When stories end, most of them conclude with a flourish of joyful elation, bitter sorrow, or any blend of the emotional spectrum between. This is not necessarily so with Majora’s Mask. Certainly, it ended with some sense of resolution, as Link successfully defeated Majora within the Moon, and saved Termina from the annihilation to come with the Moon’s fall. But when one sits back and thinks on their adventures throughout Termina, in redeeming the fallen and bringing light to its bleakest corners, one might realize that light had not been cast on the greatest mystery of the entire game.
This mystery is the source of Link’s internal conflict, and is essentially the only reason he unwittingly found himself drawn into the strange, parallel universe in the first place – his relentless and tireless search for a long lost friend, heavily implied to be his fairy companion from Ocarina of Time, Navi. Perhaps it’s not so much that Majora’s Mask needs a sequel, but that Link’s own story needs to finally be told, without the backdrop of worldwide devastation to compel him forward. For all the peace he is shown to sow wherever he treads, Link’s character is in need of its own healing, and I think it’s about time Nintendo showed us a glimpse into a tried and troubled hero’s heart.
Link may be a silent character aside from the few pained grunts and fearless battle cries; however, it is only sensible to accept how hardened, or else traumatized, he must have been from his many trials and tribulations. After all, the reincarnation of Link from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask has undoubtedly endured some of the most tragic events to be seen or felt in any Legend of Zelda title. He witnessed the rapid decay of his only parental figure, the Deku Tree, before even setting foot outside the Kokiri Forest. He found himself drawn into the unfamiliar, alien future of Hyrule, where knights were dying in back alleys and undead-like creatures roamed once crowded streets. He witnessed a dramatic assault that nearly left his informal guide, Sheik, dead at the hands of a monstrous shadow. And following his eventual triumph against Ganondorf, Link was torn from the future he’d come to be acquainted with and sent back to the past, where his only stable friend left him for reasons unknown.
It is this unmarked disappearance that then drove Link to seek consolation in finding her once again, forcing him into the role of a vagrant wanderer in a far off land.Perhaps Link felt, or came to accept, that he would never have a true place in Hyrule, where he was little more than an orphan outside the Kokiri Forest, and a pretender when he dwelled within the woodland sanctuary. He probably decided that the fate of a wanderer was the only one that he could truly own, however, it was not something that he ever wanted to endure without a friend. In seeking Navi, Link was seeking an unattainable stability that simply was never destined for him, for as the Hero of Time, his courage was needed across time and space itself. Such a fate came to a head in Majora’s Mask, where it quickly becomes clear that Ocarina of Time was merely a test of his abilities for the challenges to come.
Without the aid of the companionship offered by Navi, Sheik, or even the Sages, Link quickly finds himself in the position of a helpless victim, left to rot away from a devastating curse. He is only able to proceed with the help of a feisty and unwilling companion, Tatl, who seems motivated purely by her cynical outlook and her fiercely protective love for her brother, Tael. As Link sets off to end Majora’s tyranny over the vulnerable Skullkid, and set right the wrongs done by the lost child, his own pains become increasingly reflected in the sorrows of others.
As has been cited by numerous other theorists about the mystery revolving around Majora’s Mask, most prominently in the Link is Dead theory, Link symbolically appears to be working towards the acceptance of his own shortcomings or failures, or perhaps even his death. While I don’t believe the Majora’s Mask narrative is an allegory for Link’s death, I do believe that it is tangibly representing his personal attempts at overcoming his own guilt and grief. Even a Hero of Time would reasonably suffer from bouts of low self-esteem, I imagine, and many of the quests in Majora’s Mask pack a powerful emotional punch, even to a seasoned veteran such as himself. However, Link’s greatest handicap is also his greatest strength as a character – his silence. It is deafening, and yet especially telling in Majora’s Mask, as we see, rather than are told, exactly what he feels throughout the game.
There is a respectable, childlike innocence displayed in Link, a fervent kind of trust extended towards others, and an admirable tenacity towards doing what is morally right and good. Yet, in peering into the squalid depths of unredeemed souls, and coming across the most tragic circumstance, such trials could only realistically serve to harden Link into someone we don’t get an opportunity to see. Perhaps a glimpse could be gleaned in his transformation into the Fierce Deity, which while sharing Link’s wordlessness, has a distinct lack of remorse or mercy attributed to its being. While the Fierce Deity never seemed like an immoral, destructive kind of god, there is a certain kind of blind justice I always attributed to its appearance, as though jaded to the corruption of the world around, it serves only to impartially hack away at what makes it so rotten. Such an embodiment could easily come to encompass Link, for all he’s had to endure, yet we do not get to see this come to pass.
Just as Majora’s Mask had begun, it ends with Link wandering away from the raptured land of Termina alone, while its people rejoice and embrace the ones they love. Tatl and Tael are finally reunited, the Skullkid finds comfort in the unfaltering friendship of the Giants, and had the player completed the lover’s quest, Kafei and Anju marry on the Dawn of a New Day. Yet who Link has yet to become and his personal fate following his ventures as the Hero of Time is left ambiguous. Instead, Link alone must bear the weight of his grief and longing, forging an unknown path onward with only the solace of his past deeds to comfort him. Even with destiny, prophecy, and the favor of the gods buoying him, it is evident that we can never know if Link found his lost friend, or what became of him after yet again completing the fate of the Hero of Time.
His is a story left unfinished, and while some may say it is an artful statement, I feel distinctly unsatisfied and perpetually saddened on behalf of this rendition of Link. There are those who might point out that he makes a sort of inferred cameo appearance in Twilight Princess, as the Hero’s Shade – a being filled with remorse for a life unfulfilled. Yet this only serves to heighten my craving even further, as I feel that by admitting to Link’s personal struggles and revealing them in a final sequel of sorts, Nintendo would only strengthen a series of games that has since lost some of the momentum granted upon Ocarina of Time’s establishment. Link doesn’t have to remain a silent hero on all fronts, as who he is within, including his darker, more tormented side, is a tale of plentiful substance that is long overdue and certainly worth telling.