So where do the “Tears of the Kingdom” fit into all this? Well, the beginning of that new trailer clearly displays a mural of a mysterious figure with gigantic ears (or maybe wearing a fancy headdress) surrounded by seven tear-shaped symbols. These could be the titular “tears of the kingdom,” and it’s certainly possible that your main goal in the game could be to collect them. It wouldn’t be the first time a Zelda game was based around a plot-relevant MacGuffin, and, if true, the use of tears in that context would mark a return to a more classic Zelda adventure structure of collecting magical items. As for who the mysterious mural figure is, it could very well be yet another depiction of the Goddess Hylia, who reincarnated into a mortal form and would eventually create the royal family of Hyrule. In a sense, she essentially created the kingdom of Hyrule. Keep that little detail in mind for later.
Of course, thanks to the not-so-mystical power of homonyms, there is at least one other major way to interpret the Tears of the Kingdom subtitle. As you know, tears can refer to drops of liquid that are associated with crying, but at the same time, tears can also refer to rips or splits. In The Legend of Zelda’s case, those “tears of the kingdom” could certainly be related to physical items, but that title may also refer to rips in the fabric of space and time.
Much of the Tears of the Kingdom trailer centers around that aforementioned mural, which is mostly obscured in shadow. However, some segments are prominently displayed, such as what appears to be a hero leading the charge against a horde of bokoblins and moblins, as well as two different depictions of a figure that certainly appears to be Zelda. The mural is clearly displaying events in Hyrule’s history, but which part of Hyrule’s history? After all, the Legend of Zelda timeline famously splits into three distinct branches following the events of Ocarina of Time. As noted above, we know that Breath of the Wild occurs at the end of a timeline, but Nintendo has always been coy about which specific timeline it is set after. Maybe that’s because Tears of the Kingdom will somehow incorporate elements of all the timeline branches.
Intriguingly, the game’s trailer ends with a look at its updated logo, which includes two dragons (or serpents) entwined in a circle (more on that in a bit) and a Master Sword with a decidedly Twili-themed edge. For those who don’t know, the Twili are the inhabitants of the Twilight Realm from Twilight Princess. If that design is indeed a reference to the Twili, then Tears of the Kingdom would mark the first time the Twili are mentioned outside their introductory game (Hyrule Warriors notwithstanding), which could have serious implications for the Zelda timeline. While you could argue that logo places Tears of the Kingdom, and, by extension, Breath of the Wild, firmly in the “Hero is Triumphant” timeline, what if the games take place after all of the games in a kind of reunified timeline?
If that sounds confusing…well, it is. It’s also obviously unproven at this time. However, consider some of the other unsolved Tears of the Kingdom mysteries. For instance, who is the mummified man in the announcement trailer back when the game was still referred to as Breath of the Wild 2? He certainly looks like Ganondorf, but Ganon/Ganondorf was killed in Breath of the Wild. How can Ganondorf still be alive after Ganon’s death if they’re supposed to be the same person? Either the main villain of Tears of the Kingdom isn’t Ganondorf (perhaps they separated into different entities) or somehow, two distinct instances of Ganon/Ganondorf were living side by side in Hyrule during and prior to the events of Breath of the Wild. Since the game’s 2021 E3 trailer shows Link turning back time on a spiked ball of death, the latter seems more likely.
That brings us back to the idea that there are some serious timeline shenanigans happening in this game. Said shenanigans could have even fused three different incarnations of Hyrule into an appropriately calamitous single timeline. Even if that’s not exactly what’s happening, it’s becoming impossible to ignore Tears of the Kingdom‘s various little callbacks to previous games as well as its emphasis on Hyrule’s general history.