The Legend of Zelda: Death in Majora’s Mask

Majora’s Mask is one of my favorite games of all time, and by a sizable margin, my favorite Zelda game of all time.  Not to say that the other games aren’t technically better- it’s just that Majora’s mask confronts topics and introduced mechanics that no other Zelda game has been able to replicate.  Among said topics was the everlooming threat of death, emphasized by the gigantic, terrifying moon right above your head at all times.  Twilight Princess may have tried to be much more explicit in its darkness, but truly, no other Zelda game has even come close to matching the tone, the otherworldly, strange, and dark nature of Majora’s Mask.

Today, I’d like to take a look at the game in a bit of detail, and cover the events throughout the game where death plays a huge role.  There are huge amounts of content throughout the game that I will undoubtedly explore later on down the line, but for now, we can just start looking at the role mortality plays in the game.  This won’t be very analytical, compared to other topics, but don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of that in the future.

Should I say a spoiler alert for a 16 year old game?  Well, spoiler alert- I’ll be talking about some very prominent events of Majora’s Mask that spoil some of the major events of the game’s story.  That’s all- without further ado, let’s get to it!

Death, the Masks, and Regret

When people die, it’s no secret that many pass on with regrets.  They wish they could have done more with their lives, they wish that they could have done more to affect the world around them, and as such, are burdened with being unable to move on, even as death claims them.  This idea is a common trend in Majora’s Mask, with characters that grasp to life, knowing that all is not right in the world.  As the protagonist, Link has a way of soothing their souls- the Song of Healing- and these particular experiences provide a blatant look at the importance of death and regret in the narrative of the game.

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The transformation masks- gained by helping the souls of the dead move on.

For instance, at one point in the game, Link stumbles upon the home of the Gorons- a rocky race that thrives in warmth and sunlight.  However, they are assaulted by an unending blizzard that no one knows how to stop.  Link is led to the grave of a hero who died trying to find a solution, Darmani the Third, whose spirit remains, unable to accept the fate of his people.  Once the Song of Healing is played for him, his spirit is soothed, and the feelings of regret, the care for his people, is left behind in the form of a mask- the Goron mask, which bestows upon Link the likeliness and power of Darmani.

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Similarly, Link wanders upon Mikau, the Zora guitarist, when he heads to the Great Bay.  It is clear that Mikau is close to death upon finding him, a result of a failed attempt to rescue his band leader’s eggs from a group of pirates.  He sings a song of how he can’t accept that- that he doesn’t want to die knowing he wasn’t able to succeed, and collapses.  Play the Song of Healing, and Mikau’s shown a vision of being able to meet with his band again, and with that, Mikau finds peace in his death, and leaves Link with the Zora mask, to do with his abilities, what he couldn’t.

 

These are the two most blatant events in the narrative of the game, but they provide a good starting point.  Majora’s Mask does not shy away from humanizing death, acknowledging the pain and regret imminent death can bring.  However, this is just for those who are already dying or dead- what Majora’s Mask does on top of that, is portray the responses of normal people to such a finality.

The Moon and Termina

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For those who are unaware, Majora’s Mask operates on a three day timer.  If Link is unable to accomplish his mission in three days, the Moon, menacing and strange in the sky, will crash to earth, and exterminate all life in the land of Termina.  It’s a crazy, dark turn of events, but beyond that, it is portrayed marvelously in-game, showcasing the best and the  worst of what simple humans have to offer.

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A view of the moon during the final night.

The last in-game night in the three day timer takes place over six real-time minutes, at which time the music becomes strange, eerie, and you can actually hear, feel the rumbling as the Moon approaches the ground.  During this night, you can talk to the denizens of Termina, and hear what they have to say. The swordsman teacher of Clock Town is nowhere to be found- unless you look in the back of his dojo, where you find him cowering, “I can’t take it, I don’t want to die!”

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You find another man, the head Carpenter of Clock Town, defiantly staring up at the moon, daring it come down.  Even the soldiers guarding the town are staying, steadfast in waiting for their captain’s orders, evacuating the populace.  These reactions to the imminence of death are extremely interesting to say the least, but there is one more interaction I’d like to talk about, that makes for one of the most emotional moments in the game.

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Anju (left) and Kafei (Right)

Love is an interesting thing- debatably, it is impossible to live without, and as such, many people live and die for their love.  Kafei and Anju are the main characters of a sidequest that spans all three days, centering around their marriage that is set to happen in, oh-so-conveniently, four days.  Kafei, cursed by the antagonist of the game to look like a small child, has his wedding gift for Anju stolen from him, and so he leaves Anju to track down the thief, and come to terms with his new form.  If you help him retrieve the mask, he is able to see Anju minutes before the moon falls to exchange their wedding vows.  Anju is dedicated, set on waiting for Kafei, and so, once he comes, they wait for death together, content with the knowledge that they are there for each other.

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The Point of it All

Majora’s Mask is undoubtedly a game about death.  It is a topic that has been covered many times, but I wanted to talk about it, spread that knowledge around, and appreciate it a little bit more.  The character interactions and the individual stories that take place throughout three days, really give a huge sense of perspective.  The world of Majora’s Mask is FAR bigger than the adventures of Link, and the presence of both actual death, and the ever-present fear of death really hit that point home.

There’s still many unexplored details in Majora’s Mask that provide religious symbolism, a commentary on the ethics of good and evil, and even meta-theories about whether Link himself is alive at all for the events of the game, but all that can be saved for another day.  For now, I think it’s safe to say that Majora’s Mask is a rather complex game, and one that’s very interesting to analyze critically.  What do you guys think about the game?  Leave your comments down below!

 

 

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