Join us on a Zelda-licious journey as we take a look at the history of the Master Sword, discovering the hidden truth about Link’s trusty blade!
Throughout the history of The Legend of Zelda games, few items have come close to being iconic as the Master Sword.
What about the Triforce? Well yeah… “How about the green tunic”, I mean maybe, “What about the shield?”
Alright, alright! There are a lot of iconic items in Zelda, we get it, but I would say that the Master Sword is up there with the most recognisable video game items ever, which is why we’re delving into The History of the Master Sword!
Discovering The History Of The Master Sword
The Zelda universe’s timeline is quite complicated and features multiple alternate universes as well as time travel shenanigans just to make things even more difficult. Because of this there are many inconsistencies with the Master Sword’s design and abilities.
But, to keep things as simple as we possibly can, we’re going to go through this chronologically and start with the game that’s set at the very beginning of the Zelda timeline; The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
Starting here actually makes quite a lot of sense for us too because this is probably the game which gives us the most detail about the Master Sword in the entire franchise. Because this is set right at the beginning, it’s here where we learn that Link’s fate is intrinsically connected to the mystical weapon.
Skyward Sword – The Birth Of The Goddess Sword
The Master Sword was once known as The Goddess Sword and had a completely different design. And it wasn’t wielded by Link but by the goddess Hylia who also happens to be the sword’s creator.
Goddess Hylia was chosen to be the protector of the Triforce by even more powerful entities called the Three Golden Goddesses. These three goddesses created the entire world and the Triforce itself is based on the elements, which they represent.
The world is left in Hylia’s care and all is good in the world for a long time. When the demon king Demise appears though, Goddess Hylia is gravely injured while fighting and trapping the demon king away.
She then entrusts the Goddess Sword to a spirit called Fi who chooses to live within the sword and awaits the chosen hero who is prophesied to defeat Demise when he eventually breaks Hylia’s magical seal which is trapping him.
Flash forward to years later and a young boy called Link eventually gains access to the Goddess Sword. He eventually powers it up using Sacred Flames scattered through the world which, along with his childhood friend Zelda’s blessing, turns the blade into the Master Sword, gaining it’s full power which dispels evil and becoming forever attached to Link with him being the only person able to wield it.
Zelda’s Helping Hand
It also turns out that Zelda is a sort of resurrected manifestation of Goddess Hylia, hence why she is shown to have magical abilities in a lot of the games. This fully powered Master Sword is eventually used to defeat Demise, but before he dies, he curses Link and Zelda’s entire bloodline, stating that his hatred will be reincarnated along with their spirits as he attempts to defeat them and rule over the world.
This is why Link, Zelda and Ganondorf, who is the manifestation of Demise’s hatred keep being incarnated. Check out our Ganondorf Facts article for more info!
Demise is then sealed in the Master Sword, where presumably he remains even throughout the rest of the games. But you might be asking what happened to Fi, the spirit who lived in the sword…
Well, at the end of Skyward Sword, she asks that Link returns the sword to its rightful place and upon doing so she fades away, seemingly passing on to the afterlife.
So, in this game we’re introduced to the Master Sword’s prime abilities. It can change form and be upgraded in several ways, it has the power to dispel and defeat evil forces, it can only be wielded by Link which implies the blade is somewhat sentient, and it’s a powerful sword in it’s own right, being the weapon that deals the most damage in Skyward Sword.
Going through the series official timeline, the next games set after Skyward Sword are The Minish Cap and Four Swords, but neither of these feature the Master Sword, instead having a similarly powerful blade called the Picori Sword which is later upgraded to become the Four Sword.
So when did the Master Sword reappear?
Ocarina Of Time – The Master Sword, Time Travel, & The Sacred Realm
This is where we talk about potentially the most influential of all of the Zelda games which is of course, none other than Ocarina of Time. It’s where things start to get more complicated, because this is the game that marks the start of the infamous timeline split.
But how exactly does this split happen, and how is it connected to the Master Sword?
At the start of the game, the sword is locked away in the Temple of Time and in order to gain access to it Link needs to gather three stones from nearby dungeons. However when Link does this, the sword decides that this version of Link isn’t yet ready to wield the power of the blade and seals him away for seven years after which, Link is older and more capable of handling the weapon.
This implies even more-so that the sword is a sentient object that is capable of testing people’s worth and sensing their power.
Unluckily for Link, however, during the seven years he was sealed away, Ganondorf successfully takes over Hyrule, which has dramatically changed the landscape of the world and made things much more difficult.
The Temple Of Time
Interestingly, Link can put the Master Sword back on its pedestal in the Temple of Time and return to the past, to just before he lifted the sword as a child. Whether this ability is tied to the Temple of Time, the Master Sword itself, the sword pedestal, or maybe even a mixture of all three is unknown.
But, the Master Sword is the key to this time travel function which adds yet another ability to its repertoire.
Another thing here, is that the game is called Ocarina of Time and yet the Ocarina itself doesn’t even control time in this game, it’s the Master Sword which is the catalyst for time travel, so whoever named this game needs to think long and hard about what they’ve done, a generation of gamers have been misled!
Master By Name, But Not The Most Powerful Sword In The Game
Interestingly, in this game the Master Sword isn’t the most powerful weapon you can access in terms of straight up damage. There’s another blade called the Biggoron’s Sword which is actually twice as powerful, but it’s an optional item you acquire after a side quest.
Although it is technically more damaging though, it can’t be used to deliver the final attack against Ganon because despite its attack power, it doesn’t have the ability to destroy evil that the Master Sword has.
So despite the Biggoron’s Sword being a more deadly weapon on paper, it lacks the magical element that the Master Sword has, which makes the Master Sword the more powerful item in the end.
After fighting with Ganon, there’s a three-way timeline split, at least according to the official timeline printed in the Hyrule Historia, although fans have debated the authenticity of this and its placement of certain games for years now. But to keep this article on track, I’ll refer to the Hyrule Historia timeline.
A Link To The Past: Timeline Split 1
So the first split is a slightly odd one in which Link is defeated which leads to an event called The Sealing War in which Ganon reaches full power and is imprisoned in the Dark World by the Seven Sages.
It’s after this that A Link to the Past is set and we get our next look at the Master Sword. This version of Link obtains the sword in the Lost Woods and is the first time in the canon that we observe its ability to use the Sword Beam.
A similar ability was actually seen in Skyward Sword but it worked slightly differently there and was referred to as the Skyward Strike. A Link to the Past is the first game where the more traditional Sword Beam is used and this is basically a sword swipe that fires out a beam to hit enemies at a range.
Bear in mind that this ability can only be accessed if Link is at full health, implying that the sword can draw out power from people depending on their state.
This game also marks the first time that the Master Sword can be upgraded past its standard form, becoming the Tempered Sword and finally the Golden Sword.
Rather being considered completely different swords though, these are more so different forms of the Master Sword.
Is The Master Sword Really Sentient?
So now on top of the Master Sword’s previously seen abilities, like the power to dispel evil, only being wielded by those it deems worthy, time altering capabilities, high base damage and seemingly being somewhat sentient, we now also know that it has the ability to shoot a sword beam and be upgraded beyond its previously seen form.
It just gets more and more dangerous!
A Link to the Past also has Link collect three pendants before he can wield the sword which adds to my theory that the sword is kind of a living thing, not allowing itself to be picked up unless it gives you some sort of trial.
The rest of the story in this game is fairly straight-forward, Link defeats Ganon this time and at the end of the game, returns the sword to its rightful place in the Lost Woods reflecting how the Link from Skyward Sword also returned the sword to its pedestal in the end.
Across The Ages & Seasons: A Non-Canonical Entry
Now technically the next game that features the Master Sword is the duology of games Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons. However I’m not entirely convinced that the Master Sword’s appearance here is fully canon.
The reason for this is that the Master Sword is obtained by upgrading another sword, which to be fair we have seen before with the Goddess Sword being turned into the Master Sword, but the more damning evidence is found in the Zelda Encyclopedia which specifically states that upgrading the noble sword gives it a power akin to the Master Sword, implying that it isn’t actually the true Master Sword found in the other games.
A Link Between Worlds (& Paragraphs)
The final game of this timeline split which features the Master Sword is A Link Between Worlds, in which this version of Link finds the Master Sword in the Lost Woods, exactly where the previous Link from A Link to the Past left it.
We don’t get any new information about the weapon here though, with it being almost identical to its previous appearance, requiring three pendants to access it, being upgradable and having the sword beam ability.
Interestingly though, this version of Link doesn’t return the sword to the Lost Woods and seemingly keeps it.
The reason this is particularly interesting is that the next games in this timeline are the original The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link for the NES, and the Master Sword isn’t actually featured in those games despite the swords you do get, retaining some of the Master Sword’s abilities like the Sword Beam.
I like to get around this inconsistency by assuming that maybe some of the Master Sword’s power has transferred to Link’s bloodline after he’s used it so many times in the past. Obviously the real reason for this inconsistency though is that when they made the original games, they didn’t have all of the lore planned out at that stage.
With that we’ve finally finished the first timeline split!
The next split takes us all the way back to Ocarina of Time and rather than Link being defeated by Ganon, this time Link is victorious, but heads back in time to relive his lost childhood, leading to the direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask. However, the Master Sword isn’t featured in that game with it still residing in the Temple of Time in Hyrule.
So when do we next see the blade?
Twilight Princess & The Return Of The Temple Of Time
The next game in the childhood timeline split is none other than Twilight Princess and this is much more consistent with Ocarina of Time than the other timeline split, with the Master Sword being discovered in the ruins of the Temple of Time, exactly where it was left by the Ocarina of Time Link.
This time though, Link actually needs to reclaim the sword to break a curse placed on him which has turned him into a wolf. This is a new discovery because we now know the blade has the ability to break curses, which makes sense considering its primary ability is to dispel evil.
Still, it’s the first time we’ve seen it affect Link in this way.
It also enables Link to travel back to a time where the Temple of Time was in its full form and we get to explore more of it than we ever saw in Ocarina of Time.
Again this is another way that the Master Sword has been shown to have the ability to alter time. Another interesting detail with the sword in this game is that it appears to be much bigger than previously seen, which implies it can change shape depending on the appearance of this era’s Link.
The Master Sword is once again upgraded in this game too, but this time with the power to clear dark fog which normally turns you into your wolf form.
As for other Master Sword appearances in this timeline, that’s actually it! That turned out to be much simpler than the first timeline didn’t it?
The Windwaker: Timeline Split 3
So, with Link having gone back in time to re-experience his childhood in the seven years he lost while sealed in the Temple of Time, that leaves the future where Link has just gone back in time without a version of Link.
This allows Ganondorf to eventually be revived, and because Link isn’t there to stop him this time, the sages have to resort to drastic measures, sealing Ganondorf in Hyrule and flooding the world to prevent the seal from ever breaking.
Of course this leads to The Wind Waker, in which Link eventually travels underwater to the flooded Hyrule and discovers the Temple of Time from Ocarina of Time which of course, is where the Master Sword is still located.
However, unbeknownst to Link, the Master Sword is actually keeping the seal on Ganondorf’s powers by freezing time around the castle (again, showcasing the sword’s time manipulating powers).
And, by removing it from the pedestal, Ganondorf’s full abilities are unlocked. The Master Sword’s full abilities have been dulled due to two of the sages having been murdered by Ganondorf in the past.
Connected To The Sages
This is the first time that we’ve seen that the Master Sword’s power is connected to the sages, and I think the logic here is that the power of the sword is given to it by the goddesses.
So in order to maintain that power, the sages need to be there to maintain that connection to the goddesses. The sword even looks different when it’s not at full power, which is consistent with how it changed appearance depending on how much it was upgraded in Skyward Sword.
Link eventually recruits two people to become new sages and restores power to the Master Sword before using it to impale Ganondorf in the face.
It’s one of the most brutal scenes in the entire series, which is funny considering this is the most cartoony game we’ve seen so far!
The Master Sword remains impaled in Ganondorf’s head, seemingly sealing him away as Hyrule is once again flooded, trapping both Ganondorf and the Master Sword forever. T
his means that the games set after The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, don’t feature the Master Sword.
So where does that leave us now?
The Master Sword & Link’s Open World Adventures
I think the general consensus and my opinion too, is that Breath of the Wild, and by extension Tears of the Kingdom, act as a bridge between all three timelines and aim to bring everything together into one single strand. I think Breath of the Wild is set potentially tens of thousands of years after the events of all of the other games, and the events of those games have faded into legend, despite remnants of the impact they had still existing.
There’s quite a lot of evidence backing this up, but the main thing is a line said by Zelda during a ceremony in which she says that ‘whether adrift in time, skyward bound or steeped in the glowing embers of twilight, the Master Sword is always bound to the chosen hero’.
This alone implies that Breath of the Wild is set in the child timeline, but in that timeline, certain species like the Rito never appeared because they never evolved from the Zora like they did in the adult timeline, which The Wind Waker is set in.
My logic is that somehow, all three timeline splits both simultaneously happened and didn’t happen, and because so much time has passed since those events, no one actually remembers how anything actually came to be, therefore making all of the previous games canon.
Still with me?
Breath Of The Wild
Now, Breath of the Wild is an interesting game to talk about regarding the Master Sword because it’s actually wielded by another version of Link 10,000 years before the events of the game.
This version of Link sealed a form of Ganon away inside Hyrule Castle, but then 100 years before the start of Breath of the Wild, Ganon returns and with the help of secret Shiekah technology, defeats Link and the Master Sword is badly damaged. After Zelda uses her sealing power to protect Link from a lethal attack, the sword seemingly speaks to Zelda, telling her to take Link to the Shrine of Resurrection and to take the sword itself to the lost woods where it will repair itself.
This is very interesting because the sword hasn’t been shown to be able to directly communicate with anyone since Fi was residing in the blade back in Skyward Sword.
Did Fi Ever Really Leave?
The implication here could be that Fi is still somewhere deep within the blade, or maybe that the Master Sword has this ability but has never been in such a dire situation to have needed to use it before.
However, the sound effect that plays as Zelda seems to hear a voice in her head, is the same sound effect that plays when Fi talks in Skyward Sword, so it’s most likely that Fi is still there and maybe has been the entity behind all of the trials Link has had to face to prove he’s ready to wield the sword in the past.
This also marks the first time that we’ve seen the blade get damaged, which implies that despite it’s power, it isn’t indestructible.
Maybe its power is fading after all these years have passed?
What we do learn from this though is that, despite the sword being breakable, it also can repair itself. So effectively, maybe it is indestructible but can be temporarily broken.
An Optional Extra, But Still The Most Useful Sword In The Game
Link rests in stasis for 100 years in the Shrine of Resurrection to heal from his wounds, and this is where the game actually begins. Link actually doesn’t need to get the Master Sword at all during his adventure, however it still resides in the lost woods and to lift it, you need at least 13 hearts.
Otherwise, it will completely drain all your health bar a quarter of a heart.
This time, the Master Sword can’t be used forever and has an energy meter which when depleted, will need time to refill so that you can use it again. It also gains strength the closer to malice it is, with malice being the manifestation of Ganon’s corruption.
The sword can also be upgraded by completing the Trial of the Sword which permanently unlocks its powered up state, making it one of the most versatile weapons in the game. It even has its Sword Beam ability return which gives it a ranged attack on top of its impressive melee damage.
What Is Next For The Master Sword?
Despite the Master Sword being an optional item in Breath of the Wild, clearly the in-universe canon has Link get the sword, because you can clearly see Link using it in the promotional trailers for Tears of the Kingdom and it looks like the sword is in for yet another rough time here because it looks to be corrupted by Ganondorf’s malice along with Links entire arm.
I imagine a large part of the journey is going to involve repairing the Master Sword and bringing it back to full power. The sword even appears in its corrupted state in the logo for the game, so you know it’s going to play a big part!
Whether we get more details about the power within the Master Sword or whether Fi will end up making a bigger appearance remains to be seen. Either way, I’m excited to find out what will happen when Tears of the Kingdom releases in a few days!
Thanks for joining me on this rather lengthy journey tackling the history of the Master Sword! If you’re on a Zelda fact-finding mission, then don’t forget to check out our Sheik Zelda facts article and test yourself with our compendium of all the Legend of Zelda games in order!
Rob has a particular fondness for the strange, obscure and quirky side of gaming and loves sharing his knowledge with others. He has been creating content on his own YouTube channel for several years and aims to take his passion to the next level with Retro Dodo.