A fierce war raged in Hyrule. Its origins have been lost over time, but from its midst came Hyrule's most legendary hero.
In a desperate attempt to escape the fires of war, a Hylian woman fled from Hyrule castle with her young son. Mortally wounded, the woman found herself in the midst of the Kokiri Forest - an enchanted wood, home to all manners of fairies and forest sprites. Wishing only to save the life of her child, the woman searched for a safe place to hide him. Finally dragging herself to a clearing, she found herself beneath the canopy of the largest tree she had ever seen. Her vision was hazy, but she could almost make out the shape of a face on the tree's monstrous trunk. Before collapsing, she begged that her son be watched over. Faries gathered around the child and fluttered curiously, while the great tree could almost be heard to sigh.The great war eventually subsided, and the King re-unified the country. The boy was raised in the forest as a Kokiri, and never told of his Hylian descent. He was given the name "Link".
Ganon of the Enchanted Thieves
The Gerudo were a peculiar people. Prophecy dictated that a single Gerudo male would be born every 100 years, and that this child would be proclaimed king of the entire race. And by way of this very prophecy, the current king was selected. His name was Ganondorf Dragmire, and he was known by his followers as "Mandrag Ganon", Ganon of the Enchanted Thieves.
Having lived in the harsh and unforgiving desert wasteland for his entire life, Ganondorf became envious of the green pastures and vast forests of Hyrule. As time passed, this yearning only intensified. The wind that coursed through the heart of Hyrule brought with it fertility and happiness, while the scathing wind in Ganondorf's homeland carried only death. Finally, he made a decision. In order to both possess and stifle Hyrule's beauty, he would conquer the entire nation by force.
But Ganondorf was no fool. A full-on siege of Hyrule would lead only to failure, so a more strategic plan was in order. Ganondorf began by traveling to Hyrule Castle and pledging his allegiance to the King. He hoped to form a relationship of confidence with the King, and through it learn of Hyrule's many secrets. During one of his trips to the castle, Ganondorf had noticed a peculiar plaque within the Temple of Time. The inscription read, "Ye who owns 3 Spiritual Stones stand with the Ocarina of Time and play the Song of Time." He asked one of the King's advisors about the nature of the building, and was shocked to find that the temple held the entrance to the legendary Sacred Realm, home to the almighty Triforce. Ganondorf's soul filled with evil delight as he realized the kind of power he would be able to possess should he manage to claim the Triforce. Some further digging yielded the location of the three Spiritual Stones, and Ganondorf set out on his mighty steed to claim them.
Ganondorf's first stop was Goron City, high atop the peak of Death Mountain. The mighty Darunia, big boss of the Gorons, was supposedly in possession of one of the Spiritual Stones. Ganondorf met with Darunia and demanded the stone, but was met with staunch refusal. In an attempt to "encourage" the Goron boss, Ganondorf used his magic to infest the Dodongo's Cavern with an excessive amount of Dodongos, a species of dangerous and violent lizards. This made it very difficult for the Gorons to mine the cavern for rocks, which were a staple of their diets. Ganondorf returned to Darunia and again demanded the stone, but Darunia would not give in to his threats. In a final act of anger, Ganondorf again used his magic and sealed the entrance to the Dodongo's Cavern with a mighty boulder. With the Gorons completely cut off from their food supply, he planned on returning later and demanding the Spiritual Stone when the Gorons were most desperate.
Ganondorf's next stop was Zora's Domain, nestled at the end of Zora's River. He met with King Zora, ruler of the Zora people, and inquired about the Spiritual Stone that the Zora people were supposed to possess. When the King expressed ignorance, Ganondorf grew increasingly frustrated. He went to the Zora's patron water god, Jabu Jabu, and infected him with a violent parasite. It was his hope that this parasite would spread itself throughout the giant fish's body, and force the Zora to hand over the Spiritual Stone in order to save their precious deity.
Lastly, Ganondorf found himself in the Kokiri Forest. The Deku Tree was supposed to be in possession of one of the Spiritual Stones, but he was being just as difficult as Darunia and King Zora. Ganondorf infected the Deku Tree with a spider-like parasite, much like he did to Jabu Jabu, and left the forest in a huff. Now all he could do was wait for the guardians of the Spiritual Stones to crack under the stress.
A Boy of Destiny
Link was having nightmares. He dreamt of a girl fleeing a castle on horseback, and of a towering evil man. The dreams were reoccurring, and seemed prophetic. To make matters worse, the Great Deku Tree was having them as well. Link was summoned to the Deku Tree by Navi the fairy, and was told that the great tree had been cursed. Link went inside, and was shocked to see all manners of beast thriving within the Deku Tree's body. Link trekked through the many caverns and finally eliminated the parasite that ailed the Deku Tree, but it was too late. With his dying words, the Deku Tree entrusted Link with the Kokiri's Emerald - the Spiritual Stone of the forest. He told Link of the evil man who had attempted to take the stone from him, and who had cursed him out of spite. Link's destiny was to find the other two stones and prevent this evil man from entering the Sacred Realm. The Deku Tree instructed Link to go to Hyrule Castle to find the princess, and passed away.
After bidding farewell to his friends in the forest, Link set out for Hyrule Castle. Upon reaching the vast Hyrule Field, Link encountered the reincarnated sage Kaepora Gaebora for the first time. Confident in the boy's ability to enter the Sacred Realm, the owl helped guide Link to the castle. After skillfully penetrating the castle defenses, he found himself face to face with Princess Zelda - descendant of the princess who was put into an eternal sleep so long ago. Zelda was pleased to see Link, as she had been having dreams that foretold of his arrival. She led him to a castle window, and the two of them watched as Ganondorf met with the King. Zelda had a very bad feeling about Ganondorf, so she decided to help Link as much as possible in his quest. She told him of the legends surrounding the Temple of Time, and gave him a letter that would grant him access to Death Mountain.
Before leaving the castle, Link met Zelda's nursemaid, Impa. Impa was the last of a secret society known as the Shiekah, who's sole purpose was the protection of the royal family. The Sheikah had founded Kakiriko Villiage, and had always served the royal family as attendants. Impa taught Link the song of the royal family, which Link played on an Ocarina that he had received from one of his best Kokiri friends, Saria. Impa led Link back to Hyrule Field, and he set out for Death Mountain.
Link found Goron City in dire straits. The Gorons were all starving because of both the giant rock blocking the entrance to their cavern, and the cavern's infestation by Dodongos. After meeting with Darunia and cheering him up with a tune that Saria had taught him back in the forest, Link set out to do something about the Gorons' plight. Darunia had promised that if Link were able to open up the cavern and exterminate the Dodongos, he would give him the Gorons' most precious stone. Link used the native bomb plants to blast the boulder out of the way, and entered the cavern. The cavern was full of dangerous beasts and treacherous pools of lava, but Link managed to eliminate any threat with his trusty sword and a newly acquired cache of bombs. Link emerged from the cavern triumphantly, and Darunia bestowed upon him the Goron's Ruby, the second of the three Spiritual Stones.
Link's next stop was Zora's Domain. He found a curious bottle with a note in it, which under closer examination turned out to be a cry for help from Princess Ruto, daughter of King Zora. Apparently Jabu Jabu, under the influence of Ganondorf's vile parasite, had swallowed the princess. Link showed the note to King Zora, who immediately dispatched Link to go rescue to the princess. Link entered the giant water god, and was accosted by a variety of different beasts spawned by the parasite. He discovered the princess deep within the giant fish, and was suprised to see that she wasn't in any form of distress. She apparently went inside of Jabu Jabu routinely, but only sent the cry for help because she had lost her precious stone. Link decided to help her in her search, and carried her throughout the various caverns until they found the stone, which turned out to be the Zora's Sapphire - the third and final Spiritual Stone. After locating and destroying the parasite that ailed Jabu Jabu, Link and Ruto returned safely to Zora's Domain. Ruto agreed to give Link her precious stone, but it carried with it a heavy price; the Zora's Sapphire was the Zora equivalent of an engagement ring.
With all three Spiritual Stones in hand, Link returned to Hyrule Castle. Upon approaching the gate, though, he saw Impa and Zelda fleeing on horseback. Zelda looked back and threw something wildly in Link's direction before disappearing into the distance. Before Link could find what she had thrown, he found himself face to face with the evil man from his dreams. Ganondorf Dragmire sat atop a black and sinister Gerudo stallion, cursing the princess as she fled. He questioned Link as to her destination, but was met only with a drawn sword. Laughing smugly, Ganondorf blew Link to the ground with a magical blast and rode off. Shaken, but still determined, Link looked for the item which Zelda had thrown. Diving down into the moat, he discovered it - the Ocarina of Time! Zelda contacted Link telepathically, and taught him the song that would grant him entrance to the Temple of Time. Link, now in possession of all the keys necessary to enter the temple, headed straight for Hyrule Castle Town.
Inside of the temple, an alter sat before the impenetrable Door of Time. Link placed the Spiritual Stones on the alter, and played the Ocarina. The Triforce symbol emblazoned above the door started to glow radiantly, and the doors parted. Inside was the pedestal that held the Master Sword. Link slowly walked up to the sword, gripped the hilt firmly, and pulled it from the rock in which it was planted. Bathed in blue light, Link was surprised to hear a familiar voice. It was the cackling of Ganondorf, who had followed Link to the temple. Now, with the door to the Sacred Realm unlocked, there was nothing to stop Ganondorf from entering and seizing the Triforce. Ganondorf's minions all scrambled frantically in an attempt to claim the Triforce first, but in a bloody battle he vanquished them all. Stepping over their corpses, he entered the Sacred Realm to claim his prize. Grasping the artifact with his blood-stained hands, a voice whispered inside his head, "If thou has a strong desire or dream, wish for it..." Ganondorf smiled maniacally, and his roaring laughter echoed across time and space.
The Imprisoning War
Link groggily opened his eyes. He could barely make out his surroundings, and saw only swirling colors and beams of light. When he finally managed to focus, he found himself face to face with an elderly man. The man introduced himself as Rauru, the Ancient Sage. The two of them were in the Chamber of Sages, deep within the Temple of Light in the heart of the Sacred Realm. As Rauru explained, seven years had passed since Link had pulled the Master Sword. When he had originally opened the Door of Time, Link was too young to fight off Ganondorf for the Triforce. As such, Rauru had kept his soul in suspended animation until his body had grown sufficiently. During those 7 years, Ganondorf had amassed his power in the Sacred Realm and unleashed it upon Hyrule. Hyrule Castle itself had been warped into an evil palace, and the surrounding town had been decimated.
However, Ganon did not have the power that he had desired. Upon attempting to claim the Triforce, it had split - much like it did for the prince in days past. Ganondorf gained possession of the Triforce of Power, while the Triforces of Courage and Wisdom proceeded to seek out their most compatible hosts. The Triforce mark on Link's hand indicated that he had been chosen as the bearer of the Triforce of Courage. Surely Ganondorf would seek out the remaining pieces, so Rauru told Link of his new mission. The Chamber of Sages still contained the vast powers that the Ancient Sages had left behind. In order to unleash and utilize that power, Link would have to find and awaken those who were destined to inherit the sages' powers. With the combined powers of the sages, Link would be able to fulfill his destiny as the Hero of Time, and seal Ganondorf within the Sacred Realm forever. Rauru, the first of the seven sages, bestowed his power upon Link and sent him back to Hyrule to locate and awaken the remaining six.
A flash of blue light, and Link found himself back in the Temple of Time. He stepped down from the Master Sword's pedestal, feeling out his new body, and suddenly sensed a presence behind him. Link drew his sword and whipped around, and was surprised to see a shrouded and ninja-like figure standing before him. This mysterious figure introduced himself as Sheik, and claimed to be the last of the Sheikah - the secretive sect that once protected the Hylian royal family. He gave Link some cryptic advice regarding the location of the Sages, and disappeared into the darkness. Sheik would return to assist Link several times during his quest, each time providing information pertaining to a particular Sage. Puzzled, yet determined, Link set out for Kakiriko Villiage - the first location Sheik had told him to visit.
Link discovered a secret passageway beneath a headstone in the Kakiriko graveyard, and raced the ghost of the former gravekeeper to acquire the hookshot - the very tool that Sheik had hoped Link would find. With the hookshot in hand, Link followed Sheik's words and traveled to the Sacred Forest Meadow, deep within the Lost Woods. He was then shocked to hear a telepathic message from his childhood friend, Saria. She was trapped deep within the Forest Temple, which had been overrun by monsters. Link used his newly acquired hookshot to enter the temple, and finally faced off against a phantom doppelganger of Ganondorf himself. After the fight, Link was surprised to find himself back in the Chamber of Sages, along with Saria. She had been awakened as the second Sage, and added her newfound power to his.
But Link wondered, why had he grown over the last seven years, while Saria had remained exactly the same? Saria sent Link back to Hyrule, and he found himself next to the empty shell that had once been the Deku Tree. Much to his suprise, however, a young sapling burst from the ground and introduced itself as the Deku Sprout. Since Link had rid the Forest Temple of evil, the Deku Sprout was free to grow and thrive, and one day become the new Deku Tree. The Deku Sprout also shared with Link the reason why he had aged, while his Kokiri friends had not. Link was taken aback when he learned that he had been of Hylian descent all along, and was not subject to the same rules as the species he had believed himself to be a part of. The Deku Sprout reaffirmed Link's mission, and again sent him out into Hyrule Field.
Link then set his sights on Death Mountain, which had developed a fiery and ominous ring about its peak. He discovered that Goron City was all but deserted, and that the Gorons had all been captured and imprisoned in the Fire Temple by an ancient dragon named Volvagia. Link ventured into the temple to rescue them, and again encountered Darunia, the Goron cheifton. Darunia entrusted the fate of his Goron people to Link, who traveled through the temple and released them all from their cages. He finally found himself facing off against Volvagia itself, and bested it with the Gorons' legendary Megaton Hammer. With the Gorons free and the mountain safe from danger, Darunia was awakened as the third Sage.
Link then traveled to Zora's Domain, but was shocked to find that it was entirely frozen. King Zora was encased in a shell of red ice, and Jabu Jabu had deserted his frozen chamber. Link procured some blue fire from a cavern in Jabu Jabu's chamber, and used it to free King Zora from his icy shell. The King sent Link to the Water Temple at the bottom of Lake Hylia, which had been occupied by an evil beast responsible for freezing Zora's Domain. Link entered the temple, and was greeted by none other than Princess Ruto. The two of them traveled seperately throughout the sunken temple, until Link discovered the lair of the beast that had frozen Zora's Domain. After giving it a sound thrashing, Lake Hylia refilled with water and Zora's Domain began to thaw. Princess Ruto was awakened as the fourth sage, and regrettably had to call off her engagement with Link.
Link made his way back to Kakiriko Villiage, but was shocked to find it in flames. Sheik was standing amidst the chaos, his eyes fixed on the well in the center of the town. There was a huge crash, and an evil force burst forth from the well. It tossed Sheik aside like a rag doll, and knocked Link unconscious. When he awoke, Sheik explained that the force that had burst from the well was an evil spirit that Impa had sealed away long ago. The spirit had taken up residence in the Shadow Temple, and Impa had followed in an attempt to once again seal it away. In order for Link to follow, however, he needed an item that he could only get as a child.
Sheik explained to Link that if he were to place the Master Sword back in the pedestal in the Temple of Time, he could use the magic of the sword and the Chamber of Sages to travel spiritually back in time, and repossess his young body. Link did just that, and found himself back in the Hyrule of his youth. He entered the Kakiriko well, and grabbed the Lens of Truth - a magical item that would allow him to safely traverse the Shadow Temple. He returned to the Temple of Time and again pulled the Master Sword, rocketing himself back to his adult body in the future. Link entered the Shadow Temple and destroyed the evil spirit once and for all, and in the process awakened Impa as the fifth sage.
Link finally journeyed to the Gerudo Valley, entrance to the Haunted Wasteland. He was captured by the Gerudo guards at the outpost, but won their respect after managing both to escape, and to rescue four carpenters that had been imprisoned within the Gerudo Fortress. The Gerudo women made Link an honorary member of their tribe, and led him to the desert entrance. Link used the Lens of Truth to make his way through the Haunted Wasteland, and eventually found himself at the Desert Collosus - a gigantic female statue built around the Spirit Temple. However, he could not progress very far into the temple at his current size. Only by again traveling into the past could he fit through one of the small corridors within the temple.
Upon returning as a child, however, he found the passageway blocked off by Nabooru - a Gerudo general. As it turns out, Nabooru had rebelled against Ganondorf's evil plots, and wanted Link to retrieve a certain item for her in the temple. Since it was on his way anyways, Link agreed to help her. He finally found the Silver Gaundlets, but was surprised to see Nabooru being sucked into a magical vortex by two Gerudo witches. There was nothing Link could do for her, so he returned to the future and used the Silver Gaundlets to progress even further into the temple. At the end of the temple, Link faced off against a formidable Iron Knuckle that turned out to be Nabooru under the witches' spell. After freeing her from both the armor and the spell, Link confronted the two witches, Koume and Kotake, in a decisive final battle. Even after they had fused together into the dread witch Twinrova, they were no match for Link. He returned to Nabooru triumphantly, and awakened her as the sixth sage.
Link then received a telepathic message from Rauru, who pointed him back towards the Temple of Time. When Link arrived, Sheik was waiting for him. In a dramatic turn of events, Sheik revealed that he was actually Princess Zelda in disguise. Now in her true form, Zelda told Link of how she and Impa had fled from Hyrule castle seven years ago to escape Ganondorf's clutches. Impa had since trained Zelda in the ways of the Sheikah, so that she could be prepared to guide the fabled Hero of Time when he appeared. Zelda told Link of how Ganondorf had inadvertently split the Triforce, and revealed that she had been chosen as the host for the Triforce of Wisdom, and that she was the seventh and final sage. She then bestowed upon Link the mighty Light Arrows, which he could use to strike down the evil king.
But Ganondorf was listening. His voice boomed through the Temple of Time, and a magical barrier imprisoned Princess Zelda and carried her away. Ganondorf issued a challenge to Link - if he wanted to save his precious princess, he would have to traverse Ganondorf's warped castle and get her himself. Determined to defeat Ganondorf and rescue the princess, Link rushed out of the Temple of Time and made his way to Ganondorf's castle. Situated on a floating boulder over a pool of lava, the black castle stretched into the sky. Rauru contacted Link, and combined his power with the five other sages to create a magical bridge to the castle's entrance. Link entered the castle, and found the stairwell to the top blocked off by a magical seal. Link traveled through the castle and located the sources of the seal - destroying them with his Light Arrows. He climbed the seemingly endless flights of stairs to the castle's summit, besting mightier and mightier foes as he ascended. Finally at the peak, Link threw open the final door and entered Ganondorf's chamber.
The Final Confrontation
Ganondorf sat at the far edge of the chamber, playing a massive organ. Princess Zelda was floating in the air, still encased in a magical shield. Ganondorf stopped playing abruptly, flung himself around, and challenged Link for his piece of the Triforce. He spun up into the air and the battle began. Link dodged numerous blasts of evil energy while desperately maneuvering around the collapsing floor. He eventually managed to use the Master Sword to deflect a ball of energy back at the Evil King, stunning him just long enough to penetrate his defenses with a Light Arrow. Ganondorf fell to the ground, and Link leapt forward and delivered the final blow. Ganondorf gasped with the prospect of defeat and, in a rage, used the last ounce of his power to tear the entire room to pieces. Now completely exhausted, Ganondorf collapsed under the darkened sky.
...but he had made sure to leave a legacy. The entire castle began to shake and collapse upon itself as a result of Ganondorf's last display of power. Link and Zelda fled through the crumbling structure and escaped just before the entire castle fell to the ground. Link went over to Zelda to make sure she was alright, but a suspicious noise turned his attention back to the wreckage. Much to Link's surprise, Ganondorf burst out of the rubble and hovered in the air, glowing with evil energies. The Triforce of Power began to resonate with Ganondorf's intense anger, and a terrible transformation began to take place. Ganondorf's body doubled, and then tripled in size. His legs became hoofish, horns sprouted from his head, and his face turned into that of a demonic swine. Crashing to the ground, the horrible abomination rose to its legs and pulled two enormous blades from its body. The Triforce of Power had given life to Ganondorf's hatred and fury, and transformed him into a mighty beast known only as Ganon.
Link was too shocked to defend against Ganon's initial attack, and the monster knocked the Master Sword from the hero's hands. A ring of fire encircled the two foes, cutting Link off from his weapon. As Ganon lumbered towards him, Link desperately tried to think of a way to defeat this new enemy. None of his weapons could pierce Ganon's tough hide, but the beast's tail seemed to be vulnerable. Link stunned Ganon with the Light Arrows, quickly dashed behind him, and struck his tail with the Megaton Hammer. Ganon reeled in pain. Now sure of what he had to do, Link continued to target Ganon's tail, until the monster finally collapsed and released the ring of fire. Link ran to the Master Sword, and returned with it just as Ganon began to regain his composure. Link and Ganon continued to duel as lightning crashed in the sky, neither giving the other any respite. Link finally seemed to gain the upper hand, and Zelda used her power to hold Ganon in place. Looking straight into the face of the horrible beast, Link used the Master Sword and struck him down. Ganon rose wildly into the air, bellowing in pain and defeat. At that instant, the sages acted. They used their newfound powers to seal Ganon in the Sacred Realm, and forever isolate him from the land of Hyrule. As he spiraled down into the void, Ganondorf cursed Link and Zelda - swearing vengeance on their descendents.
Their ordeal finally over, Link and Zelda took a moment for a private discussion. Zelda expressed extreme regret for having gotten Link so involved in a situation that she had inadvertently been responsible for. He had lost seven years of his life, and was nothing more than an innocent child in an adult's body. Zelda, in an attempt to repay Link for his courage and vigor, combined her power as a sage with that of the Ocarina of Time. She would send Link back to the past - a past where he would be able to grow up like a normal boy and lead a normal life. Before Link had pulled the Master Sword, before Ganondorf had stolen the Triforce, before Link and Zelda had even met. Zelda played the Ocarina, and Link was again bathed in blue light. Zelda bid Link a final farewell, and he rose into the sky.
The inhabitants of Hyrule all rejoiced at the news of Ganondorf's defeat. A huge celebration was held at Lon Lon Ranch, attended by all manner of race and beast. The sages watched from the peak of Death Mountain, relieved that the ordeal was over, but still aware that they were responsible for maintaining the seal on the Sacred Realm. The Master Sword had returned to the Temple of Time when the seal had been placed, further ensuring that no evil power would ever be able to escape from the Sacred Realm. Zelda organized the rebuilding of Hyrule Castle, with plans to construct it on the very site of the Temple of Time - protecting the Master Sword now that the Door of Time had been opened. Hyrule was well on its way to regaining its lost prosperity.
And what of the Triforce? Zelda, still in possession of the Triforce of Wisdom, kept it as the most precious treasure of the Hylian royal family. It was passed down through her bloodline for generations, so that it could be protected if evil forces were to ever set their eyes on it. When Link was sent back to reclaim his youth, the Triforce of Courage had remained in Hyrule. The Royal Family kept it for a time, but then decided to break it into 8 shards and scatter it throughout the land. Charts were made that told of the locations of the shards, but only one with great courage could locate the charts and claim the Triforce. As for the Triforce of Power, it was sent with Ganondorf to the Sacred Realm, and forever sealed away.
When the blue light finally faded, Link found himself in the Temple of Time. The Master Sword stood before him in its pedestal, shimmering in a beam of sunlight. Navi, Link's fairy companion, flew up into the light and returned to her life in the Kokiri forest. Link turned, glad to finally be home, and left the temple.
A young Princess Zelda peered through a window in the Hyrule Castle courtyard, curious about her father's meeting with a suspicious man. She heard a noise behind her, and was shocked to see a boy dressed all in green. Link smiled, and told Zelda of all that he knew. This Hyrule would never be tainted by Ganondorf's evil rule.
Chapter 2 FAQ
Q: Why are there so many inconsistencies between the accounts of the Imprisoning War told in Ocarina of Time and Link to the Past?
A: Well the most logical reason is just that Nintendo wanted to take the storyline in a more interesting direction, by having Link play a main role in the Imprisoning War, so they rewrote history a bit. Same excuse for the different accounts of the Master Sword's creation, and the wise men / sages inconsistency. In the GBA re-release of Link to the Past, they actually change "wise men" to "sages" in the game intro, so it's clear that Nintendo just wanted to make things more interesting.
If you want an explanation that's closer to the game universe, though, you need only realize that each game in this series is being told as a "legend". Legends can distort and change over time, as individual authors take their own liberties with the source material. So the account told in Link to the Past is probably just a later and more distorted retelling of what actually happened in Ocarina of Time. This logic can actually be applied to many of the little wrinkles in the continuity of the series, in the sense that parts of the legend simply haven't been told yet, and that the existing parts are relying on their classification as "legend" to get away with not being exact.
Q: Would you kindly explain all this time travel mumbo jumbo?
A: I'd be happy to. Get comfortable, it'll take a while.
It's first important to note that there are two very different time travel methods being used in this chapter. One, the type where Link manipulates the Master Sword in the Temple of Time, and two, the type where Zelda uses the Ocarina of Time at the very end. You should also keep in mind that there's a liberal dose of "magic" being used in all this time travel, so you can't really try and form a theory based on conventional time travel axioms. You can do anything at all if you've got magic on your side.
Now then, the first type of time travel. When Link pulls the Master Sword from its pedestal for the very first time, he's pulled into the Chamber of the Sages. Rauru then puts him into a variety of spiritual sleep, where Link's spirit lies dormant and his body grows for seven years. So basically, when Link wakes up, he's a little boy trapped in a man's body. Keep in mind, no time travel has happened at this point. Just a very long nap. Later on, when he needs to enter the Kakiriko well and the Spirit Temple, he has need of his smaller body. Note that the emphasis here isn't that he needs to go to the past, he just needs to be smaller. If he were to be sent back in time using conventional methods, he'd just be in the past with a big body. Lot of good THAT does him.
So what the Temple of Time does is a form of spiritual time travel. Using the magic (whee, magic!) of the Chamber of the Sages, Link's spirit is sent back in time, independent of his body. Now in time travel, the person being sent typically doesn't age, but anything they leave behind will be altered by time appropriately. As such, since Link's body isn't being sent with him, it "un-ages" just like the rest of the world when Link's spirit travels back in time. Upon reaching the past, Link's spirit enters his young body, and he wakes up in the Temple of Time. Since his spirit hasn't been altered at all in this process, he retains all memories of his actions in the future.
The reverse happens when Link uses the Temple of Time to travel to his older body. His spirit jumps forward in time, his body (and the world) ages seven years, and he repossesses his old body. You'll also notice how Link can never use items he acquires in the future in the past, since his body (and thus any physical possessions), doesn't come with him. However, any items he gets in the past can be used in the future, since when he puts his young body back in the Chamber of Sages to age, it ages with any new trinkets that he picked up in the past. That's how he acquired the Lens of Truth and the Silver Gauntlets in the past and used them as an adult.
Make sense? I hope so.
Now, time travel method number two. When Zelda sends Link back into the past at the end of the game, there's no immediate reason to think that it's any different from the Temple of Time method. Sure, she sent him back a little farther, but that can be attributed to her powers as a sage, and the powers possessed by the Ocarina of Time. But if you start thinking, you realize that sending him back to before when he first met Zelda (evidenced by the very end of Ocarina of Time) gives him the opportunity to warn her of everything that's going to happen. They would end up stopping Ganondorf before he gets anywhere near the Sacred Realm, and that would be that. No Imprisoning War, no locking of Ganondorf in the Sacred Realm, none of it at all. Now that's all well and good, but it means that none of the later games in the series (excluding Majora's Mask) would have ever happened! You can see the predicament here.
There is a time travel theory that we can use to make sense of this. The theory, used in numerous other fantasy works, states that if you're sent back in time, you're sent back to a dimension completely independent of the one you started in. As such, anything you do in this new dimension won't effect the one you started in at all. It's the only way you can really travel back in time without having to deal with nasty time paradoxes. It means that you can't ever change the future of your current reality by traveling back in time. Heroes that try to do just that will end up saving the future of the reality that they were sent to, not the one that they came from. If any of you are familiar with the television show "Dragonball Z", it uses this very same theory.
So let's say that while the Temple of Time can do its fancy spiritual transfer thing, the Ocarina of Time is bound by the law I just talked about in the previous paragraph. So instead of just sending Link's soul back to his young body, it sends his soul back to a version of his young body waiting in an identical alternate reality. This means that the normal Hyrule seen throughout this entire chapter isn't affected at all if Link decides to stop Ganondorf prematurely in his new reality. It also explains why after supposedly stopping Ganondorf cold, he's free to go on the adventure in the next chapter - the events of Majora's Mask.
This theory was further confirmed by an NOA rep earlier this year at the "Wind Waker Summit", who said that there were two parallel universes after the events of Ocarina of Time - one where Link goes through Majora's Mask, and one where the events of The Wind Waker and the following games take place. It was also mentioned in an old interview with Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma that The Wind Waker takes place after the "adult Link ending" of Ocarina of Time.
So a recap. At the end of the game, Link is sent to an parallel universe version of Hyrule, where he lives out the rest of his life and experiences the events in Majora's Mask. Only his legacy lives on in the main series of Zelda games, where he is remembered as the fabled "Hero of Time".