Guru Guru is a recurring character in the Zelda series with a jolly disposition, but who is surprisingly quick to anger over seemingly trivial matters. In Ocarina of Time, Guru Guru becomes enraged that some kid played a song that made the windmill spin rapidly, even though the man is clearly obsessed with things that spin. In Majora’s Mask, he suddenly erupts when explaining that he used to be part of an Animal Troupe, but was relegated to playing second fiddle to a dog. After explaining that his jealously (and blatant insecurity) led him to steal a mask from the canine leader, he calms down and gives Link the Bremen Mask.
I thought this whole episode quite bizarre and questioned why a mask with the likeness of a falcon would bear the name Bremen. Was Bremen a type of bird? It turns out the mask’s name, along with Guru Guru’s story behind it, are references to an ancient fable.
Princess Zelda’s Study is a series where we examine the history of The Legend of Zelda to bring you some fascinating (or just plain weird) trivia. In our studies, we’ll explore each game’s development, curiosities within the rich lore of the franchise, and the impact it has had on our culture. From time to time, we’ll also look at Nintendo’s past to unearth some facts about our favorite company.
The Bremen Mask takes its name from a popular German fairy tale (or should I say Fairy Tael?) known as the “Town Musicians of Bremen.” The Brothers Grimm first published the story in “Grimms’ Fairy Tales” in 1819, though versions of it date back to the 12th Century. Centering on aging farm animals who were soon to be discarded by their owners, the tale tells of a dog, donkey, cat, and rooster who band together and run away to become musicians in the German city of Bremen. The troupe stumbles upon a thieves’ den on their way to Bremen, and upon witnessing the scofflaws gloating over their ill-gotten gains, decide to scare them away by standing on each other’s backs and creating a cacophony. Hopefully their musical routine is a little more pleasant, as the din they produced was frightening enough to successfully chase away the looters. In the Brothers Grimm version, the animals settle into the abandoned cottage and live out their days in harmony, but other versions tell of the ensemble receiving a hero’s welcome upon arrival in Bremen.
Bremen is currently the 11th largest city in Germany, being home to about 2.5 million people, and is a major hub for business and culture in the northern part of the country. The city celebrates its famous feral friends with a statute that was erected there in 1953, showing the vagabonds arranged in their signature pose used to frighten the thieves. Similar monuments stand in front of Germany’s five veterinary schools. “The Town Musicians of Bremen” has enjoyed popularity outside of it’s titular locale with several modern retellings, including an all Muppet version.
The Bremen Mask in Majora’s Mask is clearly a reference to this fairy tale. Of course, Bremen is in the name, so that one’s obvious. Guru Guru also explains, “Long ago, I was in an animal troupe, with dogs and donkeys and such.” This alludes to two of the heroic runaways in the fable. The mask’s appearance could even be said to resemble a chicken, another member of the musicians (although many believe it is a reference to Falco from the Star Fox series).
The mask’s utility doesn’t seem to have any relation to it’s namesake. Wearing it does not cause Link to stack animals and create a ruckus so as to drive off bandits, although this would have been a pretty neat way to fend off the bomb thief found in North Clock Town. Instead, donning the Bremen Mask causes nearby animals to march behind Link as he plays an uplifting ditty on the ocarina and high-steps about Hyrule. This may actually be a reference to another fairy tale with a German city in the title: The Pied Piper of Hamelin.
While the Bremen Mask was a source of grief for Guru Guru, his story certainly sparked my curiosity and led me to dig deeper into what has become my favorite mask in Majora’s Mask. I am grateful I did because it led me to learning about a tale I was unfamiliar with. Learning this in turn increased my appreciation for the mask and the detail that the Zelda designers put into their work.