Posted on September 24 2018 by Andy Spiteri
Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Red Hood and Batman. Xehonort and Ansem the Wise.
The theme of masters and apprentices is as old as fiction itself, and as is the case with many relationships, these pairings don’t often end well. In all of the above examples, former friends and peers were turned against each other. Some by circumstance; some by choice. A feeling of being held back or unappreciated is common, as is a good old-fashioned desire for power.
In thinking of all of these pairings, I wanted to explore one of the more intriguing mentor/apprentice dynamics, one that’s always fascinated me.
Vaati and Ezlo.
Hailing from the perennially underrated Minish Cap, the pair don’t seem like much at a first glance, but when you spend some time thinking about their story, it raises some unexpected questions.
For those that don’t know, or have skipped The Minish Cap, Vaati is the main bad guy of the game. First appearing during the Picori Festival, Vaati shows up, starts turning people into stone, and generally causes havoc. Link is tasked with stopping him, and along the way meets what appears to be a talking hat / Pokemon grass-type starter: the titular Minish of the game, Ezlo. Ezlo travels with Link throughout the game and eventually reveals that his connections to Vaati run deeper than anyone might have thought. His current hat form was a curse placed on him by his former apprentice, who’s lust for power had grown too great for his master to contain.
Ezlo assists Link in restoring peace to the land and defeating Vaati. The curse broken, he then transforms back into his normal self and disappears back into the world of the Minish, but not before giving Link a replacement cap. Roll the credits, happy ending.
Or is it?
The relationship of Ezlo and Vaati always fascinated me. During his adventures with Link, Ezlo came across as a grumpy old man with a soft side; kind of like if Cranky Kong was a hat riding around on your head. His interactions with Link seemed innocent enough, and by the end of your journey together, it appeared that the two of you had grown close.
So what happened with Vaati?
My fascination on this relationship comes from a couple questions that I always ask myself when thinking about the events prior to The Minish Cap. Was Ezlo really that blind to Vaati’s true nature? Everything about Vaati, from his first appearance to his flashback sequence with Ezlo, seems to indicate he was a cruel, malicious person from the start. Why would Ezlo, a renowned sage and craftsman, keep this company and choose this boy as his apprentice? The easiest (and most boring) answer is that Ezlo simply didn’t see it, but are we to believe that a sage so brilliant as to create a hat that could grant wishes wouldn’t be able to see what was in front of his face?
No, I think there’s more to it.
In the flashback scene in Minish Cap, you see a young Vaati make mention several times that “he is now the master”. There is obviously some pent up resentment there; was Ezlo a cruel master? Or at least one that underappreciated and perhaps dismissed his apprentice’s accomplishments? There are some snippets of dialogue in the game that hints towards Ezlo’s arrogance — how arrogant would he have been before he was humbled?
During his confrontation with Vaati, Ezlo doesn’t get too emotional — something you might expect to see when your student betrays you. Instead, he simply asks what Vaati’s plan is and tells him how vile his form is. Cold, to say the least. I’ve always wondered if Vaati’s entire goal was to obtain this power just to show Ezlo that he was a worthy student.
After all, only through Vaati’s demise would he be restored to his true Minish form.
What made Vaati turn against his master? We’ll never really know, but the smaller questions surrounding that big question are some of the most fascinating the Zelda series has (n)ever asked. It’s easy to dismiss The Minish Cap and its story as perfunctory, but there’s a lot of layers to uncover trying to get to the bottom of what makes these characters tick.
Much like I think The Minish Cap is the most underrated Zelda game, I think Ezlo is the most underrated companion. How far away were we from fighting Ezlo, and not Vaati, in The Minish Cap? Was Vaati always destined to be a villain, or did his time with Ezlo shape him into what he became? Was Ezlo truly redeemed at the end, or just happy to be back in his old skin and ready to start making more magical hats?
No other companion in the Zelda series can inspire these kinds of questions and this kind of mystery.
Is it any wonder why Ezlo is my favorite companion?
Andy Spiteri is the Editor-In-Chief of Zelda Dungeon. He will go to his grave telling you The Minish Cap is the best 2D Zelda game. Tell him he’s wrong on Twitter.