The Wind Waker includes some of the most energetic and uplifting tracks of the Zelda franchise. “Outset Island,” “Windfall Island,” and “The Great Sea” are a few that immediately come to mind. But your sea-faring adventure also features a moving melancholic melody at a crucial moment, and if you aren’t paying close attention, you could easily miss it.
I’m referring to a track entitled, “Medli’s Awakening – Part 2.” The song only plays once. After the two brief melodic passages finish, it loops on the final two chords until the accompanying cutscene ends. This may be so that listeners don’t get entranced during a segment where you are meant to make a quick escape, but it always leaves me wanting to hear more. Luckily, BrawlBRSTMs3 X made a custom loop allowing you to listen to the full song repeatedly for up to 30 minutes on YouTube.
“Medli’s Awakening – Part 2” plays after Link conducts the “Earth God’s Lyric” for Medli, who is on Dragon Roost Island practicing her harp to help fulfill her duties as attendant to Valoo, the protector of the Rito tribe. Medli plays along, then suddenly faints and falls into Link’s arms. She experiences a vision of herself playing a lovely harp duet of the “Earth God’s Lyric” with the Earth Sage, Laruto. With the uplifting melody still ringing in our ears, Medli regains consciousness and reveals to Link that she has awoken as the next Earth Sage. Cue “Medli’s Awakening – Part 2,” its somberness all the more striking after the preceding joyous performance.
Medli’s awakening is one of my most beloved moments in the game, if not my favorite. I eagerly await it on every playthrough. It’s the moment Medli transforms from a great character into one of the game’s best (and one of my all-time favorites). The awakening divides Medli internally. She becomes torn between the pride, excitement, and hope instilled in her by her revelation and the sadness, longing, and apprehension welling up as she realizes she must leave her people and homeland. She is particularly distressed over leaving Prince Komali, having compared her relationship to him as that of a mother and child just before her awakening. Ultimately, Medli must leave all she knows to fulfill her role as the Earth Sage. She wants to be remembered as a simple attendant, so she leaves in silence before Komali can present her with a gift.
This event is a perfect encapsulation of the inherent tensions of exploration. While it is exhilarating to see new lands, meet new people, and experience new adventures, we inevitably have to leave the people and places we love to do so. The danger of not embarking, however, is that we will never experience and achieve all that we can in this life. Medli dives headfirst into her future, but she carries those she loves in her heart as she does. (If you are interested in reading more on this tension, check out one of our older features on The Philosophy of The Wind Waker).
Medli and Link spot Komali flying above before silently leaving for the Earth Temple.
And the music perfectly matches the moment. The composers demonstrate musical mastery by altering the familiar “Dragon Roost Island” melody to evoke a completely different set of emotions. The characteristic rapid mandolin strumming used in “Dragon Roost Island” has been replaced by slowly picked guitar, setting a heavier atmosphere. A pan flute plays a variation on the “Dragon Roost Island” melody with the last note of each passage trailing off, as if grasping on before being forced to end. What was once an upbeat tune that stirred up excitement for exploring a new land becomes a song of mourning. It is Medli’s swansong before leaving her home, possibly forever (fortunately, she does get to see her kinsfolk at the end of the game).
If you return to Dragon Roost Island after Medli’s Awakening, you can find a despondent Komali still clutching the gift he intended for Medli on the day fate spirited her away (with the help of an oddly clad young lad and a talking red boat). He mutters, forlornly, “My flower… it wilted… The joy on Medli’s face when she saw this flower… I really wanted to see that… Medli… I wonder where she’s gone…” Knowing how Medli’s departure affects Komali makes Medli’s Awakening, and the accompanying music, that much more powerful on subsequent playthroughs.
If I can’t wait to play through The Wind Waker again to witness Medli’s Awakening, I am glad I can always listen to the music on loop. It’s a great accompaniment for watching a sunset and/or staring out to sea. I encourage you to take a listen and reflect on the people who are important in your life.