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Majora's Mask - Link is DEAD! (not really)

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1 Majora's Mask - Link is DEAD! (not really) on Tue Dec 01, 2015 3:56 pm

Going to start off by saying, Archengeia, you did a wonderful job on the MM Rumination. Very good thoughts, fresh ideas... not the same stuff you hear day-in and day-out on youtube. *golf clap*

Introduction

While you covered a lot of the "what" and the "how" of Majora's Mask... I want to touch on the "why". The philosophical and existential aspects of the game. There is a heck of a lot of symbolism in MM and it is a really really personal game. I'm kind of limited on time, so I'm going to give a rundown of as much as I can, and hopefully interact on it more later.

Bottom line. This game is a representation of Link's struggle with the implications becoming a child again. I can't believe nobody else ever came up with this before you said it, and i found myself laughing and clapping when you said it in your Rumination. This whole game is about Link's death! but not Link himself... but the death of the "Hero of Time".

Tween Trouble

Firstly, the last thing that we know happened with Link before the events of Majora's Mask was that he was sent back in time to make a new timeline where Ganondorf never ruled. What is the primary game mechanic in MM? going back in time! On top of that, we have Kafei, a parallel character for Link, who was also recently turned into a child... and even the main villain, who also represents Link (I'll get to that later), is the Skullkid. The theme of going back in time isn't just prevalent, but is very distinctly characterized as a bad thing. And Link has to relive events again, and again, and again... with everything he does being erased each time. Interestingly, the only difference between the first and last cycles is what Link brings with him...

As a sidenote, while the game ending shows the sidequests you completed during the game, this is simply a segregation of story and gameplay. You can see clearly on your last cycle everything playing out as though you hadn't done anything, therefore the only way for these things to change is if Link does them again, or the game ending plays out as though you did all of those things on your last cycle (off screen).

So why is Link struggling with being a kid again? Twilight Princess sheds some light on the subject with the Hero's Shade. He says that he regrets that the Hero of Time was forgotton. Everything he fought for in the adult timeline went away. His legacy was never established. This is Word of God form Hyrule Historia. This is also represented by the loss of Navi. Navi was Link's direction and purpose. Losing Navi symbolizes losing direction and purpose. He sets out again to find Navi (and hence new purpose).

While I don't subscribe to the 5 stages of grief theory, the themes stay true to Link's struggle as each area has to cope with some sort of loss. Anyone who has read this far probably already knows where I'm going with this so I'll leave that there.

Masks

I won't dive too much into this, as Archengeia covered this beautifully... but the idea that everyone wears a mask is unbelievably overlooked by most theorists. Masks are identities. We peel away at the identities of the people we encounter to reveal who they really are. Link, likewise, has to come to terms with his own identity. In his search for meaning, he collects these perspectives and worldviews of everyone he meets in the form of their masks. He plays the part of whomever it is but none of these masks fit him, which is why in the end... he ultimately gives them all away to obtain the Mask he really wants... the one that looks suspiciously like adult Link... He wants to be the Fierce Deity (representing Link's hyperbolic idea of the "Hero of Time" persona he had fashioned for himself). But even that is only a mask. It's not him. He has to learn to remove his own mask... just like the people of Termina. It is actually in this respect that the Elegy of Emptiness makes sense. The child link isn't who he see's himself to be. It's only a container or faux-life, much like the other persons lives he lives out as the Deku, Goron, and Zora.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Unfortunately that's all for now... I will get into Kafei and the Skull Kid as symbols for Link, and how they reflect Link's heart later (hopefully this evening); as well as the important imagery involved with the Moon.

Feel free to comment and discuss in the meantime!

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2 Re: Majora's Mask - Link is DEAD! (not really) on Thu Dec 10, 2015 12:14 pm

Kafei

Before we dive into the significance of Kafei's story and how it relates to Link, let's establish some skin-level comparisons to support the idea these two should be held side-by-side. 1) Kafei was an adult who was changed back to a child. 2) Kafei is temporarily playable (something very rare in the franchise). 3) Kafei is left-handed (as seen delivering his letter to the mailbox, as well as punching when he's playable in Sakon's hideout). 4) he is associated with the color purple (a color used commonly with alternate Links, most notably Ravio).

So why is Kafei's subplot so important? Why is it the longest in the game? And why would the developers make it required the play this particular subplot multiple times in order to receive all of the rewards? Because they wanted to grind the themes into your mind. Kafei's story so embodies Link's personal struggle during Majora's Mask because the developers are giving us a way to peer into Link's mind... as well as give us a glimpse of the truths Link himself must come to terms with (whether he ever does or not is debatable).

The main point to be made here lies in why Kafei is hiding from everyone. It would be reasonable to assume it's because he is embarrassed to be seen as a child again. In fact, it has nothing to do with being a child, but instead has everything to do with the thing that was taken from him: his ceremonial mask. To Kafei, the Sun's Mask represents his promise to Anju and ability to be the person he is supposed to be. Sound familiar? Kafei's desperation mirrors Link's to find Navi (and hence his purpose). Here we see that Link doesn't feel loss over being made a child, nor the loss of the events of the adult timeline... but instead the loss of his identity as a hero; of living up to what he feels he was meant to be. So in the same way the Sun's Mask was taken from Kafei (representing his identity as a capable and faithful lover to Anju), Link has lost Navi (representing his identity as the Hero of Time).

Next is the importance of the Sun's, Moon's, and Couple's Masks. The imagery here turns out to be of utmost importance to the symbolic nature of the story of Majora's Mask. And the conclusion to the subplot... the marriage of Kafei and Anju, and the fusing of the Sun and Moon into the couples Mask, perfectly portrays the moral of not only the subplot, but the moral and message of Majora's Mask as a whole.

The Sun, the Moon, and the Skullkid

Here's the real meat. This is where things start to come together, and yet it perfectly supports and upholds the themes laid out in Kafei's subplot, only on a grand scale.

One of the clearest symbolic uses for the sun and the moon is as a representation of the passage of time. It quickly becomes clear why the crashing moon is such an appropriate doomsday scenario in a game about time travel; especially if the internal struggle of the main protagonist (as we are supposing here) involves his sense of loss having been sent back in time. With all of this in mind; there are several characters in the game that are basically aligned with either the sun or the moon, as opposing forces, or at the very least a dichotomy, and each one holds significance to Link's internal struggle and symbolizes a part of Link himself.

The sun in this case, is always seen before, and is associated mainly with youth; while the moon is seen later, and is associated with adulthood.

The moon is a constant looming threat over Clocktown. It is doom, despair, and loss. It is the moment when Link lost everything, both in Termina and in Hyrule. And it is the descent of the moon that best depicts the hopelessness Link feels at his current situation... cursed to live a life stripped of his title as Hero. It should be noted, however that the Moon itself isn't bad, wrong or evil. The Moon's Tear found early in the game seems to depict the pain and suffering the Moon feels over the circumstances it has found itself in.

To tie this back to Ocarina of Time, the timeline Link left behind required the complete domination of Ganondorf over Hyrule in order for Link to save the day and become a Hero. They were truly terrible circumstances, and shouldn't be wished on anyone, yet the identity derived by Link from those circumstances is what he craves. He knows he could never wish those circumstances on anyone and thus can never unselfishly hope to find himself playing the part of the hero again.

This desire for this specific identity is perfectly encompassed in the Fierce Deity's Mask. To make the connection more clear, there is even the image of the cresent moon on the Fierce Deity's armor. In addition the color palette of this transformation uses cool colors and muted tones. This is the identity Link feels like he should be, but is afraid to have to become. The name is entirely fitting. This desire in Link is frightening and borderline savage.

By contrast, the Skullkid can easily fit the symbol of the sun and Link's youth. He uses bright, warm coloration, and one interpretation of the design for Majora's Mask is that the spikes appear much like sunrays, as well as the large almost sunfire-yellow eyes. In addition he is the epitome of a youthful spirit. He is silly, petty, and enjoys pranks. This is how Link sees childhood, and who he thinks he is being asked to be now that he can't be a hero. And lastly, the fact that the Skullkid is a boy with a fairy serves not only to draw a parallel between himself and Link, but also is a slap in the face to Link as he searches for Navi.

With these ideas made clear, the comment Majora makes about Link playing the part of the bad guy all of the sudden makes sense. Majora is mirroring Link's own fears. That desire to play the hero and what it means the world has to experience for that to happen is selfish, and could be interpreted as a kind of evil; meanwhile it insists that Link is only playing a part, that he is actually just a kid. What's scary is that, in a sense, Majora is right about Link.

But what's the answer? What's the moral?

We go back to Kafei and Anju. Kafei's solution didn't involve growing up, it involved being true to his ideals. And Anju didn't care about Kafei's age, and she didn't care what perils he had to go through, she cared that he was with her no matter what. The point that's being driven home is that Kafei didn't have to be a "hero" in order to be the kind of person a hero is, he did what was needed because the situation called for it. Kafei's heart was for Anju, not his appearance or identity. The Couple's Mask represents the joining of the two supposedly opposing ideals into something complete, peaceful, and meaningful.

Applying this to Link, he is a hero because that is the kind of person he is; because of his courage, not because of his trials and ordeals. Losing his identification as the "Hero of Time" in the adult timeline doesn't remove his actual self-identity as a hero in the child timeline. Majora separating itself from the skullkid near the end can represent the separation of the negative connotation and feeling of regret over not being labeld a hero from the actual experience of becoming a child again and everything that means for Link's life going forward. By contrast, the combination of Link's acceptance of becoming a child again and the reassurance that he is a hero regardless of circumstances might be symbolized by the Double-Helix Sword; the blade used to cut down the now-lone Majora.

Conclusion

In the end, does Link find Navi?

It doesn't really matter, which is why we will never know.

Because Link can be reassured of his own self-identity without a quest or peril to overcome, he doesn't need the external purpose that Navi represents. He doesn't have to hope to be proven a hero, he is a hero, and worthy to carry the Triforce of Courage. Is the Hero of Time dead? well, yes and no. But whatever it is, it's good!

This is why Majora's Mask is one of the deepest in the franchise, and why so many of us are inexplicably drawn toward its characters. I may have covered the main plot here, but there is still so much symbolism to dig through throughout the world of Termina. I encourage you, next time you watch a stream or play this game, or any game, ask yourself "Why? Why do the characters do what they do, and what does that mean for me?"

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This is something I absolutely agree with. While the theme of death is apparent throughout the game (the moon); death isn't the only theme of the game. It is a game that is much about the connections between people whether they are romantic, familial, or friendship. And I think many people misinterpret the theme of death as applying to the character arc link has when it doesn't apply so much to him as a person but accepting the loss/death of navi. One of the last lines spoken by the happy mask salesman is that where there is a meeting a goodbye is sure to follow and it is said to Skull Kid and Link, both of whom have lost friends. You will lose people in your life. And you need to accept that and move on with your life.

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