The Missing Link
Well, it’s 2007 and another new year! The best part of the New Year (or at least a good part of the New Year) is that, once again, I have a blank slate when it comes to writing articles for you. My yearly quota of bad articles (which do happen every now and then) is restored, and I no longer have to sweat it out every time I hit the “Publish” key, hoping that you’re reaction doesn’t put me over said quota! Unfortunately, a blank slate merely provides the opportunity to write a controversial article without any risk involved, and already I cannot resist its sweet temptation. As such, I will forewarn you: You’re probably either going to love this article… or love to hate it.
So yes, you may have realised by now that I am one of those (dreaded) timeline enthusiasts. However, I’m into that sort of thing for a much different motive and inspiration than my colleagues. Having been dedicated enough to write a fan-novel dedicated to the very subject (something I have yet to see properly replicated by anyone else), my perspective is naturally somewhat different from those who pursue it in terms of a strict ordering strategy (nearly, if not absolutely, everyone else). In short, much to my chagrin few people seem to care about the storytelling aspect of a timeline that seems so natural to me, especially when compared to such epic story-based series as Metroid and Castlevania.
Because I look at the timeline from a storyline perspective, I am quite easily swayed by the alluring writing principle of artistic license, resulting in what tends to be regarded as a blatant disregard for “canon.” After all, the very nature of artistic license—the ability to change details on a whim to make things “prettier”—is essentially the exact opposite of canon—believing that a set of facts, all the way down to the letter, is truth beyond the shadow of a doubt. Yet because I allow myself the freedom of artistic diversions from “canon” in order to make the story much more plausible and believable, my resulting theories become—to most other timeliners—this ugly hodgepodge of game details intermixed with off-base assumptions, even if it gets around those paradoxes that are inherent within the series, paradoxes that continue to plague the wisest Zelda historians out there.
And since I have enjoyed the freedoms of coming up with my own timeline, I ardently believe that others should be allowed to do the same, free from the restrictions that my own analysis has added into my timeline. Thus, essential to my beliefs about timeline is the disbelief in the existence of a One True Timeline, the disbelief that Nintendo is orchestrating the entire series solely to give a coherent accounting of Hyrule’s history. And it is this very notion that has made me perhaps the most controversial timeline theorist in the whole community to the point where I personally think the folk over on the Zelda Legends‘ timeline forum were more than happy to see me leave after I got completely frustrated with their ilk, the sort of people who seemed to enjoy telling you what you should believe more than openly discussing the vast array of possibilities out there. (At least so it seemed many years ago; I dare not step in there again out of fear of my life!)
But this is not an article about timelines. This anecdote merely serves as a prelude example to what this article is really about: questions and answers.
Like me, because you are reading this article, you are likely obsessed with the Legend of Zelda series in some way, shape, or form. It doesn’t matter with which aspect of the Zelda series you’re obsessed, whether it’s timeline discussion or fanfiction, fanart or roleplaying, even going overseas to fight in the Shipper Wars; we all are obsessed. To boot, we all have our own individual thoughts and ideas about what the Legend of Zelda is about, at least within our own area of “expertise.” I have a certain attitude about how character X from the series thinks and acts, and with almost complete certainty you feel quite differently about how character X thinks and acts, and for the most part this is a good thing. When you truly think about it, Nintendo has given us precious little information beyond the bare necessities needed to enjoy each Zelda game as a self-contained experience, and dragging anything out of them beyond those basic details—you know, those little factoids about our favourite characters and games that we fans go gaga over—is quite nearly an exercise in futility.
To put it very basically, Nintendo is very good about creating lots of questions for its players while withholding its answers—those secret titbits of info that we fans so desperately crave—quite well.
We’ve seen it so many times before. The questions are nearly infinite in their number. Will Link ever have a romantic interest; will he ever hook up with Zelda? Will we ever get to see Hyrule flood at the end of a game; just what exactly happened to Ganondorf at end of it anyway? Why is Tingle so creepily weird; just how many Malons are there in the series? And by Din, what is the true ordering of the Zelda titles!? I’m sure you could easily expand this list to the point where my poor server here would run out of hard disk space. (Thank goodness I don’t do a Whose Blog? every day of the year!) Questions… questions… always more questions, and we as gamers try to read between the lines of dialogue and the scan-lines of artistry on our TV screens to find the answers.
But Nintendo is a harsh mistress; they keep secrets like it’s nobody’s business. We can’t say for certain at the end of Wind Waker whether Ganondorf, trapped in stone at the bottom of the sea, is actually alive or dead. We can’t devise a true characterisation for Princess Zelda in Ocarina of Time because we don’t know the intotation with which she says her lines. We can’t figure out the timeline because Nintendo keeps making games that take place “100 years after Ocarina of Time.” Nintendo refuses to give us all the answers.
And as people one by one complete Twilight Princess, the grumbling about how Nintendo is continuing their trend of not filling in all the little blanks (and indeed, this time doing so in spades!) keeps rising and rising. Wherever I turn, whether it’s IM, LiveJournal, or E-mail, people almost without fail reference this gripe in their analysis of the game. Even I, to some degree, was thinking it as well… but soon thereafter I got to thinking about it, and I posed myself a question, a question that I wish to pose to all of you as well.
Is it truly such a horrible thing that Nintendo does not answer all our questions?
After some thought, I realised that the question has a very easy answer. (Yes, here’s the part that some of you are absolutely going to hate.)
Within reason, I believe that the more things left open in the game, the more questions without answers a game presents, the better that game is for the community.
I believe this is the right answer for one reason and one reason simply: The less that we know for certain, the more creative the community will be when it comes to finding the answers. Believe it or not, Ocarina of Time is proof in the pudding of that. If you wade through the vast amount of fanfiction written in that setting (I don’t recommend it personally; murky waters those are!), you’ll find thousands of interpretations of the ending, hundreds of possible alternate futures where authors contemplate different choices characters could have made, and many, many more stories where two characters ultimately hook up with one another. None of these stories are canon, of course, yet most of them are based heavily upon the details and nuances found within canon. In fact, depending upon how you interpret certain scenes and character reactions, these fanfictions are, in some cases, valid possibilities for what could have happened if.
I myself have done several character studies and scene studies within the Zelda series. Many of which have taken place here directly on the ‘Blog (such as ye olde famouse Ikana article), but I also have written fanfiction in hope of trying to understand just exactly what happened in a given scene in the game, just exactly what characters were thinking as they said what they said and did what they did. For instance, my first such study, Secret of the Shadow, was an attempt to figure out exactly who Sheik was deep down, exactly what he(/she) was thinking when he(/she) came to meet the Hero of Time for the first time in the Temple of Time. My most recent one, Two Sides of the Same Coin [GORON-SIZED SPOILERS!], is a scene study of… well… a rather spoilerific scene within Twilight Princess. It is here within these literary works, these explorations into the plot of the game, where I’ve come up with solutions that, for me, answers all the questions that I had about certain aspects of the story. Yet at the same time, people are free to come up with their own ideas different than mine… and they are still in the right. And if our Zelda community is not a place where we exchange ideas that we’ve had about our “areas of expertise,” then I don’t know why the community actually exists. (Okay, there’s news about the newest Zelda, but with as tight-lipped as Nintendo is, it’d be a pretty boring place most of the time if that’s all we had!)
I think that the exchange of ideas, the comparing and contrasting of perspectives about the Zelda games is not only healthy for the community but essential to the community. I ardently believe that, were Nintendo to reveal everything, for them to tell you what happened to Link five and ten years after each game, for them to reveal their Master Timeline and rigidly adhere to it, it would be the end of the community as we know it. There wouldn’t be questions in our minds, things to talk about… and ZeldaBlog would have nothing more to talk about. Even worse, I don’t want Nintendo answering the questions for me because they might answer it in a way that breaks my suspension of disbelief. I still shake my head at Final Fantasy VIII because, darn it, Squall belonged with Quistis, not Rinoa… but I had no choice in that. I had to accept it, even though it didn’t make sense to me. I don’t want Nintendo to do the same with Zelda.
I’m content not knowing what the timeline is. I’m content not knowing who Link is going to marry each time. I’m content not knowing every little trifle in the Zelda series. I simply figure that that just creates more fanfiction plot bunnies for me to explore on my own.Follow This Entry | Read Other Posts by The Missing Link