The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom lore, explained – Demise Cycle, Twili theories, and more

The deep lore dive you’ve been looking for.

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Hype for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is quickly approaching critical mass, to the point where all Nintendo needs to do is show a quick trailer with a bit of new footage the fandom to be whipped into a frenzy. However, despite being announced at E3 2019 and getting several trailers for the Breath of the Wild sequel, we don’t actually have many plot details for the game. However, fans will always fill the gap in their knowledge with theories and speculations. Here are some of the most compelling Tears of the Kingdom fan theories and the Legend of Zelda lore that backs them up.

The best Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom theories and the lore around them

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The Legend of Zelda timeline had been a confusing mess for years until the Hyrule Historia was released in 2011. It clearly showed how every mainline game in the series fit into a branching timeline structure, starting with Skyward Sword. However, that sourcebook was published in 2011, several years before Breath of the Wild, and Nintendo has never confirmed which of the three timelines Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom fit into.

Will Tears of the Kingdom be the end of the Demise Cycle?

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Skyward Sword is Link’s first adventure, and it sets up what is called the Demise Cycle. The main antagonist of Skyward Sword is Demise, a being of pure malice and hatred that threatened to lay waste to the land. Link and Zelda managed to seal him away inside the newly created Master Sword, but his final breath issued a curse upon them both. That his hatred will be reborn into the world to destroy them over and over again.

The reincarnation of that hatred is Ganondorf, who makes his first appearance in Ocarina of Time. While Breath of the Wild focused on Link overcoming Calamity Ganon, it made very little reference to his human form, which usually goes by the name Ganondorf to differentiate the two. Many fans assume that the desiccated body featured in the Tears of the Kingdom trailers is Ganondorf, but others suspect it could be Demise himself.

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This theory is backed up by the state of the Master Sword in the trailers. It is decayed and darkened as it has never been before. This is the “Sword that Seals the Darkness” and was created specifically to contain Demise should he return. The fact that it has been so badly damaged suggests that the voice speaking over the February 2023 trailer for Tears of the Kingdom – which sounds suspiciously like Critical Role’s Matt Mercer – and the final enemy of the game will be Demise himself, placing a bookend on the Demise Cycle for good.

Which timeline does Tears of the Kingdom take place in?

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The Hyrule Historia lays out three different timelines that contain all the Legend of Zelda games. They are the Adult Timeline, the Child Timeline, and the Fallen Hero Timeline. However, Nintendo has been typically tight-lipped on which timeline Breath of the Wild and its direct sequel take place in. In fact, Breath of the Wild contains elements of all three timelines, leading to even further confusion.

The Rito are only ever mentioned in the Adult Timeline, including Wind Waker and its sequels, while Lionels only appear in the Fallen Hero Timeline such as the original The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past. Finally, locations such as Eldin Bridge and Castle Town are featured heavily in Twilight Princess, so which timeline does Tears of the Kingdom take place in?

The most popular theory is that it takes place in all three, at a point where the branching timelines have remerged together following the events of some future game in the Zelda franchise. Others speculate that Tears of the Kingdom will take place in the far future of the Fallen Hero timeline, with the similarities to other games purely coincidence. However, looking at the newest trailers, fans have begun to suspect that Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom both take place in the Child Timeline because of the strange markings on the Master Sword, which remind people of the 

Who are the Twili and will they make an appearance in Tears of the Kingdom?

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Twilight Princess introduced players to the Twili, who are a shadowy race that live in a land called the Twilight Realm. Much of the Zelda franchise has dealt with the battle between light and darkness, so it makes sense that some people would live on the border where those two forces meet. Midna, the impish character who accompanies Link, is the titular princess, but we’ve not heard anything from her since she destroyed the bridge between the Twilight Realm and Hyrule.

However, fans have noted that the markings that have appeared on the Master Sword bear a striking resemblance to the Twili markings on Midna’s body. You can see a direct comparison here, but it also holds up when you notice the object on Link’s hip in the artwork released for the game in September looks very much like the Vessel of Light Link used in Twilight Princess. Reddit user tarantulamoose offers up this excellent comparison between the two.

That object was used to collect “Tears of Light” that banished the Twilight from an area. While these probably aren’t the “tears” referred to in the game’s title, it does lead credence to the theory that the Twili will return in some form, even if Midna doesn’t make a direct appearance.

Of course, all of this is speculation until the game finally launches on May 12, but nothing will stop fans from trying to guess what will happen next.