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The Great Calamity is an event from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This event serves as the main historical context of the game. It corresponds to the disaster caused by Calamity Ganon throughout Hyrule that occurred one hundred years ago before Link's awakening from his deep slumber inside the Shrine of Resurrection. After he awakens and leaves the Shrine, Link discovers a ruined Hyrule, devastated by Ganon's forces.

The prophecy

Spoiler warning: Plot or ending details follow.

Calamity Ganon first emerged in the distant past. Ten thousand years before the events of Breath of the Wild, Ganon transformed into a monstrous creature of pure Malice known as Calamity Ganon. He ravaged Hyrule before being sealed away by the chosen Hero wielding the blade that seals darkness, and by the princess with divine powers. Assisting the hero and the princess were the Guardians and four massive mechanical animal constructs called the Divine Beasts. The Ancient Sheikah tribe developed these machines with their unique technology, to help the Royal Family of Hyrule.

According to the Sheikah Cado, his tribe had long been heralded as people of great wisdom since their ancient technology became the key in sealing Calamity Ganon ten thousands years ago. Their technology was at first praised as the power of the gods. However, the people of Hyrule began to fear it as a threat to the kingdom. As a result, the Sheikah became outcasts and was forced into exile. Although most Sheikah chose to cast off their technology and live simple lives, others fostered hatred towards the kingdom of Hyrule, leading them to swear allegiance to Ganon. This resulted in the creation of the Yiga Clan, who dedicate themselves to eliminating all who stand against Ganon.

The preparation

Ten thousand years later, and one century before Link's awakening inside the Shrine of Resurrection on the Great Plateau, it was foretold by the fortune teller that the return of Calamity Ganon was inevitable. This prophecy drove King Rhoam of Hyrule to create an archaeology team to search for the fabled Ancient Sheikah's technologically-advanced relics. King Rhoam decided to act in accordance to their ancestors' plan and excavated the relics, including the Guardians and the four Divine Beasts. The Sheikah still loyal to the Royal Family including Impa, Purah, and Robbie assisted them in studying this ancient technology. They recovered the mechanical army, and were successfully able to reactivate and use them. Zelda assisted them in their research due to her interest in science as she had trouble awaking her powers. Many believed them to be simply a legend but their discovery made this legend a reality for them.

Realizing this, the King selected the hero chosen by the Master Sword, a young recruit of the royal army named Link, as the personal knight of his daughter, Princess Zelda. King Rhoam then formed a group of exceptionally skilled warriors referred to as Champions. He requested each race of Hyrule choose a Champion, and four elite warriors were selected from across the kingdom, Mipha the Zora Champion, Daruk the Goron Champion, Revali the Rito Champion and Urbosa the Gerudo Champion. They were tasked with the duty of piloting the Divine Beasts to assist the Hylian Champion, the knight Link, and to use them against the demon.

The final key to defeating Calamity Ganon was the divine sealing powers of the royal family's bloodline, and the recent death of Hyrule's Queen saw this immense duty fall to her only surviving daughter. As she was now sole bearer of their birthright, the King ordered Zelda to focus on mastering her control over the Divine Power to the exclusion of all else.

The Great Calamity

While the other Champions piloted their race's respective Divine Beast, Zelda was sent on a pilgrimage under Link's protection, praying to statues of the goddess Hylia for the power to defeat Calamity Ganon. Feeling jealousy towards Link for being successful as a knight, in sharp contrast to her success as the princess of Hyrule, Zelda acted unfriendly towards him. During their journey, the two were ambushed by the Yiga Clan, who were planning to assassinate Zelda. Despite being ambushed, Link protected Zelda and drove them away.

Feeling grateful towards Link and realizing the errors of her way, Zelda decided to apologize and talk to him. In response, Link slowly opened up to her, allowing him and Zelda to befriend one another. Eventually, Link told Zelda why he maintained a quiet demeanor, which was because of the pressure he felt as the chosen hero. Empathizing with Link, Zelda reprimanded herself for being absorbed in her own problems, to the point of not realizing how others have their own hardships as well. No longer consumed by fear or doubt, Zelda wholeheartedly hoped to know more about Link and eventually tell him about her own troubled feelings.

Despite this new-found sense of hope, Zelda's powers did not awaken, and all preparation proved to be in vain. Before she could fully realise her power Ganon returned to Hyrule and immediately began wreaking havoc on Hyrule Castle. Having learned from his previous defeat, Calamity Ganon created four phantom embodiment of himself representing the elements of fire, water, thunder, and wind, each tasked with corrupting and taking control the Divine Beasts, and killing four of the Champions and imprisoning their spirits in the process.

Succeeding in taking control of the Divine Beasts, Calamity Ganon proceeded to take control of the Guardians with his Malice to use against the people of Hyrule. He then destroyed Hyrule Castle Town and devastated Hyrule, slaughtering countless innocents. Among the chaos, King Rhoam was killed and the remaining soldiers and Knights of Hyrule who survived the attack on the castle were helpless against the Guardian onslaught and were forced to retreat to the Akkala Citadel.

Akkala was where the knights and soldiers of the realm were trained, so the region already had a high military presence. Following the fall of Hyrule Castle, the vast majority of the standing Hyrulean Army could be found in the various strongholds scattered about the region, regrouping and preparing to repel the oncoming Guardian attack. A terrible battle took place, ravaging the region. The knights and soldiers fought valiantly, leaving a graveyard of Guardians in the Akkala wetlands, but were steadily pushed further back. The final remnants of the Hyrulean Army took their final stand in Akkala Citadel, the kingdom's largest stronghold, which was all but destroyed in the historic battle, leaving the once great structure in ruins. Some say the fall of Akkala was the moment the people of Hyrule realised their utter defeat at the hands of Calamity Ganon, for without a standing army to defend them, nothing could stop the advancing horde.

Zora's Domain was attacked at this time, though the bottleneck that is Zora River allowed the Zora to hold off the assault very effectively. At least one Guardian overcame the Zora warriors and made it close to Zora's Domain, but King Dorephan met the Guardian in single combat. After a gruelling battle, the King Zora picked up the Guardian and threw it from the Great Zora Bridge, causing it to crash down on the rocks below. King Dorephan was wounded in the battle but survived, and was revered by his people as a hero. He still bears the scar from the wound on his forehead.

Link and Zelda, meanwhile, had been unable to help in Central Hyrule, and retreated south to Fort Hateno where they made their desperate last stand against an army of Guardians. Although Link wielded the Master Sword with skill and personally destroyed countless Guardians himself, they were simply too numerous and he was eventually overcome.

Breath of the Wild Blade of Evil's Bane Zelda holding the rusty Master Sword (Recovered Memory 18 Cutscene)

Zelda placing the Master Sword in its pedestal within Korok Forest

As he stood there severely wounded and unable to fight any longer, Link prepared to take one final blast from an attacking guardian when Zelda ran to shield him from the fatal blow. It was here, faced with the impending death of a loved one, that Zelda's powers were truly awakened, allowing her to shut down the Guardians with a blinding ray of light. The Guardians had been stopped from destroying Link, but despite being saved by Zelda he still succumbed to his injuries and collapsed to the ground, seemingly dying in Zelda's arms.

Heartbroken, Zelda wept in despair. As if responding to her cries, the Master Sword activated on its own and spoke to Zelda. It revealed to her that Link was not yet dead and could still be saved.

Wasting no time, Zelda ordered her Sheikah allies, Impa, Purah, and Robbie, to deliver Link to the Shrine of Resurrection upon the Great Plateau, and to place him in the experimental Slumber of Restoration. Here, she prayed, Link would overcome his injuries and return once again to save Hyrule.

Zelda then returned the battle-damaged Master Sword to its pedestal in front of the Great Deku Tree, making to the blade the promise that Link would one day return for it. In a final sacrifice, Zelda marched alone on Hyrule Castle and used her newly awoken powers to seal both Ganon and herself inside.

Aftermath

After the fall of Hyrule during the Great Calamity and the sealing of Calamity Ganon by Princess Zelda, the surviving people of Hyrule attempted to recover and began to rebuild their settlements.

Though the Royal Family of Hyrule and Champions had fallen, the Zora Royal Family lead by King Dorephan continued to lead the Zora for the next 100 hundred years. The Zora people tried to honor the late Zora Champion Princess Mipha by sending her Lightscale Trident but her spirit spoke to them and asked them to not grieve, only remember her in their hearts. this caused the Zora to venerate the Lightscale Trident and create the Champion Festival as a day of remembrance and celebration of Mipha's life, with a memorial statue of her being constructed in Zora's Domain. Similarly, the other Champions were also honorued by their people as heroes.

Link's defence of Fort Hateno would be remembered by the people living in the Necluda region and Hateno Village, though he is believed to have died heroically fighting during the Great Calamity as his survival was not widely known to the public. A large stone carving of Daruk can be found in Goron City and his descendant Yunobo inherited Daruk's Protection ability. A landing platform in Rito Village was named Revali's Landing in honour of the Rito Champion. Though Lady Urbosa lacks a physical memorial in Gerudo Town, she is remembered by the Gerudo Chieftain Riju and Gerudo children 100 years after her death.

Impa, Purah, and Robbie decided to split up and hoped to survive long enough to aid Link when he woke up from his slumber. While Impa remained behind to lead the Sheikah in Kakariko Village, Purah took up residence in the Hateno Ancient Tech Lab, while Robbie constructed the Akkala Ancient Tech Lab in an old lighthouse in Deep Akkala. The three Sheikah survived for the next 100 years keeping in contact by letter. Impa would send other Sheikah to aid them in their research, such as Jerrin and Symin.

The Yiga Clan vowed revenge for Ganon, but without a main enemy to focus upon they became little more than thieves. Under the leadership of Master Kohga they attacked Gerudo Town and stole the Thunder Helm, resulting in the Gerudo swearing to bring justice and eliminate the Yiga Clan.

Princess Zelda was remembered for her heroic sacrifice in sealing Calamity Ganon in Hyrule Castle, though only few people were aware that she still lived. Like Link in the Shrine of Resurrection, Zelda's physical body stopped ageing while inside the seal, remaining a young woman even after a century had passed. Zelda became both Ganon's jailer and prisoner as she had to remain inside the seal with him, constantly struggling to maintain her power and preventing the beast from escaping.The seal placed on Ganon could falter at times, such as near the beginning of the game, possibly because Zelda is momentarily distracted by Link's awakening and activating the Great Plateau Tower. Ganon's power seems to reach its peak during a full moon, creating a phenomenon called a Blood Moon. During these events, Ganon's Malice seems to spread far and wide, blanketing the entire land and giving the moon an insidious red glow. This Malice empowers his minions and even resurrects them from the dead. These events became more common as the years went on, and the people of Hyrule couldn't help but notice the increasing danger surrounding their lives, perhaps indicating Ganon's impending return.

Even though he was sealed, Ganon's influence could still be found in Hyrule, such as in the pools of Malice that had been created when water had been sullied during the Great Calamity, and in the corrupted Guardians who patrolled Hyrule Field, the ruins of Hyrule Castle Town, and inside Hyrule Castle itself.

The once grand structures of Akalla, the military centre of Hyrule, have been left completely obliterated. Ruined outposts which litter the landscape now house a variety of monsters, and the impressive Akkala Citatel is a husk of what it once was. Flying Guardians patrol its broken steps and the entire upper level of the stronghold is covered in Malice. Once the height of military grandeur and strength in Hyrule, Akkala is now one of the most dangerous regions of the country.

Though some Guardians close to the castle endured, the Divine Beasts became dormant during the 100 years Link slept inside the Slumber of Restoration. About the same time Link awoke from his slumber, the Divine Beasts reactivated themselves and began rampaging against the people they once protected.

Princess Zelda (via telepathy), the spirit of King Rhoam, and Impa guide the amnesic Link after he awakens and reveal to him his past and quest to free both the Divine Beasts, Princess Zelda, and ultimately Hyrule by stopping Calamity Ganon and his phantoms. During his journey, Link must contend with various dangers of Hyrule such as wild animals, monsters, corrupted Guardians, the Yiga Clan, and the Divine Beasts themselves.

Fortunately, Link acquires Zelda's Sheikah Slate, a powerful Sheikah artefact that proves vital in his quest and allows him to access Sheikah Towers, Shrines, and technology. Additionally, it allows him to meet the Sheikah Monks who inhabit the various Shrines found all over Hyrule. When praying to Hylia's statues, a disembodied voice (hinted to be Hylia) helps him by trading Heart Containers or Stamina Vessels for Spirit Orbs obtained from completing the Monks' trials and guides him to shrines hidden in the three springs that Zelda visited during her pilgrimage.

Using pictures stored in the Sheikah Slate, Link's memories are gradually restored and he reclaims the Master Sword from Korok Forest to use in his battle against Ganon. With the aid of allies such as King Dorephan, Prince Sidon, Riju, Yunobo, and Teba, Link also manages to free the Divine Beasts and the Champion's spirits. The spirits of the champions then grant Link their special abilities and retake control of the Divine Beasts. Once fully prepared to fight Ganon, Link infiltrates Hyrule Castle to team up with Zelda and save the Kingdom of Hyrule. With help from Zelda, Link ultimately defeats Ganon and succeeds in his quest.

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