's the case you could place it in the same category as the realm of the triforce, midna's realm, and the various otherworlds we come across.

      Or you could apply it to another separate continent to what we see above.

    • avalpsychicguy

      i'm pretty sure that termina is a parallel world to hyrule, and that it is identical yet different. we can't be sure though, as we've only ever seen termina once in the series.

  • wow

    or can we assume that it is just a video game series and that the developers are not trying to make the lands the same and there are little to no connections outside of a few instances. you guys just like to read into things waaaaaay too much

    • GenoKID

      No, no no BAD! This is REAL here, we can never assume that. Totally out of the question. RIDICULOUS!!! IMPOSSIBLE!!! (Ha, too true… yer right, really.)

    • The thing is that it can be fun over analysing it. It's a part of the Zelda community, We theorise about the games for the hell of it.

      Besides. If they do eventually release an official timeline we get to go "Hah, I told you!"

  • veeronic

    termina is east hyrule upside down

  • I really do enjoy The Missing Link articles that I see and this one continues the tradition of being really well thought out Bastion.

    While yes it has been pointed out that you've missed some of the places zelda takes place in, as well as not mentioning some games. Such as Majora's Mask, Link's awakening, the oracle games, etc. You put together a really well structured article regarding the locations of the various games and explain the varied maps well.

    I'll make sure to keep an eye out for further articles you write.

  • My explanation is… recton.

    • Drodry

      Yep…the avoidance of a stable continuity in order to provide fresh experiences whilst retaining key plot, setting and character elements for the sake of fun and fun alone.

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  • zlforster

    Agreed. It's probably right next to the land of the Tokay :p

  • Excellent! You illustrate and create some very unique observations in regards to the geography of Zelda. The theory itself is enough to make the story even more satisfying to study! ^^ Thank you!

  • RiderlessWolf

    If we assume that the Temple of Time in TP is at the same location as the Temple of Time in OoT, then that would place much of the OoT map further south than what is shown on a TP map. But, with a little bit of imagination, you can see that Death Mountain, the geurudo desert, death mountain, and kakariko village are all about where you'd expect them to be, and that there are no contradictions in land usage if the maps were overlain as I suggest.

  • GerudoKing

    I think it might be they try to keep it original, while trying to make it a new adventure each time. Also, I have an idea for the connection between OoT and LttP (lost woods). Maybe the people wanted to make a palace for the master sword so they cut the forest down, but it got run over by monsters, so the moved the sword to a new forest that they discovered around that time and named it Lost Woods in remembrance of the old forest.

  • vespeney

    You guys are on crack. Yes some games are linked to each other, but for the most part, there's been 4 or 5 Zelda universes created since the inception of the francise, each telling a new take on the story. Just like Camelot and Romeo and Juliet, there's multiple takes on the tales, but none are made with the intent of fitting within one world.

  • kat

    yes some of the maps will be the same, but OoT and TP would have about 100 years between them. the same could be said for some of the other games. and i've noticed this for a while really.

    but great work, it caught my intrest and kept me reading till the end. well done and great work 😉

  • Dethenger

    My two cents:

    Hyrule's geography isn't really something that can he put together and made to work. It's not like deducing the function of, say, the Shadow Temple, which you can speculate 'til kingdom come.
    The geographies of Hyrule are wildly different with each game; I think that to try and make them work together does more to strain your willing suspension of disbelief than simply accepting that, in order to keep things fresh, the developers had to alter your environment with every installment. Every Hyrule keeps true enough to their preceding version, but it's necessary to add new areas to explore.

  • kitsune

    In TP there had to be an earthquake or something to cause all the gaping holes in the ground.
    but as for the lost woods… its the LOST WOODS. It is everywhere and nowhere!

  • fratermercurious

    Also take into consideration that the Legend of Zelda is just that, a Legend. How many versions of stories, myths and legends do we see in our own culture? We re-tell the archetypal myths that our ancestors told, over and over so much that they become altered with every single telling. From monsters and demi-gods of the Ancients, to Mutants and Super Heroes of today. They are different stories based upon the same archetypal pattern. Even the meanings and morals of Grimm's Fairy Tales have been altered when Disney began animating them.

    Imagine, the story of Hyrule, the Triforce, Link, Zelda, and Ganon told over a thousand times, passed on through the elders to the children, from village to village. It is my opinion that the Legend of Zelda has different-but-similar geography, plot-points, characters, objects, etc. because it is the same story told over-and-over-and-over. Although there are some interesting and entertaining points in this article, especially the point of flawed cartography, I do not think that we need to reconcile the seemingly discombobulated maps.

    I think we just need to tell the Legend.

  • this is a real good theory, i think the landscape has changed over the years and cities and castles have been destroyed over the years, just like thousands of years ago, all land mass in the world were right next to each other, took thousands of years for it to seperate, this is a good article, i never read good articles on here, only thing on here is some nerdy guy or girl on cam answering pointless questions that no one wants to see.

  • the only zelda games connected are minish cap –> oot, then splits the timeline into two, on the left we have majoras mask then zelda wii, on the left we have wind waker and phantom hourglass and spirit tracks. the rest of the zeldas are made for the hell of it

  • Druma

    I think the way you make Hyrule maps and ancient real world maps meet is very interesting.
    Thank you for this point of view. 🙂

  • Elijah Cox (Royal)

    Its impressive how a constantly changing universe still holds the same geographical accuracy as the original, and this article sums it all up

  • Miyamoto mentioned that the length of the crane on the King of Red Lions is shorter, thus decreasing the time spent searching for undersea treasure chests.

  • robb sturtcman

    Please, where were you able to obtain that scan of the clay map from the original Zelda instruction booklet without the overlay of text? I’ve always been obsessed with that sculpture, and have been looking for more info or images after nothing was included in Hyrule Historia. Thanks for your help!

  • Zachary Wood

    In ALTTP Death Mountain (previous location of Kakariko) is filled with monsters. Before ALTTP monsters must have wrecked the old Kakariko so the inhabitants moved Kakariko to what might have been Kokiri Village. (the Lost Woods are close North of ALTTP Kakariko). Gorons could be extinct in the Defeat Timeline when Ganon got the Triforce.
    Remember, in the decline era in the Downfall timeline Hyrule Kingdom was lessened to the Hyrule we know in LoZ and AoL. So Hyrule in LoZ/AoL is in the area of Death Mountain in OoT.