Zelda: Unraveling the Tale and Conclusion of Tears of the Kingdom

The captivating series, The Legend of Zelda, is renowned for its captivating and heroic fantasy narratives, often following the classic hero’s journey structure. However, Tears of the Kingdom takes the franchise’s storytelling to new heights, delving into the deep and mysterious history of Hyrule. This installment is crucial for the series, albeit potentially confusing for those self-proclaimed “Zelda timeline” enthusiasts.

Link’s Adventure, Explained

Tears of the Kingdom unfolds after the events of Breath of the Wild, where Link successfully defeats Calamity Ganon. While the timeframe following the battle remains unclear, some years have undoubtedly elapsed. The story commences as Link and Zelda explore the depths of Hyrule, stumbling upon significant discoveries. Among them is a peculiar red substance called gloom, infecting the very essence of Hyrule.

However, the most remarkable revelation is a collection of murals portraying an event known as the Imprisoning War. This conflict witnessed the ancient people of Hyrule, the lost Zonai race, battling against the Demon King Ganondorf and ultimately sealing him away. Although A Link to the Past also featured an Imprisoning War, Tears of the Kingdom presents its unique narrative. Shortly after this discovery, Link and Zelda stumble upon the imprisoned corpse of Ganondorf, sealed with a tear-shaped stone. Unfortunately, his entrapment is short-lived.

Link and Zelda under Hyrule Castle.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Ganondorf abruptly awakens, compelling Link to wield the mighty Master Sword, capable of defeating the malevolent force. Tragically, Ganondorf employs the power of gloom to obliterate both the sword and Link’s arm. The scene is particularly noteworthy because Ganondorf displays an uncanny awareness of Link and Zelda’s identities, and he mocks someone named Rauru for placing trust in Link. With our heroes defeated, Ganondorf raises Hyrule Castle high into the sky. Zelda falls into the darkness below, vanishing with a flash of yellow light, while a mysterious blue arm rescues Link, taking him to safety on the Sky Islands above.

We then learn that Link’s life was saved by the spirit of Rauru, an ancient Zonai creature who was once the first king of Hyrule. Ganondorf’s assault irreparably damages Link’s arm, prompting Rauru to replace it with a mechanical one through which he can communicate. After completing several shrines, Rauru guides Link to the Temple of Time, where he places his destroyed Master Sword upon a pedestal. To everyone’s surprise, the sword vanishes, only to reappear before Zelda at the same location.

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Before delving further into Zelda’s story, let’s address the straightforward part. Link must defeat Ganondorf by reclaiming his strength and investigating the mysteries plaguing Hyrule. He embarks on a journey across different cities, aiding various races in resolving the issues brought about by the gloom (e.g., purifying the poisoned water in Zora’s domain). Throughout his exploration, Link crosses paths with the ancestors of the individuals who originally sealed Ganondorf: Sidon, Tulin, Riju, and Yunobo. These characters inherit the powers and tear stones of their forebears, vowing to assist Link in the ultimate battle.

Yunobo in Tears of the Kingdom.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

After acquiring these allies, Link gradually becomes aware of the existence of a secret fifth sage. Following an extensive questline, he discovers an underground forge, where he encounters the spirit of Mineru, a Zonai elder and Rauru’s sister. Link utilizes Zonai devices to construct a mechanical suit, enabling Mineru to inhabit it and fight alongside the other sages in their battle against Ganondorf.

With all the pieces falling into place, Link assembles a formidable army, ready to storm Ganondorf’s sky castle. However, one problem remains – the whereabouts of Zelda.

Zelda’s Journey, Unveiled

Prepare yourself for the strange twist in the tale. A doppelganger of Zelda is wreaking havoc in Link’s era, seemingly detached from reality.

Zelda holding the decayed Master Sword in Tears of the Kingdom.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

As it turns out, when Zelda becomes separated from Link, she ventures into the past. In ancient Hyrule, she is taken in by Rauru and his wife, Sonia. It is through this encounter that Zelda acquires the damaged Master Sword, which, curiously, has traveled back in time as well. Determined to return to her era, Zelda searches for a means to do so. Rauru and Sonia suggest she consults Mineru, who reveals the potential method of dragonification – a process achieved by swallowing a tear stone, transforming the individual into an eternal dragon. Zelda could theoretically employ this method, living long enough to return to her time. However, this process is strictly forbidden due to its irreversibility.

While waiting for a solution, Sonia trains Zelda to harness the time-bending abilities she seems to possess. The princess shares the tale of Link, the hero from her timeline, blessed with the power to combat darkness. This revelation proves to be of utmost importance.

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Unbeknownst to Zelda, her journey occurs amidst the Imprisoning War. Ganondorf launches an assault on Hyrule, but Rauru thwarts his efforts. In defeat, the Demon King becomes fixated on Rauru’s tear stone. He cunningly pledges loyalty to Rauru before the Hyrule court, all as part of a scheme to seize Rauru’s power. Ganondorf attempts to deceive Sonia by sending a gloom-creature disguised as Zelda to meet her. Though Sonia sees through the deception, Ganondorf betrays her, fatally stabbing Sonia and stealing her tear stone. This vile act completes his transformation into the Demon King, prompting Rauru to retreat with Zelda as Ganondorf unleashes an army of monsters upon Hyrule.

A sage grabbing Ganon by the throat.
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In the subsequent events, we uncover further details about the original sages. Rauru gathers the five individuals Link encountered, including Zelda, and presents each with their own tear stone. They pledge their loyalty to Rauru, becoming sages sworn to defeat Ganondorf. Zelda informs Rauru that Ganondorf persists in her time, rendering their efforts incapable of truly vanquishing him. Their only hope is to stall Ganondorf, leaving the ultimate task to Link in the future. And that is precisely what transpires – the sages seal Ganondorf, and Rauru sacrifices himself in the process.

The Climactic Finale of Tears of the Kingdom

All these events set the stage for a truly epic final act, in which time itself unravels. Ganondorf is incarcerated, yet Zelda still needs to find a way back to her time with a repaired Master Sword. Remarkably, the blade can be restored, provided it bathes in light for an extended period. Zelda concocts a plan to kill two birds with one stone – quite literally.

Zelda entrusts Mineru’s spirit to her Purah Pad, consigning it to an ancient Zonai who will deliver it to Link in the future. Afterwards, she consumes her secret tear stone and seizes the shattered Master Sword just before transforming into an eternal dragon. With the sword impaled in her head, her radiant power gradually restores the blade over centuries, allowing Zelda to live long enough to return to Link’s timeline. Eventually, Link stumbles upon this revelation and withdraws the now-repaired sword from Zelda’s head.

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Link holds up the Master Sword on top of a dragon.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

With the aid of five sages and a rejuvenated Master Sword, Link ventures to Hyrule Castle to confront Ganondorf. Surprisingly, Ganondorf is not situated within the soaring fortress but lurks in the depths beneath the surface. Link, alongside the sages, plunges into the depths, launching an assault on Ganondorf’s army (those who have yet to acquire all the sages must also confront the bosses at the end of their respective temples). After decimating the opposition, Link and the sages engage in a climactic battle against Ganondorf.

On the brink of defeat, the Demon King executes one final maneuver – he swallows his own tear stone, transforming into a dragon. Fortunately, Link possesses a dragon of his own to aid him. Dragon Zelda swoops in, providing support as Link delivers the final blow, vanquishing Ganondorf. Link then employs the power stored in his arm, inherited from Rauru and Sonia, to restore Zelda to her human form. The two reunite at the Temple of Time, accompanied by the new sages, as Mineru formally entrusts the kingdom of Hyrule to their care.

Thus, the story reaches a satisfying conclusion. While there are no explicit setups for a sequel, Zelda and Link pledge to protect Hyrule once again, now with the aid of the new sages by their side. The path forward for the next Zelda game remains uncertain, whether it will continue this narrative or explore a different aspect of the timeline. Nonetheless, Tears of the Kingdom neatly ties up the loose ends of the saga. Perhaps we will be bestowed with further lore in one final musou spinoff, akin to Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is now available on Nintendo Switch.

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