The world knew nothing of the boy without a fairy. And yet, as The Wind Waker put its, he came as if from nowhere, and shook the foundations of the world, conquering the darkness. But “after battling evil and saving Hyrule,” he “crept away from the land that had made him a legend.” And so, “done with the battles he once waged across time, he embarked on a journey. A secret and personal journey.” We all know this as the introduction to Majora’s Mask. That was the last game on the Nintendo 64.

Now that we have witnessed the rise of the Hero of Winds, a major question arises in our minds. “What really happened to the Hero of Time?” Did he return from Termina? Did he, like Odysseus of Greek fame, return to his homeland, or was he trapped forever in a parallel world?

Staying in Termina

Many Zelda fans believe that Link did not and could not have returned from Termina. The primary reason they give is that Link entered Termina by falling down a chasm, and there would be no way for him to get back. But this argument is based on the assumption of a non-fantasy world where we know what would and would not work. To use the example of the Chronicles of Narnia again, there is more than one way of traveling between Earth and Narnia. It is implied that the Mask Salesman can travel between worlds. Apparently he has great magic power, as evidenced by his knowledge of the Song of Healing, and by his vanishing act at the end of the game. More clearly, the Skull Kid was obviously able to travel between the worlds, although it might be argued that Majora’s Mask is what gave him this power. So there are two reasons why it is perfectly reasonable to believe that Link could return. The first is that there may be other ways back to Hyrule, which Link would use now that he had completed the task he had agreed to do in exchange for being restored to his true form by the Mask Salesman. The second is that magic can do a lot in a fantasy world, be it through the ocarina, a mask, the gods themselves, or some other means. The game does not explain how many things happen, and nor does it need to, since it is a fantasy.

A more significant argument is that in The Wind Waker, it sounds as if the last we hear of Link is that he vanishes to a new land. Yet what would we expect? If he returned, he would settle in relative obscurity for several reasons. First, Ganon did not return until long after Link had returned. He would have done no more great deeds when he returned, and so functionally speaking, his greatness ended with his passage to Termina (indeed, we are told that he was separated from the elements that made him a hero at that point), and no more word of him would pass down many hundreds of years (see here), surviving even the Flood. Second, it is in keeping with his personality as a loner. As Majora’s Mask begins, Link is alone on Epona, deep in the Lost Woods. If he returned, and if he finished his searches for Navi at the edges of the world, he would settle in a familiar, hidden place in the forest, away from the cities and view of men. Third, even if some people managed to catch a glimpse of him, they might not truly recognize him for the hero that he is. In Ocarina of Time almost no one recognized him as a great hero. Just about the only ones that came to recognize his true nature were those with great power. In general no one sees him for who he is in either Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask until the deed is done, and even then he doesn’t get a huge fanfare like we see at the end of Star Wars Episode I.

As a side-note, that leads us to ask the question, how did he become “the legendary one” in the first place? Clearly, from those who were in the know. Whose legend is this? It’s the legend of “Zelda,” and the royal family. Zelda’s father wouldn’t believe her portents early in Ocarina of Time, much like Cassandra of Troy. Now that Hyrule is shifted back in time to the earlier period, Ganon is “no longer a threat.” Skirting aside the issue of the enormous contradictions generated by time travel, we look at it with the simplicity of Nintendo and think of the situation as it is. Is everyone suddenly going to recognize Link as a mighty hero? No. How could they? There isn’t much proof. In order for the truth to disseminate to the common people-and even the King-Zelda (and perhaps the other sages) must establish the legend as true. And to do that takes building up a reputation of wisdom, and that takes time. By that time, Link is gone. Zelda heard of how he vanished to Termina, and “no one saw him again.” Perhaps people did “see” him again, but they didn’t see him with true understanding. If they caught glimpses of him-for that is all they would get, since Link was a loner-they didn’t know he was the legendary one until they found out that the legendary one even existed in the first place. Some might say something like, “Hey, it’s that guy who saved my chicken!” But it would be a while before they would think, “Hey, it’s that time-traveling guy who saved the world!” By then Link has wandered and settled in the far reaches of Hyrule or is perhaps even dead. That is the nature of legends. In any event, there is no reason to believe that there would be any significant enough story about the Hero of Time after his return to Hyrule to survive down to the times of The Wind Waker.

Returning to Hyrule

But what does Majora’s Mask itself say? In my book, it seems fairly clear in saying that he did return to Hyrule. Granted, there is no text explicitly saying it, but the end of the game shows him on Epona in the same place where the game began. This not only makes sense in terms of storytelling, but it’s a cinematic way of explicitly telling us that he did indeed return. Not only that, but the sequences before that emphasize departure. The ending isn’t just, “By crikey, Termina is happy, nice little place, and I’m going to settle here.” It rather has a slightly sad tone, the sadness of departure. That’s because it emphasizes the “Goodbye” part, and isn’t goodbye to Hyrule. It’s, “Goodbye. I’ll likely never see you again, but we’ll be friends anyway.”

On the other hand, there may be a small something in Majora’s Mask that indicates Link stays in Termina. After saving Romani Ranch, Romani tells Link that because the poes will attack in later years, Link should stay there with their family. “And you can have Romani’s bed!” She then grins (as when she tells you “You’re cute!”) as she closes it off with the statement, “So then, it’s settled!” Since the games avoid putting words in Link’s mouth as much as possible, they sometimes use that sort of text to inform us that Link has agreed to something. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing in this case whether Romani is simply assuming Link is agreeing to it, or if the game really is trying to use that to tell us that Link will stay there after he saves the world.

So Majora’s Mask itself appears to indicate on the whole that Link did indeed return to Hyrule. But there are more reasons why it is more believable to think that Link returned. Why would Nintendo close the door on making any more games with him? It does seem that the first direction they were going for the next game was to use adult Link. Of course they later scrapped that, but the point is that it would be very uncharacteristic of Nintendo to shut the book on a hero like that. And in fact, in Nintendo’s own mind, Link did return from Termina. Before The Wind Waker, the official timeline had Link returning from Termina. That particular timeline is no longer valid, but it nevertheless shows that Nintendo thought Link returned to Hyrule. In addition to such evidence, we might also point to the context of the other games. Link could not have had descendants in Hyrule (as we know to be true) if he did not live in Hyrule (unless you suppose that his descendents were the ones who traveled back to Hyrule!).

The nature of the storytelling of Majora’s Mask, Nintendo’s own comments on the game, a bit of logic, and the weak evidence on the side of the naysayers all point to one conclusion. Link did indeed return to Hyrule, settled into relative obscurity, and did no more great deeds that would be remembered for centuries, at least in part due to the long peace.


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This retro article was originally posted June 4th, 2003.
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