When most people think of Majora’s Mask, they think of the moon, the timer, or the masks themselves.  They think of the game’s contrasting themes, the music which seems so lighthearted at first but grows darker as the days progress, or the numerous characters you run across as you race across Termina under the pressing shadow of an apocalypse.  While all of these themes and stories stand out to me, there was one sidequest that affected me so much that I remembered it during a playthrough despite having forgotten much of the game itself.

Realm of Memories is a series where we reflect on our absolute favorite moments in The Legend of Zelda games. These could be the times we first fell in love with a game, were moved by the events of the story or actions of a character, felt triumphant when overcoming a tough boss or challenge, or we had an experience so unique that the adventure truly became our own. The Zelda series has touched our lives in many ways, and just as Hyrule has endless stories to share, so do our writers!

The quest itself isn’t required to finish the game, though it does yield a rather useful mask upon completion.  You first hear about the parent and child if you run across Sakon in Ikana Canyon. He mentions them as being curious while simultaneously admiring your sword in an attempt to steal it, and if you have the Garo’s mask, one of them speaks of a little girl as well.    After that, it’s a matter of exploring that gets you on the path to this small yet heartbreaking part of the game.

To progress into the area’s temple, you’ll need to learn the Song of Storms, which is taught to you by a spirit named Flat in the Ikana Graveyard. Tatl then clues you in on the cave where you find his brother Sharp, and the following cutscene prompts you to drown out Sharp’s cursed by playing the song you just learned.  The music causes the river flow, which rids the area of the haunting Gibdos and allows the residents to proceed about their normal lives. During this cutscene, the game makes a point of showing you that the door of the prominent house in the canyon is now unlocked.

Before this, if you make it around the Gibdos to approach this house, a person inside shouts, “Keep away from our house!  My father is not one of you!” This doesn’t make sense until later on after you have the mask which enables you to speak to the Gibdos, and you learn that they’ve been circling this house whispering, “Those inside… our friends… bring them!” incessantly.

After the water has begun to flow, the house becomes a music box of sorts, and the person within emerges.  We learn it’s a little girl, shorter and tinier than Link, who is around 10 or 11 in this game. She approaches the river and stares at it, which allows you to sneak inside so long as you’re quiet. The stone mask is useful during this quest, or if you don’t have it, you can distract the girl with a bomb to get her further away and allow you to bypass her once again. Once inside, things look normal. It’s a colorful house, and the music playing outside echoes around you, but as soon as you proceed downstairs you find something sinister is going on.

The doors of a wardrobe burst open and out stumbles a man.  Bandages cover half his body, and what’s left uncovered is twisted and grotesque.  He moans unintelligibly, lumbering forward, one uncovered yellow eye rolls and searches for anything as he stumbles forward, arms extended like a zombie.  The battle music begins to play because, clearly, this is an enemy of some sorts. But if you swipe at the monster the scene changes entirely.

“Stop it!” the little girl wails, rushing forward and throwing herself in front of this man turned monster.  She’s barely above his knees but she holds him back, demanding Link tell her who he is and what he’s doing wandering into people’s houses.  Behind her the man keeps reaching and moaning, and eventually the little girl turns and begins pushing her him towards the wardrobe behind her.

“Don’t!” she cries. “It’s me! It’s Pamela!”

At this moment there’s a brief glimpse of her face, then the man begins clutching his head and shaking himself before turning back to the wardrobe and crawling inside, seemingly of his own volition.  Pamela positions herself in between the man and Link again and shouts once more, “Get out! Forget everything you’ve seen here and get out!”

Link is thrown outside, perhaps bewildered by what he’s just seen.  I certainly was. At the time I first played the game, I was studying for my degree in social work, and when I played it for a second time recently, I’m now a parent myself.  The whole scene is a little horrifying from those perspectives: this young, tiny child protecting her parent that’s been turned into some sort of a mindless monster. Parents are supposed to protect their children, not the other way around. She’s keeping him locked away, lest he hurt her, or lest he join the demons that have been circling her home.  It’s something out of a horror movie yes, but it’s also incredibly tragic when you think too long about it, and both times I did the quest I started tearing up imagining a child I knew or one of my own in that same situation.

Fortunately, there is a solution to their woes that is easily accomplishable.  Link can return to the house and sneak past Pamela once again. When the man bursts from the closet, instead of battling him you play the Song of Healing.  He writhes for a moment, then transforms back to what he was – a man in a white coat who looks a little nonplussed. Pamela enters again at this point and gives us some insight to the story.

“Father?” she asks, and when he looks up and holds out his arms she rushes into them.  “Father!”

The pair embrace, the man asking “What have I been doing this whole time?” with a haunted, despairing expression as he holds his trembling child.  Through her tears Pamela says, “You… haven’t been doing anything. You had a bad dream. You were just having a little nightmare.”

Throughout this scene the Song of Healing plays peacefully in the background, though its melody once again is dripping with a sadness that‘s almost palpable.  The game once again does what Zelda games have been known for since their first debut: use music to enhance a scene and fill it with an emotion that emanates off the screen and straight into your heart.  This image of parent and child embracing is incredibly moving, but the moments leading up to it were incredibly dark, which is par for the course in a game that centers around the prevention of an apocalyptic event.

Majora’s Mask is chocked full of these moments – strange, seemingly pointless sidequests that suddenly morph into a deeper part of the story, enriching the world of Termina just as much as Hyrule has been in the other games.  You can play the story without collecting all the masks, certainly. The Gibdo one is useful, but it is not required. But in doing so, you miss out on so many touching experiences and unique elements that make this game stand out so much from all the others in the Zelda catalog.  It’s one I will certainly come back to now that I’ve played it again, and I’m sure when I come across this section I’ll find my eyes watering once more.