Immortal Childhood

By Hylian Dan


  1. Introduction
  2. Home, Sweet Home…
  3. Good-bye, Great Deku Tree
  4. Transformation
  5. The Playground
  6. Mortal Life
  7. The Child’s Wrath
  8. The Guardian Tree
  9. The Seeds of the Future
  10. Immortal Childhood


Restless souls wander where they don’t belong…
—Ocarina of Time

As Link roams across the mysterious Koholint Island, a ghost begins to follow behind him. It whispers, “…The house… …take me… …the house… …at the bay…” Link brings the ghost to its former home. The floors are cracked, the lights have dimmed. The spirit sadly drifts across the room. “…Nostalgia… …unchanged… …boo hoo…”


“…Enough… …cemetery… …take me… …my grave…”


There is a common theme that runs through Link’s Awakening and Ocarina of Time. It is expressed more fully in Majora’s Mask, and summarized at the end of The Wind Waker. These four stories express what it means to live bound to the flow of time. They are stories about the beauty of mortality, the journey from childhood to adulthood and from life to death. They are about growing up and leaving behind the immortal playground of childhood, letting go of the familiar to venture out into the world that lies beyond.

Home, Sweet Home…

I wonder where these coconut trees come from? Tarin says there is nothing beyond the sea, but I believe there must be something over there…


Link, someday you will leave this island…I just know it in my heart…
…Don’t ever forget me…If you do, I’ll never forgive you!

Link’s Awakening tells the story of a boy who is shipwrecked on Koholint Island. He is told that the only way to leave the island is to awaken the Wind Fish, who lies sleeping in a giant egg atop a mountain. But as Link gets to know the island and its people, a question begins to form: Why leave? Koholint is nothing less than a paradise, an infinitely beautiful and comforting home. Link even finds a family in Marin and Tarin, who take Link in and enjoy spending time with him.

Why leave?

The answer to that question haunts the entirety of Link’s Awakening. It is conveyed in the form of the song Marin sings, the Ballad of the Wind Fish. The song expresses the feelings deep in Marin’s heart, the everlasting desire to see the world that lies beyond Koholint, if there is a world out there. But, again, the only way to leave the island is to awaken the Wind Fish. And as Link eventually learns, waking the Wind Fish means that Koholint will vanish, for the island is but a dream.

The island paradise lies somewhere beyond time. When Link asks the children playing in Mabe Village when they came to Koholint, they are confused. Their minds cannot grasp the concept of “when.” Koholint stays the same forever, but Link does not. Neither, it seems, does Marin. They need to escape the dream world, escape to a world where “when” exists.

The story of Link’s Awakening is effectively summarized by the metaphor of the Wind Fish’s egg. Life on Koholint is like that of a creature whose life begins inside an egg. The egg incubates the newborn, keeping it safe and comfortable. But the egg is not supposed to last forever. Eventually, the newborn must break the eggshell to enter the world beyond it. Once the shell is broken, the small world inside the egg vanishes forever.

Good-bye, Great Deku Tree

The flow of time is always cruel… Its speed seems different for each person, but no one can change it…

The opening chapter of Ocarina of Time plays out much like the story of Link’s Awakening, with Kokiri Forest taking the place of Koholint Island, Saria taking the place of Marin, and the Deku Tree taking the place of the Wind Fish. Like Koholint, the forest is a world where “when” does not seem to exist. The children of the forest always remain as children. The Deku Tree warns the Kokiri that they will die if they cross the barrier separating the forest from the outside world.

While Link’s Awakening ended with Link’s decision to leave a timeless world, that decision is simply the beginning of the Hero of Time’s story. Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask are both about what it means to live in a world where “when” does exist. They explore how the flow of time shapes Link’s life, transforming both the world he lives in and the person he is at heart. The first part of the story, Ocarina of Time, focuses on the contrast between the world of the child and the world of the adult.

In the beginning, Link is simply a child. Kokiri Forest is a child’s playground contained within a protective barrier. As the player, you feel this sense of childhood wonder. Mystical lights dance in the air. Hidden treasures wait to be found. Other children are there to play with; some are friends, some are bullies.

At this point in the story, Link is young and inexperienced. When the Deku Tree dies, Navi tries to shield Link from the weight of the tragedy, quickly reminding him that they’re off to see Hyrule Castle. When Saria meets with Link to say good-bye, Link exits awkwardly.

Throughout the first part of Ocarina of Time, Link sees the world of Hyrule through the eyes of a child. It is a wonderful, comforting place. There is mystery, there is friendship, and there is danger. There is so much to explore, and there is still a home to return to.

But a transition occurs when Link passes through the Door of Time. The childhood world is torn away before Link has a chance to grow up, and he now sees the world of the adult… but still through the eyes of a child. It is a world of fear, loss, romance, and crushing responsibility.

Link is not yet too adept at handling it all. During his relationship with Ruto, Link behaves irresponsibly. He has no clue how Ruto feels, staying focused on his own goals. He vanishes from her life for seven years, and when he returns he is oblivious as to how this has affected her. Players see Ruto as some weird psycho girl, because that is how Link perceives her; he has no insight into her feelings. He is still a child.

The adult world is overwhelmed by a sense of loss and hardship. Places that once were full of life are now empty and abandoned. Link’s brief reunions with the Sages are tinged with sadness, for they each have separate paths to tread. These childhood friends are no longer a part of the world Link inhabits, though there is still the comfort offered through Saria’s Song.


The return to Kokiri Forest as an adult echoes the scene from Link’s Awakening when the ghost returned to haunt his old home. The people Link spent his childhood with don’t recognize him anymore; some fear that he has died. The stump where Saria once sat and played her ocarina with Link has been abandoned. The sense of nostalgia is painful. The world Link used to know has been taken away from him, stolen by time.

Ultimately, Link is able to come to terms with the adult world. He triumphantly overthrows Ganondorf and restores peace and justice to Hyrule. Princess Zelda, however, witnesses the pain Link feels when she meets with him as Sheik. She offers him the chance to return home, the place where he is supposed to be, the way he is supposed to be.


By doing one good deed, a child becomes an adult.

In Ocarina of Time, a child is abruptly thrown into harsh adulthood. Link does not truly belong there, and eventually his childhood world is restored. When the game ends, Link is left in an awkward place. He is not yet an adult, but he has been through too much to feel that he still belongs at his home as a child. He has grown restless.

And so Majora’s Mask is about the transformation of Link’s spirit, as the Hero of Time leaves childhood behind to embrace the life of an adult. In Ocarina of Time, the exterior world changed to emphasize the contrast between the perspectives of a child and an adult. The world of Termina does not change as Hyrule did; it remains constant, frozen in a brief cycle of time. This time around, the change occurs inside Link. The world is different based only on how he perceives and approaches it.

Once again, the game opens by casting the player into the body of a child, a young Deku Scrub. Link is turned into a child because he has lost his sense of confidence, allowing Skull Kid and his mask to take advantage of Link. This time around, childhood is accompanied by a sense of helplessness, fear, and confusion because something has been lost. The lives of strangers are shrouded in mystery, and the falling moon is an obstacle too powerful to overcome. Adults gush about the Deku Scrub’s cuteness while hiding their true feelings from him. They refuse to let him leave the town, for the field outside is too dangerous for a child.

Next comes adolescence. Link’s original form is restored. The world opens up and he is able to venture beyond the walls of Clock Town. Adults demonstrate greater respect for him, and at times communicate with him on a deeper level. Link learns more about the people around him, their feelings and the lives they lead. He learns to handle these relationships more responsibly than the one he had with Ruto, and he is able to meet his obligations to these people instead of acting shocked whenever the subject of commitment arises.

As the player progresses through the game, Link continues to grow and transform beyond adolescence. In the form of Darmani, Link takes on the role of a respected hero, a symbol of hope to a community that is barely clinging to life. As Mikau, Link gets a taste of what it means to be in a committed relationship. He observes just how much Mikau means to his girlfriend Lulu, a Ruto look-alike. The transformations place Link in the adult world once more. There is still tragedy, romance, and tremendous responsibility. But the sense of horror that pervaded Ocarina’s adult world has been replaced by a sense of belonging. Unlike Ocarina’s Link, Darmani and Mikau had truly transformed into adults.

Link relives the three days again and again, each time gaining a more nuanced understanding of the world of Termina. He learns how to manage time, how to treat people, and how to change the world in ways that once seemed impossible. It gradually becomes apparent that Link is just as important to Clock Town and the surrounding places as Darmani and Mikau had been to their communities.

Kafei’s role in the story serves as a sort of counterpart to Link’s. Kafei is an adult who is important to his community. Skull Kid finds him and uses Majora’s Mask to trap Kafei in the form of a vulnerable child. When a thief steals Kafei’s wedding mask, Kafei is too afraid to return home. He becomes intimidated by his obligations, so he simply runs away. He neglects the feelings of the people close to him, and they feel pain and confusion. His adult form is not restored until after he returns home and faces Anju.


…Tee-hee! They’re lovers, but they look just like a mother and child.

The experience of Majora’s Mask shows that being an adult is not simply about having an older body. The game world is initially a sort of playground where children play hide and seek, but it subtly transforms into a much different place. It becomes a place where there are continuous obligations, where actions have consequences and people have feelings. As Link learns to navigate these complexities, he undergoes his own internal transformation, from a child to an adult.

The game’s final transformation mask commemorates the person Link has become. At the beginning of the game, Majora’s Mask recognizes the weakness inside Link, and the mask alters Link’s shape so that his external form reveals Link’s true self: a lost child. Link meets with Majora’s Mask again at the end of the game, but this time the mask offers him the Fierce Deity’s Mask. Link transforms into the Fierce Deity, and once again his outer form reveals his true self: a wise, powerful, and courageous adult.

The Playground

A thing that does not change with time is a memory of younger days.

The themes of childhood and adulthood are key elements of the Hero of Time’s story, but the true meaning behind Link’s AwakeningOcarina of Time, and Majora’s Mask runs even deeper. This meaning involves the relationship between two worlds: one that stays the same forever, and one where “when” exists.

The Hero of Time’s story begins in a world of immortal childhood, where the children always remain as children. The hero leaves the unchanging world, even though he is warned that those who leave will one day die. From there, the story revolves around Link’s relationship to the flow of time and how it changes him.

In Ocarina, players see the world of adulthood from the perspective of a child. Majora then transforms players so that they see the world from the perspective of an adult, and realize that it is not as bad as it once seemed. And finally, towards the end of the story, players see childhood through the eyes of an adult.


This takes place during the finale of Majora, when players enter the world beyond the moon. There is a serene field where children play beneath a magnificent tree. This setting and the events that unfold here contain several layers of allegory that, once understood, reveal the central meaning of the story.

Once again, the scene when Koholint’s ghost returns to his house is important here. The field offers Link a glimpse of a beautiful world that he no longer belongs to. The image of the children playing beneath the tree recalls Link’s own childhood, when he lived with the Kokiri in the forest of the Great Deku Tree. Though the children here are strangers, the scene is hauntingly familiar.

“…Nostalgia… …unchanged…”

Like the ghost who took one last look at his earthly home before going to his eternal resting place, Link returns to the world of his childhood one last time before he leaves it behind forever to become the Fierce Deity.

The setting itself, the playground of the masked children, has clear ties to Termina. The tree standing at the heart of the playground mirrors the Clock Tower standing at the heart of Termina. The Clock Tower counts down the hours as time passes by. Termina is bound to the flow of time, but the playground beyond the moon is eternal. The Clock Tower symbolizes mortality, while the tree symbolizes immortality.

The playground is a paradise untouched by time, an infinitely beautiful and comforting home to the masked children. In this sense, it is just like Koholint Island. However, the tranquility of the scene is disrupted by the roars of distant earthquakes. Like the Ballad of the Wind Fish, these tremors represent the call of the world beyond, a voice asking the dreamers to awaken.

Each of the masked children asks to play with Link when he appears in the playground. There are five children, akin to the five members of the Bombers who play with Link. Four of the masked children ask Link to play hide and seek once again.

When he finds each of the four children, they are waiting for him in a brightly painted room. Simple, colorful patterns adorn the walls, floor, and ceiling. The room is a child’s playpen.


In these rooms, each child asks Link a question:

Your friends…What kind of…people are they?
I wonder… Do those people…think of you…as a friend?
You…What makes you…happy?
I wonder…What makes you happy… Does it make…others happy, too?
The right thing…What is it?
I wonder…If you do the right thing… Does it really make…everybody…happy?
Your true face…What kind of…face is it?
I wonder…The face under the mask… Is that…your true face?
—The Masked Children

The questions reveal that the kids are starting to grow up. They’re starting to wonder about the feelings of the people around them, the nature of right and wrong, and whether they should accept things at face value. These questions are the first steps on the path to adulthood. When Link returns to the field, these children have left.

This process represents the end of childhood, but there is also a grander level of symbolism at work. The rooms where the children wait for Link contain four blocks, each with the face of the moon painted on its sides. The blocks are arranged in a compass pattern, representing the four giants and the four worlds of Termina. Termina is represented as a playpen.

The more time the player spends in Termina, the smaller the world seems to become. At first, it towers above the young Deku Scrub. But Link’s body is a little taller, and the bodies of Darmani and Mikau are taller still. The player takes on larger forms as the game progresses, even becoming a giant briefly. The larger the player becomes, the smaller the surrounding world appears. When Link stands in the Termina-like playpens, the effect is similar to donning the Giant’s Mask in Twinmold’s arena. The world is so small because in his heart, Link has become a giant. He has outgrown Termina.

When the children vanish from the field, it does not simply represent a child entering the adult world. It also symbolizes a soul leaving Termina, letting go of the world of the living to see what lies beyond death.

Mortal Life

The rising sun will eventually set, a newborn’s life will fade.
From sun to moon, moon to sun.
Give peaceful rest to the living dead.
—Inscription on the Royal Family’s Tomb

Throughout Majora’s Mask, the moon is a symbol of death. It is the source of the ominous earthquakes, the voice telling the children that they have no time left to spend in the playground.

Termina is a mortal world, and all things mortal must eventually end. This is the condition Link accepts at the start of Ocarina when he leaves Kokiri Forest: he will one day die. (Since Link is a Hylian, not a Kokiri, this would have applied regardless. But Link did not have that knowledge when he made his choice, and neither did players. By leaving the forest, Link and players accept the prospect of death.)

The great conflict of Majora is the fact that a world is facing its death. The player is able to observe the different ways people handle the inevitability of the end. Some run away in fear, some hide in the corners of their homes crying. Some abandon all hope and go for one last drink at the bar, while others stand and face the falling moon, cursing it in a fit of madness. Some think of all that has been left unseen and undone, love that has been lost, mistakes that have been made, time that has been wasted. But there are others who find peace. They hold their loved ones close and prepare to greet the morning together.

The player has two overarching tasks: to help the people of Termina find acceptance and strength in the face of death, and to grant them more time to spend in the playground that is the living world.

There are also others who have been torn away from the playground but continue to haunt it; they are the living dead.

Kamaro died before he could teach the world his dance. Darmani died before he could save his people. Mikau dies while his lover still gazes at the sea hopelessly. The land of Ikana has been cursed so that the dead cannot escape it. They roam the earth, plagued with regret. Gibdos wander about underground, longing for worldly pleasures. Sharp and Flat are bound to their old feud. The King and his servants lurk in the darkness of their castle for eternity.

That scene from Link’s Awakening plays out again and again in Majora’s Mask: tormented souls haunt their old homes, yearning for a world where they no longer belong. To them, Link must bring peace.

The Child’s Wrath

Why must you leave?
Why do you not stay?
—The Imp

In the field with the tree, there is one child who does not leave. The child sits beneath the tree of immortality, holding on to it like Gollum clutching the Ring—the Ring that prolongs life long after all of its beauty has faded away. The four children leave the playground, but the child wearing Majora’s Mask continues to haunt it.


This child wants his days in the playground to never end. Skull Kid wanted the giants to be with him forever. Skull Kid and Majora’s Mask cannot stand life in a mortal world. They cannot accept change, they cannot accept that things end.

Thus, the true enemy of Majora’s Mask is time itself. The mask’s ultimate objective is to end the flow of time, to end the mortal world where time exists. Hence the symbolic imagery of the falling moon destroying the Clock Tower.

Majora’s Mask desires only unchanging immortality, a folly that both Ocarina of Time and Link’s Awakening warn against. Koholint Island is at risk of transforming into a nightmare if the dreamer stays too long. Kokiri Forest is shielded by a curse: mortals who enter the immortal forest turn into monsters. This sort of danger is epitomized by the monster Link battles at the end of Majora’s Mask.

When the child sitting under the tree asks to play with Link, the two enter a giant, perverted playpen. It is filled with deadly toys: masks that fire beams of light, and sharp spinning tops that explode. This arena is the opposite of the shrunken playpens of the four other children. Those children outgrew their playpens, but the walls of this playpen tower above the monstrous child who calls it home.


That is what Majora truly is: a child who refuses to grow up. Its three manifestations represent childish immaturity. The Child’s Mask hides the child’s true self behind a facade, the Child’s Incarnation lives for the joys of playtime, and the Child’s Wrath lashes out at the world in selfish anger. It holds two monstrous, tentacle-like whips perfect for grabbing hold of something and never letting go. It delights in the agony of those around it and screams in horror and pain whenever it is wounded. This monster is the antithesis of the other four children and the altruistic questions they ask.

Bratty, self-centered kids generally need stern parents. Hence, the Fierce Deity. If Link faces the bully in any other body, it is terribly powerful. But the Fierce Deity utterly overpowers Majora’s forms. The adult silences the wailing child as time’s hero brings Majora’s Mask’s playtime to an end.

The Guardian Tree

Whenever there is a meeting, a parting is sure to follow. However, that parting need not last forever. Whether a parting be forever or merely for a short time… that is up to you.
—The Happy Mask Salesman

The tree standing in the playground represents all that is beautiful in life, all that is beloved and invaluable. However, time causes all things to fade. Life’s greatest treasures do not last forever. Those who love the tree must learn to let go of it when time comes to take it away.

This is why the Hero of Time’s story begins with the death of the Great Deku Tree. Throughout Ocarina and Majora, trees and tree stumps are used to represent simple beauty and tragic loss.

One of the brightest aspects of Link’s childhood is his friendship with Saria. When Link returns to the Sacred Forest Meadow where she taught him Saria’s Song, he pauses for a moment beside the empty tree stump.

When Skull Kid became friends with Tatl and Tael, he carved a picture of the three of them in a tree. After their friendship becomes fragmented, Tatl sees the carving and remembers those happier days. Saria’s Song plays during this sequence.

Early in Majora, Link finds a tree that looks like it’s about to cry. The tree is the dead body of the Deku Butler’s son—Skull Kid killed it to create Link’s Deku Scrub form. At the end of the game, the Deku Butler kneels before the tree and mourns his son.


Majora’s Mask represents the temptation to sit beneath that tree forever, to never let go of it. The only way to grow is to overcome that temptation.

Majora’s story is framed by Link’s search for Navi. Though players generally have mixed feelings about this guardian fairy, she meant an awful lot to Link. As a kid, Link was bullied for being different, being the one Kokiri with no fairy companion. The carvings at the base of Link’s home show a dinosaur fighting a warrior who has a fairy at his side, showing how Link longed for this companionship. When Navi came to Link, his whole life changed. Saria was happy for him, and he could stand up to Mido. Navi was with Link when he left the forest, when he lost seven years of his life, when he returned home and no one recognized him. She believed in him, supported him, and kept him headed in the right direction.

For every meeting, there is a parting. Without Navi, Link feels lost and alone. Link’s feelings towards his beloved guardian and friend are represented by the beauty of the immortal tree in the field beyond the moon. Link has been separated from the tree. The fear and confusion inherent in Majora’s first three-day cycle represent Link’s resulting mental state. Whether the parting, the period of mourning, lasts forever or merely for a short time… that is up to him.

At the heart of Majora’s Mask is the story of Link recovering from the loss of his friend, the story of Link learning to let go of the tree. The game ends with Saria’s Song playing over the image of a tree stump where Link carves his memories of Termina: he let go of one tree and found a new one.

For the Deku Butler, for the Goron Elder’s son, and for Lulu, the story is about to begin again.


The Seeds of the Future

I can see this girl’s dreams.
Oceans… Oceans… Oceans… Oceans…
Oceans as far as the eye can see.

The Wind Waker tells this same story of mortality and immortality, of beauty and loss, of wandering spirits with lingering regrets. In this game, the ancient kingdom of Hyrule represents the immortal world, and the Great Sea is the mortal world. The part of Koholint’s ghost is played by Ganondorf and King Daphnes, who are overwhelmed with nostalgia for their lost home.

One of the great highlights of the game is the discovery of Hyrule sleeping on the ocean floor. For most of the game, the player sees only vast seas with small islands scattered across them, but here there are tall mountains and rolling hills. This contrast between ocean and land is akin to the contrast Majora created between the world of the three-day cycle and the field where time stands still.

When Link first finds Hyrule, it is frozen in time. Hyrule is the past, and the Great Sea is the present. As for the future, Ganondorf makes it clear that he sees nothing there:

So many pathetic creatures, scattered across a handful of islands, drifting on this sea like fallen leaves on a forgotten pool… What can they possibly hope to achieve?

Ganondorf and Daphnes both perceive Hyrule the way the Hero of Time perceives Navi, the way Skull Kid perceives his days with the giants, the way the Deku King perceives his daughter: a lone, beautiful tree surrounded by vast, barren fields. When the tree is lost, all that remains is seeming emptiness.

As Ganondorf prepares to touch the Triforce, his wish is for the tree to be restored to him:

Gods! Hear that which I desire!
Expose this land to the rays of the sun once more! Let them burn forth!
Give Hyrule to me!!!

But the King of Hyrule learns the same lesson that Link learned in Majora’s Mask: the only way to move forward is to let go of the tree.

Gods of the Triforce! Hear that which I desire!
Hope! I desire hope for these children! Give them a future!
Wash away this ancient land of Hyrule! Let a ray of hope shine on the future of the world!!!
—King Daphnes

As the King speaks his wish, a choir sings the Serenade of Water from Ocarina of Time.

Time passes, people move. Like a river’s flow, it never ends. A childish mind will turn to noble ambition… Young love will become deep affection… The clear water’s surface reflects growth…
Now, listen to the Serenade of Water to reflect upon yourself…

The King’s wish reflects his own growth. Ganondorf would have reversed the flow of time’s river so that he could relive the past, but the King lets the water wash away the ancient world. Ganondorf, like Majora’s Mask, cannot stand the idea of a world that moves forward, so he attempts to destroy the King’s hope for the future by killing Link and Tetra. When Link defeats Ganondorf, the emissary of the past turns to stone.

The King of Hyrule then speaks the message that Link’s AwakeningOcarina of TimeMajora’s Mask, and The Wind Waker have all been preparing:

My children… Listen to me. I have lived regretting the past. And I have faced those regrets.
If only I could do things over again… Not a day of my life has gone by without my thoughts turning to my kingdom of old. I have lived bound to Hyrule.
In that sense, I was the same as Ganondorf.
But you…
I want you to live for the future. There may be nothing left for you… But despite that, you must look forward and walk a path of hope, trusting that it will sustain you when darkness comes.
This is the only world that your ancestors were able to leave you.
Please…forgive us.
—King Daphnes

Immortal Childhood

This island is going to disappear…
Our world is going to disappear…
Our world…
Our… world…
—The Nightmares

Ocarina of Time begins with Link venturing beyond the confines of his familiar playpen, even if it means his death. This act is what the Legend of Zelda series is all about. The magical feeling players sense in these games is this curiosity, this thirst for discovery, this desire for adventure. It is the call of the future.

In Majora’s Mask, this call is represented by the terrifying moon. The people of Termina live clinging to something, holding onto regrets, and thus the prospect of embracing the future frightens them. Link’s Awakening and The Wind Waker both use wind to symbolize moving forward. One game has Link awakening the Wind Fish and the other game is titled The Wind Waker. It ends with Tetra and Link setting sail, letting the wind guide them to a new land.

Dream and reality, past and present, immortality and mortality: two worlds, one beyond the reach of time, the other governed by it. The relationship between these two worlds is the theme these four games continuously explore, symbolized by Majora’s juxtaposition of the tree and the Clock Tower. There is the timeless world of childhood, where children play under the supervision of a loving guardian, free from obligations. And there is the passing world of adulthood, where lives are lived according to schedules and everything has an end.

As beautiful as childhood’s playground is, eventually children yearn for something more, like Marin longing to see what lies beyond the sea. But when they leave childhood it vanishes forever, like Koholint Island.

They enter a new territory, the mortal world of adulthood. But as time passes, even this world becomes smaller, seeming like another playground with finite boundaries. And finally they leave behind this world as well.

The living world is like the inside of an egg. Once the shell is broken, that world is gone forever.

The rising sun will eventually set, a newborn’s life will fade.
From sun to moon, moon to sun.
Give peaceful rest to the living dead.


Restless souls wander where they don’t belong.
Bring them calm with the Sun’s Song.
—Ocarina of Time

The first line of this poem uses the sun to symbolize life, and in Majora’s Mask the moon symbolizes death. Therefore, the meaning of the second line is this: From life to death, death to life.

Time marches on and carries the living with it. One day, it asks them to let go of childhood. Another day, it asks them to let go of life. Time brings all things to their end—to termina—and then it releases them. This is the order of the mortal world.

The Nightmares, Majora’s Mask, and Ganondorf all try to destroy this order because they are clinging to something precious. The Nightmares want Koholint to last forever, Majora’s Mask wants playtime to last forever, and Ganondorf wants Hyrule to last forever. They all live needing their playpens, in a perpetual state of childhood. Trapped in a mortal existence, they thirst for immortality.

For something to truly be immortal, it must be free from the reach of time. The only way to escape time is through death, through an ending. Those who try to hold onto something beautiful forever do not let that beautiful thing die, even as time drains its life. They become like Koholint’s ghost: restless souls, forever haunting that which is gone.

As Sheik says to Link in the Sacred Forest Meadow, “The flow of time is always cruel. Its speed seems different to each person, but no one can change it.


“A thing that does not change with time is a memory of younger days.”

When something is lost, that thing transforms, escaping time and becoming a memory. Memories are immortal: they stay the same forever, their beauty never fading.

Immortals yearn for mortality, and mortals yearn for immortality. To find peace, the two worlds must exist in harmony. Though they are apart, memory is the link that binds them together.

We let go of the tree to explore the world beyond it, but the tree is never lost.

I am the Wind Fish… Long has been my slumber…
In my dreams… an egg appeared and was surrounded by an island, with people, animals, an entire world!
But, verily, it be the nature of dreams to end! When I dost awaken, Koholint will be gone… Only the memory of this dream land will exist in the waking world… Someday, thou may recall this island… That memory must be the real dream world…
… … … …
Come Link… Let us awaken… together!!
—Link’s Awakening


About the Author

Dan Merrill, aka Hylian Dan, attends Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, where he is majoring in electronic game design. His portfolio can be found at

E-mail: hyliandan [at]

  • TheKhaion

    I just love some parts they are saying! Like Sheik's :
    Time passes, people move. Like a river’s flow, it never ends. A childish mind will turn to noble ambition… Young love will become deep affection… The clear water’s surface reflects growth…
    Now, listen to the Serenade of Water to reflect upon yourself…

    That's so thouching…

  • karadom

    i liked the one the happy mask salesmen said

    Whenever there is a meeting, a parting is sure to follow. However, that parting need not last forever. Whether a parting be forever or merely for a short time… that is up to you.

    • QueenxLink

      Yeah, I really liked that one too.

  • Thomas

    I love the articles Hylian Dan makes. They add 99 more levels of depth to these games stories, and are insanely intresting to read. Please have more stuff like this on the way!

  • That was purely epic. No other word for it.

    I particularly like your comparing of the masks in MM to Link's mental state. Put things into a whole new perspective. I salute you Hylian Dan!

  • Great article as always Dan!

    I just never pick up on these things when I play the games. It's nice to be able to read them from you to think about.

    • QueenxLink

      Yeah, I never really understood the things that these games were trying to say, but now I get it… 🙂

  • Cory

    I agree, that was epic.

    I didn't understand the "giant, perverted playpen" though.

    • ilia

      That's 'cause you haven't beaten Majora's Mask, have you?

    • Hylian Dan

      The final battle of Majora's Mask is basically a twisted dramatization of what every parent goes through every night:

      Players have to tell the toddler that it's bedtime. If you're a good parent (Fierce Deity), it might be easy, but if you're a babysitter (another form of Link), for instance, it can be a nightmare.

      I learned that from spending some time with kids.

    • Zaddd

      It's a giant, perverted playpen because as opposed to being recognizably a playpen, it gives the appearance of some sort of huge, significant room.

      • Lover of Legend

        Wow umm I looked up the definition of Perverted to make sure we were on the same page, and I really don't get how the room involves.. ehem… THAT…

      • Lover of Legend

        Wow umm I looked up the definition of Perverted to make sure we were on the same page, and I really don't get how the room involves.. ehem… THAT…

      • Lover of Legend

        Wow umm I looked up the definition of Perverted to make sure we were on the same page, and I really don't get how the room involves.. ehem… THAT…

        • Hylian Dan

          By "perverted" I mean "changed or being of an unnatural or abnormal kind," "turned from what is right; wicked; misguided; distorted." The playpens you see when you play hide and seek with the other four children are good, natural playpens: a playpen is supposed to shrink in size as the child outgrows it. But Majora's playpen is unnatural and perverted because it grows in size the longer Majora remains there. The deadly masks and exploding eyeball-tops are horrible perversions of childhood toys that one might find in a playpen.

          It's also possible to perceive shades of that other kind of perversion at work, when the whips come out accompanied by screams of agony and delight from a monster with rather suggestive body markings, but as far as THAT goes, your mileage may vary.

          • QueenxLink

            Makes sense now.

  • KeeSomething

    I love how you used Wind Waker’s climax as the climax of your theory. Nice touch and the build up from the beginning to the end of your theory really make for an exciting and enticing read. King Daphne’s speech is placed perfectly—it makes the read (or me, at least) feel like everything you’ve been saying is now proven within the games text without question.

    I’m also pretty fond of how you used the ghost’s little story from Link’s Awakening to tie all the games together. It was very simple and effective. You make it all seem so obvious when that idea really never crossed my mind at all.

  • Derek

    That was truly fascinating! I had never looked into Majora's Mask that deeply. I had picked up on some of the things mentioned in OoT and WW, but I had never put it all together like that before. Its interesting to see the connection between of this theme through the different games.

    Amazing job! Definitely one of the best articles about Zelda that I have ever read.

  • Brilliant.

    Your ability to recognize key moments and symbols is incredible. To weave a coherent thread through four games that released over the span of more than a decade is impressive in itself, but it's your use of relevant quotations and evidence that really drive your message home.

    You've done what great scholars do, but for a medium we actually care about. You've single-handedly deepened the world of Zelda beyond a level anyone would have thought possible. I do not think it an exaggeration to suggest that you are the foremost authority on Zelda's story in the entire world. Your insight exposes the relative poverty of time-line bickering.

    Needless to say, I enjoyed it and will save the web-page to my computer to keep for all time.

  • Caulaincourt

    My jaw dropped so many times. Just when you think you've discovered everything, the games surprises you.

  • Meralia

    What an awesome article! Wow some people really put some thought into these games, I would have never picked up on all of this. Just amazing, this blew my mind, now I'll have something to think about at work this week…

  • CrimsonJuiceBox

    This adds so much depth I'd never even thought about or realised existed before.
    The final line about the tree was just so… perfect.
    As someone else said, this is one of the best zelda articles I've ever read. wow.

  • swizzles

    This was an amazing article. I loved it, it's so deep and touching. Fantastic! 🙂

  • Enrique Partida

    i agre, o love this article, makes you think and makes you wanna play all zeldas again and to think about it, very nice boy 🙂

    • But… that would mean that you don't want to let go of the tree? Or I misunderstood it?

  • Darkus Triforce

    wow. i never knew majora's mask could be so… deep…

    • I always knew it had a dark and meaningful storyline but I didn't know how "deep" it could be either.

      • QueenxLink

        Yeah… Same here, I knew Majora's Mask meant something, but I couldn't figure it out.

  • ilia

    That made me cry. It said a lot about life and time. Touching.

  • Sol


    this was a great read! it compels me so much! now i have a lot of reflecting whenever i play these games

    more please!

  • Average Gamer

    This analysis is written well and pretty good overall. Right off the bat the article seems more like an observation and less like a forced opinion, making it better (in my opinion) than your previous article. I only have a few comments:

    In my opinion, Zelda trying to send Link back to "The way he is supposed to be," felt more like Zelda making one last mistake, with the price being paid in the backstory of TWW. Link was born to be the Hero of Time and to be in the Hyrule that he saved. Sending Link out of that Hyrule and separating him from his fate feels like the opposite of what was meant to be.

    Regarding Link's "lost confidence" in MM's opening, I never felt like Link lost any confidence. The opening felt more like a series of plot devices intended to drag Link into Termina. Also, I felt that the initial helplessness presented by the Deku Scrub form came from the fact that Deku Scrubs naturally seem to be feeble creatures, not from the Deku Scrub's age.

    The moon field analysis was well done. While your comments were interesting, be careful not to lose sight of the fact that the field mainly appeared to be a representation of Skull Kid's thoughts, not Link's. As for Majora's Mask, it is the cause of the troubles in the world of Termina, not something reacting to the troubles. The mask does not seem to be trying to preserve the past in any way, and slamming the moon into the ground would presumably destroy the "timeless" field as well.

    Also, in the Japanese version of Majora's Mask, the child under the tree wanted to play tag, which is basically called "Catch the Oni" in Japan. The Fierce Deity Mask was called the Oni God Mask in the Japanese version of the game. Thus, the Fierce Deity doesn't seem to be in any sort of parental role; if anything, it would be another child playing a game.

    This was ultimately a good article. Thanks for writing it.

    • Yeah, I also had my doubts whether Link really lost confidence when Navi left him. Despite being sent 7 years back, Link keeps "memory", he recollects all the endeavours he had to go through as a kid. In that way, you can say that Navi lefts because she has nothing else to teach to Link. Despite having the body of a kid, Link has the personality of an adult, he has grown up and therefore, can take care of himself. He doesn't need a fairy anymore to keep his confidence, as he has already learnt to let go of the tree. In fact, Link seems to leave Hyrule in order to fulfill his expectations as an adult. This is because Hyrule appears to have become too small and therefore, he leaves in order to search for something more. Yes, the story tells us that he left Hyrule in search of Navi, but do we have to assume that is his sole purpose by leaving? I think not.

      I know that sending Link back in time is like a way to reward him to live the life he really wanted to, but we never see Link going back to the forest. Therefore, I cannot truly understand that he lost confidence, as if he became a vulnerable child in an instant just because Navi left him. He saved Hyrule by defeating Ganondorf without Navi's help (at least she leaves in the first half of the battle, as I recollect). Why would he lose confidence when he could handle the most difficult endeavour and his companion couldn't? I think Navi meant a lot to Link, that's true. However, I think Navi leaves, because she knows Link has already grown up and she doesn't have anything else to offer for Link.

      When Tatl joins him, he treats Link very bad, and he never complains (if he were a kid with no confidence, would he really be that patient? He sees that Tatl is not the prick she appears to be at first, which is a clear sign of adult behaviour). He may appear fragile when he is turned into a deku scrub, but the only reason of his weakness lies on the fact that he cannot use his sword and the little power deku scrubs have.

      For me, Link does not appear to have lost confidence. He just enters a new world, where he knows he is a stranger, but he rapidly digests that fact as he now has the mental state of an adult. He knows how to do things by himself. I don't think Tatl's company makes him regain that confidence, but it certainly relieves him of doing the task on his own. Link may still feel lonely deep in his heart, but I don't think that makes him lose "confidence" on himself to the point where he becomes a child again. He is an adult from beginning to end in Majora's Mask (except when he falls asleep with Grandma's bedtime story, yet who could blame him, if that was that late and you were tired, it would make no difference whether you were a child or an adult)

      Also, Ganondorf's case may simbolize the desire not to leave childhood, but there's a little difference. Ganondorf wanted Hyrule as he confesses that his childhood had been a truly sad one. Why would he want to go back to those times if his childhood was so horrible?
      In this case, the tree that Ganondorf refuses to let go to is not HIS childhood, but his hope of living in the world of Hyrule when he was a Child. Apparently, as a Child, Ganondorf watched Hyrule from the distance and fell in love with its surroundings, its nature. However, in Ocarina of Time, it appears that those feelings he had for the land had transformed into Envy (If he really coveted the land, why turn Castle Town into such a horrible land with Undead all around its surroundings? That doesn't make much sense if you ask me). Instead of taking that world that he most coveted, he turns it into a nightmare, most probably because he wanted people to experience his own pain. However, in WW, Ganondorf does not seem that cruel, as if all he only wanted was to to take possession of the land he coveted, especially its wind, while in his land all it brought was Death. I understand the symbolization of Ganondorf in WW, but in OoT, it is clear that Ganondorf does not represent that in the same way. He lives attached to his past of course (seven years before he could obtain the Triforce), but his obsession is to not to let go of his tree (immortality and power), but to obtain more, lust for more. In that sense, he is an adult, because the world in which he lives in has become so little to him. It's true that he is a sort of a twisted version of an adult, because he let go of his tree long ago, but only because that tree was certainly a lousy one with nothing good to offer. In order words, he became an adult without having to make the effort of abandoning his tree as the article emphasizes that the transition from childhood to adulthood should be. Probably, that's why he became so greedy: He never had a tree to let go to and the Triforce and Hyrule (in WW) became that tree, with the only difference that it was never his and he could only grasp it for brief moments.

      • Hylian Dan

        I avoided analyzing OoT's Ganondorf in this article, since as you pointed out, it's not that great a fit. There's a lot to talk about in regards to TWW's Ganondorf, so after I wrote this I put together the Philosophy of The Wind Waker article series, also on this site. It's a bit of a follow up to this article, since I didn't devote all that much attention to TWW here.

        Personally, I see Link as someone who's prone to occasional loneliness and depression, given how he was different as a kid. And returning to an unchanged home can make great adventures feel like a dream, especially in this case when the only one who shared Link's memories disappeared. So I think the end of OoT left Link feeling restless – a giant standing in a small playpen. I also think the Song of Healing played a role in his development, when the Mask Salesman played it for him.

        I don't feel that Link fully transitioned into adulthood in OoT. I read an excellent article once about Link's characterization in OoT, how the relationship between Navi and Link was like mother and child. As powerful as Link was and as great as his feats were, the constant presence of his surrogate mother is a reminder of his youth. The tree in MM could be seen as a symbol of both his foster parents – Navi and the Great Deku Tree – and the game finds Link in that vulnerable state in the wake of their disappearance.

        But I think the games do a wonderful job of giving the Hero of Time a soul while leaving his character open to interpretation. I like to think that all of MM is a reflection of his soul, with the final battle pitting his inner weakness against his inner strength. I can't say that's right, but it's an interpretation.

  • JPiazza

    This has got to be the greatest connection of the Legend of Zelda games that I have ever read. Hylian Dan is an amazing and truly gifted writer. I look forward to reading more of your work.

  • mike

    Esta geniaaal! Todo lo qe pusiste me hizo recordar muchos momentos del juego… Me hizo analizar sobre mi persona…!

    Super genial! de verdad!!

    no se qe decir!
    Eres grande!

  • Anonymous

    Some of the things written in this article have changed my perspective on not only the Zelda games, but life itself. Thank you for that.

  • Great job man. It makes me want to play MM again.

    • QueenxLink

      Yeah! Now I have the sudden urdge to play Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask over again…

  • Dead Zealot

    God, that was beautiful. I cried a little…You have turned Zelda into a religious experience for me, Dan.

  • Shaelyn

    I've read up to the point that TWW was mentioned, since I haven't yet completed the game. (The Seeds of the Future)

    I'm curious about where ALttP fits in with all of this though. ALttP seems to have that same land that was meant to be untouched (the Golden Land), and like in Link's Awakening, how paradise turned into a nightmare after staying too long on Koholint, the Golden Land transformed into the Dark World.
    I have this gut feeling that ALttP is also a piece of the puzzle in the article you wrote, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, Dan.

    you always do a wonderful job on your articles; I look forward to reading more. <3

    • Hylian Dan

      I completely agree about ALttP. There are even traces of this meaning in TP. I could have quoted Zelda's line about light and shadow being two sides of the same coin in the last section – it goes along nicely with the image I ended with. But I narrowed the scope of this article to these four particular games. I feel these games do the best job of expressing this theme, but other games in the series relate to it as well.

    • Reed

      I think one theme is the changing world into a darker place truly reflects the darkness of some people. In ALttP, everyone transforms in the dark world to suit their inner nature. I can't remember what quote from the game explained that, however. When Link first enters the dark world, he enters as a feeble rabbit that can't use any equipment and is completely useless. I think the moon pearl represents the found strength to be resilient to a large, negative change, and remain the same strong person to overcome the darkness.

  • daymare

    whoa holy *#$% awsome

    • Bitf Adict

      "whoa holy *#$% awsome"? Are you nine, talking about somthing else, didn't read the article, or just flat stupid?

  • Prince Deity


    Amazing, just… amazing. I can;t even describe it…

  • This reminds me of why I like the Legend of Zelda series so much. There is a lot of philosophical depth in the stories that most people don't pick up on. Dan has brought to light many of the philosophical meanings either purposefully or not hidden in the stories of these games. It just goes to show that behind the greatest games are the wisest developers. If the developers of these games didn't know they were including philosophical depth, then it is a reflection of their lives, but if they did know, then they are geniuses.

  • Waldo

    Awesome article!

  • LOZ Historian

    The article was nostalgic, enlightening, and very moving… unlike any Zelda-related article I have ever read. This piece of work truly makes us see the philosophical themes behind Zelda games… Not only that fact, but it allows us fans (especially veterans) to self reflect and interpret our level of concerns we have in the Zelda Series as fans … The message of this article makes me wonder if I am the "Ghost"/ "Ganondorf" as you label in your article…

    You are truly inspirational Hylian Dan. Zelda IS about growth. I thank you for this.

    ~LOZ H~

  • Satchmo

    Fantastic, thank you for showing the recurring themes in this universe that I've been searching to clarify for a while, this was a wonderful summary.


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  • This really does go way deeper. It brings everything to life and have way more meaning. I think I am going to play Twilight Princess right now, so thanks!

    Awesome job!


    great job dan, bravo

    still blows me away that a series of games brings people together so much, and that these meanings are there to be found in the game for those who look deep enough. im betting you just articulated alot of peoples thoughts perfectly.

    i loved where you talked about link leaving kokiri forest and the player feeling that he could die if you walked out of that tunnel for the first time, when i was young and it was all new to me. this part really sticks out in my memory.

    also loved the part about the deku butlers son and how the skull kid killed him to make links deku form.

    terrific insight, keep them coming.

  • Zeldadudetp

    Your articles are amazing.

    It's this kind of stuff that makes me want to even bother with ZU's articles.

    Thank you. 🙂

  • YKProductions

    Very good article, I love the way you pick out every detail. Brilliant!

  • triforcex12


  • SoraKokiri

    My friend, thanks to you, now I realize that unknown feeling I had at the end of MM and OoT. I cried and cried but didn't understand why I did, I had many sleepless nights trying to figure the sentiment out. The words that Zelda tells Link at the end of Ocarina left me with a big shock: "Now go Home, Link, regain your lost time! Home…where you are supposed to be…the way you are supposed to be…".

  • SoraKokiri

    After a while, I realized the meaning of this. I noticed that Link always behaved a little too childish for his own when he was an adult, and I understood that with a hint of pain: He never had the chance to enjoy his childhood, since he had to leave Kokiri Woods at a young age, because of the heavy duty of saving Hyrule. He faced death, pain, betrayal, and some truth he wasn't expected to know at such a tender age. Now that I red your great article, I understand that painful feeling: I felt what Link was feeling. I just was so happy when I figured it out,but cried for days for his sake. Then again, in Majora, it made it better for me, since I knew Link was able to move on, and find a new kind of happiness even if he was in a way, 'pushed' to grow up.

    I just can't express all these things to you now, there is still too much (like how I noticed the same thing happened in Minish Cap), but I hope you understand what i said and not think I was making it all up.

    Good work, and thanks.


  • Unbelievable. I was feeling very depressed today, but that article really cheered me up. I can't describe how I feel…. It's sensational.


  • Shaelyn

    understood 😉

  • THAT WAS AMAZING! Seriously one fo the best articles I have ever read! So deep, and it has all the awesome Zelda quotes. Please keep these coming. A piece of artwork! Games can be a lot deeper than the appear on the surface!

  • Zack

    this just blew my mind.

    How do things come together like this?

  • Linksoer


  • Anonymous

    Epic…. Life changing…. Thank you.

  • Tizer

    I had the most terrible headache this morning, I didn't really feel like reading this article just yet but I did it anyway. I'm glad I did, this article worked better than aspirine, it seems. The way the pieces of the puzzle all fell into place, amazing, I still got shivers down my spine. I always liked MM better than OoT, when a friend of mine asked why, I couldn't answer. I said it was because of the sad ending, just like in OoT, but this ending was somehow even more sad even though everything worked out well enough in the end. I suppose Link just isn't meant to stay in any place for too long a time, he is after all the Hero of Time and not the controller of it. Thanks for this insight that has been gnawing at me ever since I played MM. Great, great article.

  • link fan 97

    this is great it shows what messages that you may not have picked up off the zelda series i mean i never realised or understood most of these until i read this

  • Graham

    really brilliant- consistent and kept to the point, consistently maintaining reference. a wonderful observation i'm shocked to have never noticed, and grateful to be given in this way!

  • Darkstar

    This is probably why the Zelda games are so meaningful to people. Their hidden, profound themes of lost childhood and letting go of the past is something a lot of adults face in real life – no one wants to let go of the good times but we all learn to move on and accept it.. Excellent article Dan!
    Zelda has always been and always will be an amazing legend. Too bad some of these characters and places are only in our children's minds

  • Kaylee

    I never felt that Link was too childish in his relationship with Ruto. He might not even understand that most cultures have moms and dads, let alone what marriage and engagement were. The game specifically tells us that "You don't know what she means by engagement, but you have the Zora Sapphire." They even mention his ignorance in the manga. Princess Zelda told him that he had to get Zora's Sapphire. If anything, his fault was in failing to stop and find out what this weird "engagement" thing was, but he was in a hurry. As it was, he was too late to meet Zelda in the Temple. I would suggest that he might not really understand what "fiance" means, unless his miraculous growing up added to his vocabulary. It's seems mostly a cultural misunderstanding.

  • Wow. Another amazing article. Your insight, thought and analysis are as spectacular as ever. As someone who just switched to an English major, I feel very inspired and hopeful that I'll be able to have such a fulfilling, deep process like this to think through.

    Although I have to disagree a bit on some parts. I definitely agree with AverageGamer about the MM beginning and Deku Scrub. I also have find the Kafei points a bit reversed. Well, another possibility. I feel Kafei ran away, but also to protect his loved ones and himself. He ran away like a child, afraid of others perception and unable to face his loved ones, but also unprepared to force them to come to terms with his state and drag them into his problem. And like Link in the beginning, although he has an adult's mind, he only has a child's body, so he must deal with the situation as best as a child is able. He can only send letters to his mother and attempt in whatever way he can to get back his mask and hope the best for Anju.

    I'm so ashamed, I couldn't even finish the whole article yet, but I'm going to take my time in reading, savoring and enjoying it.

  • zelda fan

    it's like you and good times are in an egg and the world is outside. majora was in it's own egg, then the world shatterd her egg so her forms represented the emotions majora's mask :hideing behind a mask in fear. majora's incarnation memories of old freinds and good times and liveing in the past
    majora's wrath :anger rage hatred and revenge to the world for shatering the egg.but a good child will find a new egg and majora woildn't let go of her old egg.

  • zeldafan

    mabey there is something bigger then we're thinking mabey all the games have one thing in common that could explain every thing about zelda, link and all the other charactors who knows.

  • OnyX

    This made me cry several times.

    I had no idea all of this was inright in front of my very eyes, and yet I couldn't see it.

  • cukeman

    This was a good read, but I think you are being a bit unfair to Link in regard to the Princess Ruto relationship. First off, Ruto thrust herself onto Link, Link didn't agree to any kind of a commitment, and secondly Link had no idea he would be gone for seven years, so you can't really blame him for that…still good read 🙂

    • Yeah, I agree. It wasn't just child's perception, she WAS a bit creepy to say the least. lol She's like Old Gregg from The Mighty Boosh.

  • shell sword 1

    i just beat the game links awakening it almost ade me cry to realise that koholint island was a dream disapointing i almost wish i didnt beat the game 🙁

    • marin + link

      same hear so i kept reeplaying the game but i forget how to get the seashells cn some1 tell me wear thay r

  • Ignacia

    Thank you very much, your words and interpretation have opened my eyes and gotten very deep inside of me, it has moved me truly.

  • Brice

    I can't believe you didn't mention Tingle though. He was the best example.He wanted to remain a child, and his dad told him to grow up, but why?

  • Gabe

    Never have I read something so deep and true. How many would just say it's a game for enjoyment and ignore the lessons that they are trying to portray. I thank you for your great story and I hope to read more from this insight. It is not something most would actually take the time to understand or even interpret. I thank you for the insight I had missed. =]

  • Ryan

    This was an awesome read. I only found this place because there a discussion on another forum where I proposed Major Mask was a giant Metaphor. This was much deeper than my attempt to scratch the surface. This whole renewed look at Major's Mask has push me to put MM ahead of Oot. The game was hands down a work of pure genius.

  • Tim

    Dan, you are a great writer. Here in california its like midnight and i just finished. Dan, keep writing. but one thing. didn’t hyrule flood right after OoT? isn’t that why link and tetra/zelda are looking for new hyrule? (doesn’t spirit tracks take place in new hyrule? obviously they found it. :D) you said (i’ve never played twilight princess :/ ) that twighlight princess takes place in hyrule. does TP take place right after OoT? please reply. if not others please reply at [email protected]


    • Hylian Dan

      Ocarina of Time's ending created two timelines, due to the time travel. Twilight Princess takes place in the Young Link timeline, and The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks take place centuries after Ganon is sealed in the Adult Link timeline.

      • HAHAHA, Splitist, huh?
        I have read the discussion about this, I think there are connections between stories, but I don't think there's one or two timelines. You could tie the knots, but someone will always find a flaw.

        Regardless of that, good article.


        • Hylian Dan

          Oh, don't put much stock in what I say about timelines. I lost interest in that topic a long time ago. What I wrote above summarizes what I remember reading from an old interview with Mr. Aonuma about TP.

          • Ok, thanks for the quick reply.

            I just tried to tease you, but with no ill intentions apart from pointing on the fact that Zelda fans will never agree about whether it is one timeline or two. I just think that debate is a lost cause. That's all.

            Thanks again, Hylian Dan.

  • Sandywolf

    I don’t think there is anything I could say here to convey just how much I loved the piece. I could blather on all day long about how much I enjoyed reading it, and how it deepened something I only ever really thought of as a game. I listened to MM’s Final Hour the entire time, and must admit I cried a little. 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing your insight Hylian Dan! I will be bookmarking this page.

  • I think everyone should play these games, then read this. The entire world would grow up.

  • Hasskar

    I could not hold my tears back when i read this. One word: Brilliant

  • Malink fan

    In all these years I've never read anything more moving than this. After viewing others' comments I can not add anything else other than to say that this was truly beautiful. Since my earliest of years i loved zelda and still continue to this day. Funny enough, my favorites are still Link's Awakening, Ocarina, and Majora's Mask. I always considered that was because of the gameplay and storyline; which is still true. But after reading this i realize there might be something more than those reasons. I feel a connection to the characters. I recently have become in the eyes of society an adult. But i still linger to the childhood memories and feelings, not wanting to move on and stay frozen in time for eternity. Your words have not only opened my eyes to the games, but my own life as well. If i am to be more like Link, i too must leave my own little world and move on to the next. So all that's left to say is… thank you. For the wonderful read, and insight.

    • I felt the same way, Malink fan, but if I you put oneself in others position, you could find good reasons to stay in that condition. Does that make it automatically immature regardless of the reasons? I think not.

      On the other hand, does Link truly move on? He has grown up, but if you see it from another perspective, his fate is to be the Hero of Time. Does this make him into a free spirit or does it tie him down to do the same thing over and over again, just like many professions in the world do?

      Don't get me wrong, I believe the story is about growing up, yet letting go of the tree has not to be taken too literally. Does leaving your family and you moving to a different country to live on your own makes you grow up? Yes, totally. However, does the opposite apply as well? Does staying with your family because you feel you have a responsibility to it and refuse to go live somewhere, let's say your country make you a person who "refuses" to grow up? I think not and that's where I disagree with Dan, although I don't think he is "wrong". He is right that "growing up" about "moving on" and "letting go of the tree" but if you think you have break bonds with your family and go on your own sometimes can be seen the wrong way. How many people in the world have regretted for not being present when part of our family leaves this world. I heard also closed ones criticize their parents for having the possibility to leave and move out to different countries, and not taking that step because they wanted to stay. Does this decision automatically make them "immature" or "not letting to let go of the tree"? the second can certainly be seen that way, but I don't think that decision makes it "immature", especially if there are reasons to it.

      As many others, I believe many of us have been taught that part of growing up is to learn to respect others thoughts and decisions, whether we agree with them or not. If that's the case, we have to acknowledge that growing up does not follow only one single formulae. There are many ways of growing up and "moving on" may be seen as part of it, but in our world, many people do the same thing over and over again

      I have a lot of nostalgia. Hell, I even want to buy the house when I lived as a Kid when I'm older (third age, probably). Yet, responsibilities, handling out difficult situations, take a stand in certain matters, create your own morals and values; all of these things are part of "growing up".
      "Moving on" is a very broad expression, and "letting it go" is only a part of it. In order to "grow up", one has to let go a certain things and accept others, especially responsibilities, whether we like it or not. Yet, that does not mean that we have to leave behind "everything". Our memory recollects very well these things, and just as the Happy Sales man says at the end of MM: "it's up to us", it's our duty to grow up according to what we believe and leave up to our expectations, "moving on" to a new life, letting go certain things, but keeping those that we consider valuable.


  • 2paclives

    wow, that was amazing

  • Reed

    Well, I'm glad someone with such a profound amount of insight into the art of video games is actually going into game design. We need more creative minds to push the envelope beyond just the effeminate, gossiping and cliche characters of Japanese games, and the meat-head characters of American game design who don't understand the plots no matter how basic they are.

    I really hope whatever company you work for in the future respects and listens to you.

  • Memo

    That was A+++++. To me Oot and MM werent just the best games of all time but artistic masterpieces. Like your analysis i find myself hanging on to those days as a child when i first played them but i realise and accepted i must move on never to play such an amazing game ever again.

  • Your articles are very profound but even more practical, Hylian Dan. You should consider taking up writing after you graduate, unless you have by now. 🙂

    Thank you so much for putting your time and thought into these.

    • I remember this one. It's an amazing read, and going over it a second a second time I've noticed a lot more things, such as how BEN was basically derived from the Moon Children. A large amount of other ideas stick out, but I'll leave those for subsequent commenters to peruse over and note in their own posts.

  • Someguypostingthis

    Wow! Incredible article.

    One thing I'd like to add (perhaps on these several pages of articles someone has said this, perhaps not)–this theme started in the first game, which Shigeru Miyamoto said was inspired by his own imaginary adventures as a child. The first ''Zelda'', based on the life of a child, is about a young boy who takes on the responsibility of an adult–defeating a powerful evil that threatened the safety of the entire land.

    Still, Miyamoto clearly recognized the immortality of memories (with his memories of childhood in mind) when he conceived of Link. The fact that Link's clothing look almost exactly like those of Peter Pan's is definitely not a coincidence.

  • Guest.


  • Guest

    this is friggin amazing, made me think about a lot of things while i was reading this

  • James

    Dude…that was an incredible analysis. These games have always meant much to me, and with a greater understanding of them, I can find new appreciation in the old. Listening to the Ballad of the Wind Fish while reading an epic LoZ article. Nothing like it!

    "We let go of the tree to explore the world beyond it, but the tree is never lost."
    One does not forget The Legend of Zelda!

  • Gnryeah

    Wow. You've really put alot of heartfelt thought into this. One thing you haven't really touched upon, which became more clear througout, is that Link is the hero of time. Now, what I mean is, "Link", is not a singular entity, every Link in TLoZ, is one of the many heros. This occurs because of the lessons you so clearly brought forward, are repeated over and over throughout time, and he can only BE the hero, if he can transcend the desire to cling to the tree, the want to never let go, and dive into the uncertainty. Every Link is affected. Even in Twilight Princess, where he has to leave his village, leave all that is comfortable to chase down a Tyrant who represents the misery and fear of the unknown, represented in the spirits of Hyrule. In that, Midna is his guide, be she too has to let go of her childish desire for revenge, and to stop using Link. She realises this when she falls in love with him, something a child could never appreciate; and though she appears to have the body of a childish imp, she is infact a young adul (reflecting on Kafei), the same way Link is. This suggests that in this game, it is not so much about pure age, but attitudes to things, learning to let go, dive into uncertainty, to push yourself further into something that you may not understand or be afraid of. This is what Zelda is about, and I think you've hit the nail on the head my friend. You've obviously put alot more thought into it than I have, but the point of Zelda, is that The Hero of Time, TRANSCENDS time, and occurs as another youth, whether a child, or a young adult, who has to learn to let go of childish desire, and to grow, through experience. In that sense, there can be no end to Zelda, because there will ALWAYS be a new youth who has to experience that, and as he is reborn through time (as are his challenges), Link must reface his challenges over and over in a never ending cycle of learning.

  • That is an epic article. Now I know the true meanings to what Shigeru's dialogue in some Zelda games mean.

  • Siaarn

    That.. was the best thing I have ever read in my entire life, I am serious. It made me cry a little, I don't think words can really describe how amazing it was. Thank you for writing it.

  • Amazing stuff this. I do have a thought however; If mortals that enter the Kokiri forests are cursed into becoming monsters, why did this have no effect on the very mortal Link? Was adulthood deemed his curse for entering? Though that was to happen anyhow. Or was he perhaps born within the forest? Still, even were he carried there in mother's womb, he still would be a mortal crossing the forest's border. So was he conceived within the forest walls and then mayhaps his parents went mad and became some of the evil lurking within the forest? Though even were that the case, link crosses over the forest border many times throughout his life as both child and adult. Perhaps they dropped the ball with this conflicting bit in the story. Just a musing of thoughts here. Any thoughts from you guys/gals?

    • mcdude910

      Well his parents didn't turn into monsters. His father was a Hylian Knight that died in battle before Link was brought to the forest. Then his mother, dying, brought Link to the Deku tree when he was a baby. The Deku tree agreed to watch over him and she died right there.

      • You know, I hadn't really thought about the Deku Tree's play in this.
        But I guess that would certainly suffice as an explanation, seeing as how the Deku tree could've granted Link access denied to other mortals. Thanks dude!

  • MidnightAsaph

    I love the themes, but I wonder if the game designers intended it. As a writer, I loved reading this. It really gives the games a different meaning, but for me personally, it won't be as strong if it wasn't intended.

    • Hylian Dan

      Yoshiaki Koizumi wrote Link's Awakening's story and co-directed Majora's Mask. He later directed Super Mario Galaxy and inserted Rosalina's Story in there, which shares many of these themes. Check out the role of the tree in that story:

  • Majora's regret

    Absolutely amazing.

  • QueenxLink

    That was beautiful! It made me realize what these games mean and symbolize. Great article!!

  • andypopcorn

    I cried, it was beautiful. No more comments

  • TrustMe101

    That was absolutely beautiful. It makes me proud to be a Zelda fan because the whole point to it is to tell a story – a deep, mature, powerful, and wonderful one! Other games just don't have this type of stuff in it. This is proof that a video game can create amazing experiences that different entertainment can't create.

    Kudos to you, Hylian Dan! You're definitely my favorite article writer! 😀

  • nicnec7

    I am changed

  • My prior confusion aside, I really did enjoy this article though. I'm halfway disturbed at the amount of time you dedicated to piece all of this together, and half inspired and awed by your diligence and careful eye. 🙂

    The bit about the play pins was exquisite. As was the bit about leaving the moon tree. & Describing Majora as an incensed child? Astounding! It certainly offers new views on everything in the Zelda franchise. The way you described Majora wanting to break the world of when was also fascinating. Keep up the good work!

  • Eddy

    Dude, Dan, how do you write such deep articles on the Legend of Zelda? I guess the deeper meaning is there all along, waiting to be found. I was thinking while I read this how Shigeru Miyamoto says that the inspiration behind creating the Legend of Zelda was exploring when he was a kid. So these games are like bringing back childhood for him, I suppose.

    Btw, that wandering ghost in Link's Awakening and that quote, "Restless souls wander where they don’t belong…" reminds me of something Jesus said: "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first." Matthew 12:43-45a. Morbid, I know, but it came to mind

    • Hylian Dan

      A few years ago I figured that since "true happiness" was often alluded to in certain Zelda games, studying these games closely would allow me to understand the sort of happiness they referred to. That's where these articles came from.

  • Kemper

    Haven't read it all yet but I have to say… outstanding. This isn't just a read, its a deep religious and philosophical experience.

  • Hero_Of_Pie

    Fantastic article! One thing I would like to point out though: At the end of the Wind Waker it played the castle theme and not the Serenade of Water, making the next few claims slighty irrevelevant. However, I guess perfection and imperfection are like the two worlds. Life and death, mortality and imortality, time and infinity, childhood and adulthood. Thank you for helping me see the world anew.

    • Hylian Dan

      I believe the choral part of the castle theme is based on the Serenade of Water, the way Windfall's music echoes Kakariko Village.

  • Keyairah

    Absolutely amazing article. I think this changed my life a little. :')

  • Slixxer

    Personally I like the way you depicted it. It brought more depth, meaning, and understanding to the Zelda games. I would like to state the similarities between the games and actual life. Some people live their lives in the perspective of MM and Ganon in the sense that they don't want to let go of their trees of youth, they don't want things to change. Where as people with the perspective of Link don't necessarily embrace change but know that it is needed so they set forth on an adventure of their own with the intentions of overcoming obstacles that they know will appear.

    For instance, someone with the MM perspective would be the kind of 40 year old unemployed person that lives with their parents still. They don't want to face the responsibilities of the Adult world so they hide away.
    Someone with the Link perspective would be an 18 year old fresh outta school whose ready to get a job, move out on his own, get into a relationship, and start paying bills.

  • Brad

    One thing that I thought of when you said that the three days represent Link's mental state after Ocarina is something i heard about an experiment. In this experiment, people were given glasses that made the world turn upside down, but found that after three days, they could see fine again. Once they took off the glasses past this three day mark, the world was upside down again. Once again, it took three days for the brain to readjust before they could see normally again. The time that Link spends in Termina is very similar to him adjusting to his world being turned upside down by the events in Ocarina. He keeps resetting time because he is not quite ready to finish adjusting but he finally grows and is able to accept and adjust to the new worldview.

  • D.Loc

    this Hylian Dan guy deserves some kind of award

  • cbarnett2386

    Very nice and interesting read. Like someone had mentioned before, when we play these games, we don't necessarily pick up on these things. It's great to know someone picks these up and then reports their findings in an easy to understand manner! Great job!

  • Guest

    Cute ideas, but…

    It falls short. There is more to it.

  • 1Gannon1

    Man, I never thought of MM like this. Now I see it has a deeper message then I ever noticed…

  • Cube

    Why no mention of Tingle?

  • Isaac Net

    simply impressed by this articule..opens your eyes into a much more bigger world in the Zelda's series…wow wow

  • Andy J

    I finished the whole thing and I'm totally speechless! It's very interesting to see the stories put into a different perspective and make so much sense. It's left this feeling in my mind that I can't explain at the moment. But this was completely well written and well thought out. Inspiring even~!

  • Dean

    How nice! I neve thought of Zelda as a story like this! That is beautiful!

  • licawolf

    I actually teared up a little reading this. Beautiful.
    This made me reflect, not only upon the games, but upon myself too.
    Some of the parts of the games that you quoted are some of the ones that truly stayed with me all these years(I decided to read the article precisely because I noticed it started with the ghost scene from LA), now I can see why, and now that I'm an adult, and nostalgia for the younger days burns much more painfully, these themes truly resonate in me.

  • Hands down my favorite article on this site. I remember reading this shortly before I left for my first year of college, and it both saddened and comforted me. Now I'm a senior and have one more year before I enter the "real world," and that seems even scarier. But I'm going to read through this article again and remember that we all have to leave our "playrooms" at some point, =)

  • I have felt this way about these games for a long time, and it's nice to see it articulated in a way I could not accurately describe. And this only scratches the surface, gives us a glimpse. It would take pages and pages to present the level of depth in Majora's Mask alone.

    For instance, Majora describes Link as 'the bad guy.' The Fierce Deity mask is hinted to be something dark (which, if it is as you say, and it represents the strength in Link, he has the capacity for evil)–in Japanese, an Oni. A demon.

    "And when you're bad, you just run. That's fine, right?"

  • tristin

    after reading this, I feel like going back and playing each game again, just to find out every little hint in it.

  • Wow…read the entire article again. It never gets old. =]

  • Saria5627

    Oh my gosh. I love this article. You even used my favorite quote from Wind Waker in it! Awesome work!

    P.S. You've convinced me to spend my afternoon re-playing the end of TWW.


    GOD. That was so beautiful and deep and mind blowing… wow. Wow. I wanted to cry. XDDD and I could relate to all of that.

    I think we all have difficulty letting go of that tree branch we have curled in our fingers… but at least we all will remember how wonderful it was when we let go and touch the grass. 😀

  • Wonderful article. This is why I love Zelda. Everything is just so deep and emotional, and each game is connected to others in ways we never may have imagined.

  • Sdahl

    Thank you for your work, Dan. That might be the most beautiful thing I've ever read in my life (and I can tell it changed my point of view on some things in real life). Truely touching, I cried a little bit too. Now it's even more than the great game it is for me : it's a masterpiece about life. Thanks again and sorry for the mistakes, I'm French.

  • Dylan

    I suppose, when you look at no only this, but other things in life as well, it makes you think. We have only so much time. We can chose to cling to something, desperatley trying to keep it the way it was, not embracing future. But i suppose the enemies in the game were never truly evil, but merely frightened of what was to come. The uncertainty scared them and thusly, made them all go to great lengths to see that they would never see the day when they would have to face the end. They feared the unknown, and it takes a strong person to admit it, but it takes a stronger person to let go of their playpen, and accept the end. Thank you for opening my eyes to this and the very definition of strength itself.

  • Dylan

    I just realized, if you read this article while listening to Majoras Mask Time's End, you will feel an unbelieveable feeling of discovery.

    • Malinkfan

      first time i read this i was listening to Times End as well, now when i go back to read this amazing article i always listen to it

  • Jeff

    That was very deep.
    It's sad isn't it? This life seems almost like everything that we do is fruitless…

    Time is so cruel…

  • Andrew M.

    Amazing article, love the ideas and theories behind it. Have you considered publishing any of your work as books?

  • Taoku

    I read almost all of your review. It's kind of touching.
    I think I'll never see Zelda games (or any other game) the same way.
    Thank you for writing all of this!

  • I think that everything wrote was actually very logical. However, what about this? what if you added a little content? I ain’t saying your information is not solid, however what if you added a post title to possibly grab people’s attention? I mean Immortal Childhood » Articles – Zelda Universe is a little vanilla. You should glance at Yahoo’s home page and see how they write article titles to get viewers to open the links. You might add a video or a pic or two to grab people excited about what you’ve got to say. In my opinion, it could make your posts a little bit more interesting.

  • kitty

    1 question. Why do the kids on the moon look like the Happy Mask Salesman?

  • This is great, thanks for sharing.

  • Araniel

    I wander if you have read something by Jung. If you haven't, I suggest you to do and then write more articles on the same theme. However, you hit the target speaking of the tree as a symbol, I would say the "archetype of the tree", and the article's title is beautiful. The divine or eternal child is just another archetype of the collective unconscious.

  • Anonymous

    This is THE most amazing article I’ve ever read. This is so emotional for me, since I grew up with these games. I’m at the age when it’s time to let go of the tree, and you actually helped me do that. And now, I’ve been replaying those games, and realizing how emotional those games are. Thanks Dan.

  • I do not know whether it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else encountering problems with your website. It appears like some of the text on your posts are running off the screen. Can someone else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them as well? This might be a problem with my web browser because I’ve had this happen
    previously. Many thanks

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  • Koholint is nothing less than a paradise, an infinitely beautiful and comforting home. Link even finds a family in Marin and Tarin, who take Link in and enjoy spending time with him.

  • Thanks for sharing such an amazing post. It is really a helpful post

  • meridian

    thank you. this was a very well researched, well written essay, and a wonderful read!!

  • Imaizumi Kagerou

    Very enlightening. Thank you for the read. This inspires certain similar thoughts about other parts of the series, which interests me. I wouldn’t mind sharing my thoughts, but it may be too wordy for a comments section. Is there some other way I can share, by any chance?

  • Semaug

    Link did grow up in OoT. Link was an adult by the end of OoT, you’d have to bend a lot of details and plot points to make it seem otherwise. For example you claim that Navi represents his surrogate mother of sorts. There’s barely any DIRECT evidence for this. Indeed Navi does represent a sort of guide/parental figure(somewhat) however the death of the forest tree- death of your father, parents. Link grew up by the end of Ocarina of Time, Miyamoto stating many times how he wanted “a link between past and future” thus child link, and grown up link. You also claim that Link’s thrust into adulthood was unusual- not so. Adulthood comes at many of us suddenly, one second we’re kids(although there are hints towards it) and then all of a sudden we have a bunch of responsibilities and burdens on our shoulders. Link went through adolesecne in the first three dungeons, the last temples were clearly about how he grew up. Seriously you’d have to ignore so many plot details. Also Navi represents- a guide. Link is GUIDED IN OoT. HE HAS A CLEAR GOAL SET BEFORE HIM. Do well in college, have kids, do well in graduate school, morality dictates us to do these things. Link even (probably) resists these burdens through the form of dark link, but overcomes this as well. Navi represents the guide we have in life to overcome the challenges of becoming an adult. When Navi leaves, it is essentially the end of the quest, Link has completed his journey. MM addresses the question of “now what?” What happens to us after we get a job? What happens after the great quest that defined our existence is accomplished? Constant reminder of his childhood? You mean how we always are reminded to continue going on our great quest? Easily could be explained as morality and that guiding sense to us. Adulthood doesn’t mean you create morality for yourself, that’s the stage after usually.

  • Guest 2

    Is Majora’s Mask perhaps a call for us as gamers to put away the toys of our youth? Don’t get me wrong, I love video games, but sometimes I wonder if it holds us back from all the value that reality and growing up has to offer as the writer of the article spoke of? Or is it a reminder that at some point we can revisit the wonders of our youth, but don’t stay there too long.

  • Eric C

    Yes… beautiful article!! I had on my own a few years come to the same conclusions about the true meaning behind Majora’s Mask being Link growing up – wrote an essay as well about it (this was for school back in high school!). You have many points I never considered, and you have solved mysteries I wondered about – such as the meaning behind the tree! I have played all 4 games you talk about in this article, but I never thought about the ties to Awakening and Windwaker! That’s astounding to me.

    You might be interested to know a few points I used that I didn’t see here. One is that masks are a very, VERY prominent aspect in many African cultures. One use? – initiation rituals. In fact, the whole theme of Majora’s Mask I’m pretty sure stems from African culture – where there is not much blur between adulthood and childhood but rather a fine line you cross. I remember one such initiation where the people put together a mask that represents their adulthood… sound familiar?

    Your idea in this article is 100% correct – I’m sure of that. I really want to see what you think about the Happy Mask Salesman… because his role in all of this is huge. Giant. The Happy Mask Salesman… his role is much greater in the story than it seems at first.