“My children… Listen to me.
I have lived regretting the past. And I have faced those regrets.
If only I could do things over again… Not a day of my life has gone by without my thoughts turning to my kingdom of old.”
– King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule (The Wind Waker)
As the old saying goes, “there is nothing worse than regret”, and whether or not it’s entirely true, regret is without doubt an emotion that we’d all rather avoid. The reasons for it are so varied and ultimately infinite, but the biggest cause is inaction. Sure, on occasions there is something we’ve all done that we wish we hadn’t, but that is nowhere near as hard to get over as inaction – what we didn’t do. There is little worse than the thought of “what could have been”. Whether it be not putting as much effort into a relationship, or our study, or never talking to that one person you saw every day. The sad thing is that the most common way to deal with regret is lying to ourselves. “It’s not over yet” or “I’ll get another chance”. Perhaps it’s just excessive optimism, but ultimately, it doesn’t help you get anywhere with your regret. Once again, The Legend of Zelda provides, as The Wind Waker inspires us with guidance on how to overcome our regrets.
In many instances, regret is caused by circumstances outside of our control, although it’s important to remember this isn’t always the case. King Daphnes had to watch as his kingdom of Hyrule was overthrown by Ganon, flooded by the gods, and inevitably forgotten. His regrets are based around his inaction, or inability, to save his kingdom as he believes a King should have. Daphnes’ feelings are understandable, but honestly, there was little that he could have done against the power of Ganon and the will of the gods. By the time the story of The Wind Waker unfolds, there is no way that Daphnes can literally do as he desires and restore his land of Hyrule to the way it was. And within that is the key point of dealing with regret. Overcoming regret is about facing them. That isn’t necessarily changing what has already occurred, that’s impossible, but understanding why things went the way that they did. Once you understand why, you can deal with the causes of the actions that lead to your regret, and then, move on.
As can be observed in King Daphnes, regret causes us to linger. To hope in vain that some miracle will happen to fix things. Like Daphnes, we live in the past and don’t look to the future. The King was so bound to Hyrule that he lingered beyond his earthly years and wondered in a spiritual state. It is so true that we cling to what little hope there may be of things working out. We can’t move on and move away. We must learn that to overcome our regrets we can’t dwell clinging to a dim hope that we can change what has happened, because we can’t. It’s not about correcting the past, but rather, understanding the past and making changes for the future. It is about understanding why we made the choices that we did. As the Oracle from ‘The Matrix’ says, “you didn’t come here to make the choice. You’ve already made it. You’re here to try to understand why you made it.”
Daphnes initially aims to restore his kingdom to how it was. To save his kingdom as he should have. In a way, Daphnes uses Link for selfish purposes under the guise of The King of Red Lions. He uses Link’s attachment to his sister and Link’s desire to rescue her, as a way to defeat Ganon – exactly what he was unable to do. While Link is set on saving his sister and the world above, Daphnes is set on restoring the land below. Not until the end do we understand Daphnes’ motives, and not until the end does he understand how wrong his aims have been.
Daphnes had been clinging to the lie. He kept telling himself that “Hyrule wasn’t buried yet”. But that is exactly what Daphnes realizes was his problem. He didn’t need to make up for his past mistakes, but rather, look to the future. Through the children, Link and Tetra, Daphnes saw that his time was over. Hyrule was over. He had failed as a King but so long as the children knew of his mistakes they would not make the same ones in the future. Daphnes faces his regrets by permanently washing away Hyrule, Ganon and even himself. He decides not to dwell in the past, but to make the future a better place through understanding his own regrets.
Like the heroic captain of a ship, Daphnes goes to rest with Hyrule as it becomes a land only of legend. Part of overcoming his regret is to let go of himself and look at the bigger picture. Perhaps if he hadn’t been so occupied with himself and being perceived as a “good” king, he could have better averted the crisis that ensued. As Daphnes counsels the children to “listen to him”, The Wind Waker tells us to take the advice of those who have gone through similar situations. Listen to their counsel and don’t make the same mistakes. The only way to overcome those regrets is to face them. Stop thinking about the past and wishing for one more chance. Heal your regrets through what you do in the years to come, not through clinging to the past. Learn from your mistakes and make changes for the better.
Regret was the destruction of Daphnes, and unless we learn to face it sooner than he did, we could all suffer similar fates. Take the advice of The Wind Waker and face your regrets by looking to the future. Understand why the past went the way that it did and act to fix those reasons for a better future. If it was a lack of confidence in yourself that caused the inaction, focus on overcoming your lack of self esteem. If it was a young naivety in relationships, focus on not repeating those same shortcomings. In the end some of us will be lucky enough to make up for the past directly. Others will come to understand that things had to be the way they were, and others yet will not make those same mistakes again, which is the most important point. However you tackle them, you must face your regrets and understand why. You must overcome them, because regret is a word with no positive connotations. Stop telling yourself that “it’s not over”. Stop lying to yourself. You deserve better than that. Like the Hyrule of old was gone for Daphnes, we must acknowledge that the past is over. Come to face your regrets, like Daphnes did, and live for the future – just don’t make it too late.