- "...Do you know the prophecy of the Great Cataclysm? This is the way I heard it... If a person who has an evil heart gets the Triforce, a Hero is destined to appear... ...and he alone must face the person who began the Great Cataclysm. If the evil one destroys the Hero, nothing can save the world from his wicked reign. Only a person of the Knights Of Hyrule, who protected the royalty of Hylia, can become the Hero..."
- — Maiden
The Great Cataclysm is an event mentioned in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Arguably one of the most important, yet tragic events in Legend of Zelda mythos, it occurs at the moment when Ganondorf enters the Sacred Realm of legend and steals the Triforce, throwing the world into chaos. It is unknown exactly when the Great Cataclysm takes place, but since The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is commonly understood to be when Ganondorf first obtains the Triforce, this is the most likely scenario.
After Link cleanses the evils Ganondorf had cast upon the Great Deku Tree, Dodongo's Cavern, and Lord Jabu-Jabu, he gains possession of the three Spiritual Stones, three of the necessary keys to open the Door of Time in the Temple of Time, and to enter the Sacred Realm, the resting place of the wish-granting Triforce. Following Ganondorf's attack on Hyrule Castle, Princess Zelda entrusts the Ocarina of Time, another of the keys to the Sacred Realm, to Link and leaves with him the knowledge of the "Song of Time", the tune necessary to open the Door of Time. Link travels to the Temple of Time and places the Spiritual Stones upon their altar and plays the "Song of Time" on the Ocarina to open the Door of Time. Behind the Door, Link finds the chamber that houses the legendary Blade of Evil's Bane, the Master Sword, the final key to the Sacred Realm that cannot be touched by those of an impure heart. Link pulls the sword from the Pedestal of Time and opens the portal to the Sacred Realm, but is too young to become the legendary "Hero of Time", and thus, he and his fairy companion, Navi, are placed into an enchanted slumber in the Temple of Light, the Triforce's home at the heart of the Sacred Realm, for seven years.
Meanwhile, Ganondorf uses the portal Link creates in the Temple of Time to enter the Sacred Realm. Here, he places his tainted hands on the Triforce, causing it to split apart into its three components, leaving Ganondorf with only the Triforce of Power. The Triforce of Wisdom goes to Princess Zelda, and the Triforce of Courage to Link. The Sacred Realm becomes a reflection of Ganondorf's heart, transforming the once-beautiful Golden Land into a realm of darkness and despair. Still not satisfied, Ganondorf returns to Hyrule and easily conquers the land with the might of the Triforce of Power. For seven long years, he rules the land largely unopposed as the King of Evil, always on the lookout for those two special people chosen by destiny to hold the other two Triforce pieces. Over the course of those seven dark years, Ganondorf eradicates the Knights of Hyrule and infests Hyrule's temples with his minions to prevent the awakening of the Seven Sages, and thus forestall the prophecy of the Hero of Time.
Although the above seems to be the most likely candidate for the Great Cataclysm, this is never verified in any game. The "Great Cataclysm" mentioned in A Link to the Past could simply be a term used for the events just prior to the start of A Link to the Past, or anything else.
The term "Great Cataclysm" could also not just be a single event, but an event destined to repeat itself every time evil threatens the Triforce of legend. This idea is supported by something one of the Seven Maidens says to Link: "If a person who has an evil heart gets the Triforce, a Hero is destined to appear...and he alone must face the person who began the Great Cataclysm. If the evil one destroys the Hero, nothing can save the world from his wicked reign." This theory was further supported in Skyward Sword, when Demise tells Link that the incarnation of his hatred will continue to plague Link and Zelda's descendants in an endless battle shortly before dying.
Events in The Legend of Zelda series
|Creation of Hyrule · Great Cataclysm · Great Flood · Peace Agreement · Shipwreck|
|Great War of Ikana · Hyrulean Civil War · Imprisoning War · War of the Bound Chest|
|Carnival of Time · Hyrule Festival · Korok Ceremony · Picori Festival · Picori Festival Tournament · Wing Ceremony|
|Autumn · Spring · Summer · Winter|
|Endless Day · Endless Night · Graduation Ceremony · Horde Battle · Jam Session · Lunar Phases · Oasis Flight · Restoration Ceremony|
|Bad Uncle Rupee's Ashen Rupeeland · Destruction of Termina · Game Over|