Shigeru Miyamoto once stated in a Nintendo Power interview that the Zelda team’s primary goal for Majora’s Mask was to “present something which is very mysterious”. The game invites the player to act as a detective, to investigate the secrets and troubles of the people of Termina, and of Termina itself, and to heal them in the end. Though the central story of a troubled imp using a cursed mask to try to cause the moon to crash into Termina may seem fairly straightforward, many subtle details in the game add layers of darkness and complexity to this tale.
One example would be the implicit story of the Deku Butler’s son. Upon being transformed into a Deku Scrub, Link finds a strange tree that resembles his present shape and seems to be crying. Later, Link meets the Deku Butler, who is reminded of his absent son when he sees Link’s Deku Scrub form. At the end of the game, the Deku Butler is seen crying before the strange tree. Though the game never bluntly states it, it is clear that Majora’s Mask forced Link into his Deku form by stealing the soul of the Deku Butler’s son, leaving an inanimate tree in his place.
While I was recently replaying Majora’s Mask, I noticed a number of subtle details that seemed to penetrated the mystery of the game and led me to a shocking discovery. It occurred to me that the moon might not be falling just because of the unfortunate actions of Skull Kid. As its name implies, the world of Termina evidently has been destined to end ever since the early days of its dark history. Subtle details in the game indicate that the evil acts of Termina’s people had brought about the impending apocalypse. It’s all tied to the Stone Tower.
Many people have noticed, and dismissed, the fact that the image of the sacred Triforce can be seen on the tongues of the statues that line the path to Eastern Termina. Termina doesn’t seem to have a connection to the goddesses of the Triforce, and no one seems to worship, or even know of them, so the Triforce design seems like a sort of weird joke slipped in by some random designer at Nintendo. But considering how complex and mysterious the game is, such details should not be overlooked so quickly.
Termina may not be part of the world of Hyrule, but the goddesses are most certainly not a nonentity in Termina. In Hyrule, Zelda prayed to the Goddess of Time, asking her to be there for Link. And while Link was in Termina, the Goddess of Time came to his aid again and again. This proves that the same goddesses watch over both Hyrule and Termina.
I believe that the Goddess of Time is another title for the Goddess of Wisdom, Nayru. According to Ocarina of Time, Nayru created the natural laws of the universe, which should include time. Additionally, the color blue is associated with both time travel and Nayru. Majora didn’t mention Nayru by her name for the same reason Navi’s name was never mentioned: people who hadn’t played Ocarina wouldn’t be familiar with those names, and those names weren’t so vital to the story that they’d make a bunch of exposition about Ocarina‘s story necessary. People who had played Ocarina should be able to understand which characters Majora was referring to, and people who hadn’t played Ocarina would still be able to appreciate the story without getting those references.
When Link finds Kaepora Gaebora in the swamp, the owl mentions that the land of Termina is destined to fade. Was that just an insignificant comment, or had Termina actually been marked for destruction long before Skull Kid found Majora’s Mask? If the goddesses are indeed watching over Termina, why does it have such a dark fate?
The answer, it seems, is that the ancient people of Termina had rejected the goddesses. The statues leading to the Stone Tower, shown licking the Triforce, are signs of blasphemy. And inside the Stone Tower, the slander against the goddesses is far more obscene and terrible.
The Triforce can be seen again, hidden on the bottom of the floating blocks Link manipulates in order to enter the temple. Each block depicts a naked creature sitting and sticking his tongue between his legs, where he is licking the Triforce.
And at the top of the Stone Tower, the temple entrance is surrounded by four rather phallic pillars. Next to one of them, there is an enormous burning hand pointing towards the heavens. This unsettling architecture seems to be sending a certain implicit message: “Screw you, goddesses!”
This of course begs the question, why would the ancient Terminians reject the goddesses? When the goddesses created Termina, they created four guardian deities to shape the corners of the world and protect its people. The Giants are similar to the Great Deku Tree: they are mystical and benevolent, they watch over races of people, and they can be overthrown by more potent beings.
Early in Termina’s history, the Giants saved the people from the chaos Skull Kid wreaked upon them. The people responded by worshipping the Giants as gods. Afterwards, perhaps, the goddesses made themselves known and offered to make a covenant with Termina through the Triforce, as they had done with Hyrule. The Triforce designs indicate that the ancient people had knowledge of the Triforce. It’s possible that the Terminians had been disgusted by the notion that some female beings could be greater than their four beloved male Giants. That could explain why they built four giant pillars representing part of the male body sticking out towards the goddesses.
But was the Stone Tower simply built as a testament of the people’s rejection of the goddesses? There are hints that imply that the tower was built for an even more twisted reason. In the first room of the Stone Tower Temple, a strange vortex is visible far overhead, concealed by the inverted pathways above. It doesn’t share the design of the portal to Twinmold’s lair, or of the glowing light that appears when Link breaks Ikana’s curse, so it seems that Nintendo placed it there intentionally, rather than letting it slip in accidentally. My theory is that the portal leads to the realm of the goddesses, and the Stone Tower was perhaps built as a stairway to the heavens, as a sort of Tower of Babel.
Deep inside the temple, Link finds the Giant’s Mask, which contains a tremendous power. It’s clearly established in the stories Anju’s Grandmother tells that the ancient people of Termina loved the Giants. If there is a significance to the Giant’s Mask, it seems as if it was created as an homage to them. Additionally, the four phallic pillars outside the temple indicate that the Terminians believed that the Giants were superior to the goddesses. These details seem to sugguest that the builders of the Stone Tower intended to invade the heavens and use the power of a Giant to slay the goddesses. Who were the wicked people who built the tower? There isn’t enough information to be sure, but consider how in the deepest room of the temple, Link finds the leader of the bloodthirsty Garo tribe waiting for him. The Garo Master also wears a mask that is shaped similarly to the Giant’s Mask.
Whether or not it’s builder intended to wage war against the goddesses, it seems pretty clear that the Stone Tower was a wicked monument, and the goddesses were obligated to act. So they flipped the universe upside down.
In order to flip the universe, Link needed to shoot a Light Arrow into the Stone Tower emblem, which the Garo Master describes as being blood-stained. The Garo Master guards the Light Arrows. Now, the Light Arrow is a divine weapon meant to smite the wicked. In Ocarina of Time, it was given to Link by Zelda herself. What would it be doing lying in the most corrupt corner of Termina?
I would guess that the goddesses sent the Light Arrows there so that they would smite the wicked.
The blood-stained emblem of the Stone Tower perhaps signifies the evil arrogance of its architects. When the Light of Justice shines upon it, it causes justice to be done to those corrupt people. The builders of the Stone Tower had been seeking the heavens. But the universe was flipped, so it seems they found a sort of hell instead. They found a desert realm.
According to the Happy Mask Salesman, the ancient tribe that first used Majora’s Mask eventually sealed the artifact away, fearing the havoc it would wreak upon them. At the end of the game, when Link is pulled through the moon into a surreal universe, it seems that that tribe was the one the Salesman referred to. Consider how that realm seems to be the polar opposite of the desert realm where Link fought Twinmold. The ancient tribe had sealed Majora’s Mask in that desert, hoping it would never be found. But it was.
The architects of the Stone Tower found Majora’s Mask. They built towers there adorned with the mask’s image, and they brought the mask back into their world. And so it seems that the goddesses punished the wicked people by allowing that destructive demon to escape into their world.
It’s worth pointing out that Majora seems to be a female demon. What better way is there for the goddesses to punish these people obsessed with their male gods than to unleash such a being? In addition to Majora’s feminine screams and dancing, the patterns on Majora’s Wrath’s body seem to resemble breasts and ovaries. It might be a coincidence, but I’ve often been weirded out by those markings.
This theory probably seems far-fetched, but there is actually evidence that practically proves that Majora’s Mask has some connection to the tower. In the first room of the Stone Tower Temple, there is a gigantic statue of a deformed face sticking its tongue out. When the temple is flipped upside down, that statue resembles Majora’s Mask. It has two enormous horns above its eyes, horns on the sides of its face, and is shaped like a heart, although the bottom is missing.
But the statue is incomplete, because the bottom part has broken off. Not only is one of the horns broken, part of the Stone Tower emblem appears on the statue. The rest of the emblem is gone.
Strangely enough the statue only has two horns on each side, while Majora’s Mask has four.
The door above that statue leads directly to the desert. The statue is essentially the gateway to the desert.
And in the desert there are monuments depicting Majora’s Mask. They show the mask with what seem to be a nose and a mouth, and only two full-sized horns on each side of the face.
The Happy Mask Salesman knows the story of the ancient tribe that had sealed Majora’s Mask away and very closely resembles the children in the moon world, who seem to represent that tribe. If he has some sort of connection to them, perhaps he sensed that their evil mask had escaped its prison and was free to wreak havoc upon some unfortunate world. He set out on a journey to find the whereabouts of the mask, and was successful. He brought it out of Termina and into Hyrule, the world favored by the goddesses. But Majora’s power was not meant to be unleashed in Hyrule, so fate led Skull Kid to steal the mask just then and bring it back to Termina, finally setting the apocalyptic events into motion.
But as modern Termina was being torn apart by the power of the mask, it seems the goddesses took pity on the world that was so desperately in need of healing. And as I see it, Link the Hero of Time also seemed to be in need of healing after the ordeal of Ocarina of Time. He was a lonely outcast desperately searching for his beloved and invaluable friend. Between being a Hylian amongst Kokiri and a child in an adult’s body, fate always seemed to set him apart from the people around him. Link’s adventure in Termina finally allowed him to overcome his loneliness and fully mature by easing the private sorrows and troubles of the people around him and receiving their heartfelt gratitude in the form of masks. As Link was being healed, he was also healing Termina so that it’s destiny could be changed.
I also believe that Link wasn’t working against the goddesses by saving the doomed world, because without the aid of the Goddess of Time he would have failed. And as the moon is cast back into the heavens, an enormous rainbow appears over all of Termina, perhaps as a sign from the goddesses that they had forgiven that world.
Though some of this speculation is probably inaccurate, I’m convinced that there are indeed more layers to the story of Majora’s Mask than the ones that most people have noticed. Bear this in mind as you play Twilight Princess in the upcoming weeks. People have generally overlooked or dismissed the Triforce markings in Termina and the images of Majora in the desert for a variety of reasons. Whether or not you believe Zelda games could have tales this complex, these sorts of details deserve serious consideration. There is always the chance that they are meant to hint at something deeper.