We are approaching the first anniversary of the release of Hyrule Historia, the document that shook Zelda theorizing to its core. So I thought it would be a good time to look back on how it has changed the theorizing landscape and spawned so many misspellings of the word “canon”.
The most talked-about feature of the Historia is, of course, the timeline. The order the Zelda games took place in had been the subject of active discussion within the theorizing community for years, and in that time theorists had established two important facts: 1.) there was a “split” in the timeline during the events of Ocarina of Time, and 2.) they disagreed with each other about practically everything else, and sometimes about #1, too.
For Nintendo had been very sparing when it came to information on the timeline. The only people allowed to see it were top Zelda development team members, most notably Shigeru Miyamoto. In order to keep the timeline safe, Miyamoto put it in a mayonnaise jar and hid it in one of his kitchen cabinets, behind a can of squid eyes. But in 2011, the 25th anniversary of the first Zelda game, Nintendo decided the world was finally ready for the timeline to be revealed, by which I mean they figured it would be a good promotional gimmick.
Well. This started the kind of controversy normally associated with the Protestant Reformation. Not only was the theorizing community sharply divided between supporters and detractors of the release, the level of interest in theorizing went through the roof. For a brief time, the theorizing section of the Zelda Universe forums was the most active section of the board, which is like an issue of the Journal of the Fisheries Research Board becoming a New York Times bestseller. Even some Serious Discussion regulars took time out of their busy schedule of criticizing the United States government to post their feelings.
To understand why the Historia got this kind of reaction, you need to know something about the theorizing community. Before the release of Hyrule Historia, most theories were dedicated to elucidating the timeline. Granted, there were some other types, such as:
- Theories about what the heck is up with Majora
- Really elaborate theories with titles like Gender Roles in the Kokiri Forest: A Socioeconomic Analysis (“The girl on the roof of the shop signifies that the modern image of a woman’s place in society is based entirely on business and commercial interests…”)
- Complete nonsense
But most of the theories were about the timeline. Posters were always sure to read these timelines carefully, weigh the evidence presented, and give constructive, unbiased opinions about them.
Ha ha! Just kidding. Theorists usually reacted to other theorists’ timelines based on how they agreed with their own pet theories (“The problem with your timeline is that it doesn’t take into account how Majora’s Mask took place on the planet Splorgung during the war between the…”) There was nothing more horrifying to them than the prospect of someone else’s theory being right.
Hyrule Historia put an end to all that by revealing, once and for all, the true order of the Zelda games (at least until the next promotional book), the history of the struggle for the Triforce, and whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Once it was translated (which took some time, since written Japanese consists of completely random markings that look like webs built by drugged spiders), everyone’s personal theories were put out of commission, and the main topic of theorizing was closed for the foreseeable future.
But there was a silver lining. Historia allowed the focus to shift to whole new areas of theorizing, including:
- Implausible theories about what happened to Demise after Skyward Sword. Some say Demise became Majora, some say Malladus. It’s only a matter of time before someone says that Demise was reincarnated as Saria, or maybe the guy at the fishing hole.
- Discussions featuring the aforementioned mutant spellings of the word “canon”, and why Historia isn’t it.
- Complete nonsense of an entirely different type.
So, despite the fears of some Zelda fans, theorizing is alive and well after the release of Hyrule Historia. We’ll probably never get rid of it.