The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild is a fantastic game. Packed with all sorts of discoveries and secrets, the game is also ripe with gaps that allow fans to fill in the holes. One such gap is the unusual setting of the game in which the story explains that after 10,000 years, Hyrule has still not gone past the medieval era. While the game does try to offer an explanation for the situation, it’s rather simple and lacks substance. A former king grows wary of the Sheikah technology, forces them to cease with their research in order to quell the growing fears of his subjects or face exile. While many Sheikah adapted to their new conditions, they did so at the cost of technological progress, and the societal advancement of Hyrule. But was this the only step which propelled Hyrule into a literal societal stasis or was it simply the catalyst for a downward spiral?
In Breath of the Wild we’re able to witness the amazing technological achievements of the Sheikah. Cameras, gigantic watch towers, digitally locked treasure chests, a personal day advisor in the form of a quest tracker, global positioning systems in the form of maps, massive underground shrines, and artificial intelligence robots are mere examples of the truly magnificent prowess the Sheikah had achieved. However, when we play the game, barely any progress has been made in this field, and Hyrule is stuck with a society that is still stuck in the virtual equivalent of the real world medieval society which only lasted a thousand years. This is terrifying on many levels because it implies that unlike our world which constantly strived for advancement, Hyrule’s royalty purposely ignored or even worse, persecuted anything which could have propelled it forward.
Furthermore all of this implies that the king not only forced the Sheikah to give up their technological advancements. But, he also caused a massive destabilization in the field of education, and probably made the Sheikah destroy the majority of the logs containing their scientific developments along with any digital data files that could inspire others to pursue such endeavors. This is best exemplified with the Yiga clan, an offshoot of the Sheikah which decided to follow Ganon after the king betrayed their kind in-spite of everything they did to save Hyrule. When Link is tasked to infiltrate their base in order to get back a sacred helmet stolen from the Gerudo, we see that they haven’t achieved anything even closely related to the technological marvels of the past. This further implies that they lost access to the same technology, which caused their fallout with the main branch of the Sheikah.
Even worse is that the few remaining records of such technology were kept by Hyrule’s royal library which obviously had limited accessibility for scholars. This is the reason why Zelda has such knowledge regarding the intricacies of their technology. That is also the reason why King Rhoam was obsessed with following the prophecy explained in the introduction of the game in which a hero, the princess, and the champions in their guardians defend the Hyrule from Ganon. If we keep all of this in mind it becomes clear that King Rhoam’s ancestors kept the tomes hidden for his own agenda despite his fear of the Sheikah. By limiting the availability of Sheikah scriptures, the former king single-handedly doomed Hyrule from experiencing a renaissance era or even an age of discovery.
All of this is made even more possible if we observe our own history, which is packed with rulers who obstructed scientific developments in the past. I wouldn’t even put it past them to have actively pursued anyone who even tried to develop their own technology in fear of having another similar scenario happen. In the worst case scenario, the propaganda spread by the king, along with an anti-intellectualism sentiment, would have snowballed into the Hyrule we see in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. People in these scenarios are often victims of authoritarian dictatorships, and sadly only help to propagate the situation by making it worse. Due to the lack of scientific development and fear of persecution, Hyrule eventually settled into the medieval stasis. Which was made worse with the arrival of Ganon that only served to further devolve it into an even worst situation than before. Which serves to ask the question, what would have happened if Hyrule was allowed to continue with Sheikah technology?
Could it be possible that with those advancements, Ganon could have eventually been permanently sealed as the technology would have increased exponentially? Or would the Hylians doomed themselves in an ever increasing technological dystopia that forgot of the dangers of Ganon? I guess we’ll never truly know…