While Twilight Princess was promoted as being a departure from past Legend of Zelda titles in its “darkness,” Majora’s Mask was itself deeply disturbing and twisted six years before TP’s release. MM starts immediately with sadness and foreboding, as a young Link embarks on a “secret and personal journey… in search of a beloved and invaluable friend… with whom he parted ways when he finally fulfilled his heroic destiny and took his place among legends…”
While the story is dark as it is, and gets even more nightmarish the closer you look at it, fan theories and interpretations take it a step further into lifelong therapy territory. Hit the break to read some of the reasons why Majora’s Mask should keep you up at night.
The whole game is an Alice in Wonderland nightmare. Even if you save Termina, Link will never escape.
In the game’s opening, you see Link exhausted, barely able to stay on Epona as he rides through a misty forest with no Navi in sight. Instead, two fairies come and startle Epona, causing her to kick Link of her back. The Skull Kid, wearing a mask, appears, and proceeds to loot Link’s unconscious body, taking the Ocarina of Time. As the Skull Kid plays with the Ocarina, Link awakes and tries to take it back. Instead, the Skull Kid jumps onto Epona and rides away, as Link is dragged behind for some distance before being left literally in the dust. His attempts to run after his horse and the thief lead him into a cave where he takes an Alice in Wonderland-like tumble, falling through a spiral of the different faces you’ll adopt as you play through the game.
Why will you be stuck there the whole time? Because as we all learned as children playing Ocarina of Time, any Hylian that does not possess a fairy will be transformed after being lost in the Lost Woods: children will become Skull Kids and adults will be Stalfos. So while you might think that at the end of the game the Skull Kid shows Link the way out, he can’t—he doesn’t know the way out himself. And the Stalfos in Twilight Princess, known as Hero’s Shade, is, according to the book Hyrule Historia, a spiritual manifestation of the regrets of the Hero of Time.
That is, some of them (all of the transformation ones) actually belong to corpses. The Goron mask is received from Darmani after following him to the graveyard and healing him of his sorrows—an act which seals his powers into the mask. Donning the mask warps your body (Wear the mask with C to inhabit the body of a Goron), very painfully, into the dead owner’s likeness, causing everyone in the Goron village to mistake you for their dead friend.: “Darmani! You… You are alive. You always did say, ‘I cannot die until I’ve eaten 1000 tons of rock sirloin!’”
How you get the Zora mask is even more disturbing. Instead of following a spirit to his grave, you instead watch a Zora die as he laments his inability to save the eggs of his bandmate Lulu. After his death (his body just disappears), you are left with the Zora mask, allowing you to adopt the dead Zora’s body. Oh, and the Deku Mask you get at the beginning of the game is probably the mask of the Deku Butler’s deceased son.
If you want to get even more uncomfortable, at the end of the game you play hide and seek with children wearing the faces of the bosses you killed. When you find them, they ask you creepy questions like, “Can I ask… a question? Your friends… What kind of… people are they? I wonder… Do these people… think of you… as a friend?” and “Can I ask… a question? The right thing… what is it? I wonder…. If you do the right thing… Does it really make… everybody… happy?”
Pamela is a little girl who lives in Ikana Canyon with her paranormal investigator father. Her father converted their house into a music box that plays a song to keep the nearby Gibdos (mummy-like creatures) away, powered by the river nearby. Her father, who was researching the Gibdos, became cursed and gradually started turning into one of them, his face growing distorted, his eyes yellow, and his nails long and sharp. Pamela, worried about him, kept her father in the closet in the cellar of the house, trying to care for him.
When the water in the canyon stopped flowing, thereby disabling the music their house played, Gibdos began to swarm the house looking for her father, believing him to be one of them. Pamela locked herself and her father inside the house, and her paranoia became so intense that she wouldn’t even allow Link into the house to help and runs away from him. Instead, after getting the water running again, you must sneak into the house as she walks outside towards the well and heal her father. Once he is back to normal, if you wear the Gibdos mask in the house, Pamela will scream and throw you out.
When you first meet him, he appears, as if from nowhere, behind you and says, “You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?” He then introduces himself as the Happy Mask Salesman and says, “Now don’t think me rude, but I have been following you…” Whether he means since the beginning of his ordeal with the Skull Kid, or since the beginning of Ocarina of Time is unclear (the Happy Mask Salesman was also a character in OoT who gives you the Mask of Truth). All of this, along with his volatile temper and perpetual smile, added to the fact that the whole apocalypse is his fault makes him the scariest character in the game. Of Majora’s Mask, he says:
I went to great lengths to get that legendary mask. When I finally had it… I could sense the doom of a dark omen brewing. It was that unwelcome feeling that makes your hair stand on end. And now… that imp has it… I am begging you! You must get that mask back quickly or something horrible will happen!
Why would you steal an extremely dangerous mask, then carry it around with you unprotected (despite knowing how dangerous it is) so that some twelve year old bandit can come and steal it? Because you’re insane, that’s why. This is the face of madness. Or, worse, it was intentional. He used the Skull Kid and Link as a means to bring back the Ancient Tribe that originally owned and sealed away Majora’s Mask.
Some theories of his origin include that he’s a Sheikah, an Ancient One, a Deity, that he comes from the Moon (like the children you find there, who express an interest in becoming mask salesmen), or that he’s an in-game avatar of Shigeru Miyamoto. His final words to you are:
Whenever there is a meeting, a parting shall follow. But that parting needs not last forever. Whether a parting is forever or merely for a short while… that is up to you.
This is copy pasta that has been around online for a while; a fan theory that even an English professor would be proud of. And, like most theories, it is open to interpretation and tweaking, but the original formula is this:
“Clock Town is denial. No one in the city wants to admit the moon is going to fall on them.” When you first enter Clock Town, the town is rushing about getting ready for the upcoming Carnival. The carpenters continue to set up, their leader berating his apprentice for staring at the sky instead of working. Merchants are still selling wares, people want help with menial tasks, and it’s as if it’s just another day in the life. However, if you go to the Mayor’s office, you’re faced with an argument over what should be done about the carnival:
You cowards! Do you actually believe the moon will fall? The confused townsfolk simply caused a panic by believing this ridiculous, groundless theory. The soldiers couldn’t prevent the panic, but outside the town walls is where the danger is! You want answers? The answer is that the carnival should not be canceled!
If the soldiers wish to run, then run, Viscen! We councilmen will stick to tradition. This carnival will be a success! I’ve never heard of a defense unit abandoning its town!
It’s textbook denial—it’s not that people don’t know what’s going on; it’s that they’re not going to face it, believing it to be nothing worth panicking over. Even the sword master says:
Rumors are spreading which suggest the moon is falling, but you can breathe easier as long as I am in town. Tonight, I shall cut the moon into pieces!
If you visit him again on the night of the Third Day, you get this: “Uuuuurgh… I’m scared! I can’t take it! I don’t want to die!” as he cowers in a back room.
“The Swamp is anger. The Deku Scrubs are rushing to kill a monkey they blame all their problems on, yet he had nothing to do with any of them.” The princess has gone missing in the Deku Palace in the Southern Swamp, and instead of going to look for her, the Deku King has taken captive his daughter’s monkey friend (who had instead tried to help the princess find the cause of the recent swamp poisoning) and tied him up, shouting, “You shall know the wrath of a king whose darling princess was taken away from him!!! Suffer! I shall prolong his suffering! Foolish monkey!” Just as their swamp is poisoned, so too has their King been poisoned with anger.
“The Mountain is bargaining. The Gorons, freezing and starving, perpetually keep their hope that their dead hero will come back and save them.” While the Gorons believe that Darmani will return to save them, Darmani is also in denial of his death. Upon encountering him, he pleads to you, “So, you can use magic? The soaring one also told me that you are able to use it… I beg you! Bring me back to life with your magic!” Only with the Song of Healing can you free him from his regrets, and he bestows you with the Goron Mask. When you talk to the Elder Goron as Darmani, he will say:
Oh! You’re Darmani!!! But you’re supposed to be dead! Am I hallucinating? Maybe this is also the doing of Snowhead’s magic power… Hmmph… I’ve been made a fool of! But…that’s impossible. I refuse to flinch. If I can see past the illusion, you’ll vanish in an instant! No matter how long you follow me, it’s not going to do you any good.
Just as Darmani was frozen in his belief that he could return to save his people, so is the Goron Village literally frozen, believing that salvation must come soon.
“The Great Bay is depression. The Zoras lost their guitarist, and continuously mourn over him.” This piece isn’t quite accurate, because nobody is aware that Mikau has died. When Link transforms into his him and goes to Zora Hall, nobody notices a change. It’s as if Mikau never left. Depression for the Zoras, in addition to Mikau’s death and parting words, come from Lulu’s loss of her eggs. In her diary she writes:
Today, I told everything to Mikau, the one person whom I didn’t want to know about it. At first, I was too embarrassed and too sad to do anything. And with the words that Mikau said at that moment, I felt that all hope had been lost. But please, Mikau, I’m begging you, don’t do anything rash.
“Ikana Valley is acceptance. With no more transformation masks and virtually everyone in the zone already dead, the only thing Link has left to conquer is himself, as he faces off with his demons.” There are no transformation masks for Link to find in Ikana Canyon – he must use only himself. By defeating the Garo Master (a dark assassin that kills himself when defeated) Link obtains the Light Arrows that allow him to flip the entire Stone Tower and Temple upside-down. Where Link is the Light, the Garo Masters are “emptiness cloaked in darkness”; where Link is Life, the Gibdos/ReDeads/Poes/Armos are Death. If there is anything that is utterly devoid of life, it is Stone. Ikana Canyon and the Stone Tower are the acceptance of duality and of the struggle between them. As Link literally ascends the Tower, so too does he spiritually ascend, fighting off those things which haunt him—enemies, but also his regrets. According to Zelda Informer:
Within the Stone Tower Temple, he battles the Garo Masters. Since the Garo are, according to their official description, ‘emptiness cloaked in darkness,’ Link’s duels with them as he climbs towards the light signifies the internal battle between Light and Darkness, as well as the triumph over the same emptiness associated with his twin selves. By accepting and overcoming the grief associated with that emptiness, Link demonstrates that he is no longer troubled by the loss of his dear friend. He has found himself, his true self, and that is enough.