Letting go of Childhood
Posted on April 04 2013 by Dathen Boccabella
By doing one good deed, a child becomes an adult. – Cremia
This past week marked the day that, in my country, I became the age considered to be an adult. The day where childhood ends and a life of responsibility begins. While there may not seem to be any immediate changes that jump out at me, it is the symbolism and the significance that really counts. I couldn’t help but let my thoughts drift back to The Legend of Zelda series, where the theme of letting go of childhood is not only present, but one of the central aspects. It is the very topic covered by the inspirational article, The ‘Immortal Childhood’, by Dan Merrill – my all time favorite Zelda article. At this moment in my life I find myself thinking specifically about Ocarina of Time, and the Hero of Time’s journey, that starts in the childhood adobe of Kokiri forest.
To Link, Kokiri forest represents his childhood. It was his safe haven that he wanted to last forever, like childhood seemed to for the rest of the Kokiri. Perhaps more specifically, his childish ignorance told him that it would last forever, but nothing is forever. His ignorance made it all the harder for him when the time came to move on, but everyone must move on. Even the forever-childish Kokiri, as they eventually became the Koroks. Naturally, humans hate change. We want things to remain as they are. We wish that we could revisit our childhood to correct our errors and make up for our regrets, but we cannot alter our pasts. Instinctively, like Link, we always think back to the past, instead of looking forward to the future. In that regard, life is a lot like driving. Looking behind us alone prevents us from seeing forward, and can only cause pain.
It happens to all of us one day. It seems like a normal day, but then we get our fairy. We look forward to it, but it all happens so fast. We learn that we are different from those around us, that we have a different path to tread, just as Link meets Navi and eventually learns that he is Hylian. We may not be so different to those around us in that regard, but the time comes when we must go our own way. We see the world differently now. Friends like Saria and the Kokiri have to be left behind, without as little as a goodbye. It all happens so fast, but it is time to leave.
Before Link knows it, he is thrown into adulthood, and while we don’t experience it quite as dramatically as he did, we can all relate to it. Adulthood creeps up on us without warning. Sure, it’s something we look forward to, but did we want it all to happen so fast? Or like Link, were we ignorant? Did we not know that adulthood means leaving behind childhood and all that it stood for? It takes time to adjust. We make mistakes, just like Link did, such as in his relationship with Princess Ruto. Our judgment and understanding of the world is narrow, even innocent. It takes time, but gradually our perceptions change. We become stronger. We become who we were really supposed to be.
“The flow of time is always cruel…Its speed seems different for each person, but no one can change it…A thing that doesn’t change with time is a memory of younger days…In order to come back here again, play the Minuet of Forest.” – Sheik
All along what we need to realize is that it’s not all truly gone. As Sheik says, time is cruel to us all. Things pass much quicker than we would like, but there’s nothing we can do. What we must cling to is not the place, not the time itself, but the memories that are beyond the confines of time. Our memories are what we can carry with us, reminding us that not everything is lost. The memory remains to shape us and make us stronger people. We also hold onto our physical keepsakes, like Link has the fairy Ocarina, but the time comes when the physical perishes. Link moves on to the Ocarina of Time, leaving only memory. The things, the people we miss from childhood, really aren’t gone either. Saria’s song works like a telephone, meaning that contact isn’t impossible.
But we know that it isn’t contact that matters. It is the way things were, not necessarily the who. As Sheik says to Link, Kokiri forest is always there to be returned to. We can go back, but there comes a time when we realize that we don’t want to go back. We know that even if we wanted to, there is no going back. The time will come when we return to the place just as Link did, but it won’t be the same. Link’s childhood Forest had become a more mature world of obstacles and enemies, no longer being the peaceful abode. We will come to face that, as Link did. He even saved his childhood home, but there was no place there for him anymore.
It really makes you wonder whether it is what’s around us that changes, or ourselves that change. Link came back to one of his special childhood areas, but Saria was no longer sitting there on her tree stump. It was empty. Link even managed to save Saria and see her again, but things weren’t the same when they spoke in the chamber of sages. No matter how many times the game says “Saria and Link will be friends forever”, you have to wonder what that even means when they can’t be together. Saria is destined to be a sage and Link a hero. It makes me wonder whether we really even miss childhood, or just those that can’t come with us. Those we leave behind. Not by choice, but because it just happens. We may see them again, but things are different. Like Saria and Link in Ganon’s Tower, it is all about business – the spark is gone. They can’t look at each the same ever again.
You can spend your whole life hearing stories about what it’s like back in Kokiri forest, but it is gone forever for you. Everything changes, similarly to how it does for Frodo and Sam in Peter Jackson’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy. Frodo’s narration at the conclusion of the trilogy is so fitting for this theme. “How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand… there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold.”
Childhood was a great time for many of us, but it was only the beginning. That’s all it ever was, and it’s comforting to know it was always destined to fade. Childhood wasn’t meant to be dwelt in, it was meant to be passing. We can’t get caught up in it slipping away from us, because it was just the foundation. We must take away the memories, but that is all. Childhood is where we are kept safe, in somewhat of a sugarcoated world where all is happy, until the time comes. Link was kept safe by the Deku Tree until it was his time to achieve his destiny.
The Deku Tree Sprout represents that where there is death and the passing away of the past, there is also rebirth. There is regrowth and hope for the future, if given time to flourish.
We are all the same. We have the promise that the Deku Tree sensed in Link. Just as Link lived up to that and become the hero, we must also find our own destinies and achieve our potential. It can be a hard path, and it often comes upon us so quickly that we don’t even really get to choose it. No matter how daunting we must persevere. All is not lost. Whatever the nitty-gritty happenings in our life may be, it is about where we get in the end that matters. We may not think that our lives are intended to become the hero that Link is, but we can all become heroes in our own ways.
Once Link has achieved his destiny, Zelda sends like back to regain his lost time, but akin to Frodo, he understands that there is no going back. For so long he was focused on regaining his childhood that he overlooked the things that he had gained. His companion Navi that was there through all of it. Link didn’t truly appreciate her until she was gone. Gone but not forgotten, as our childhood should be. Use it to better yourself, but seeking to obtain it will only throw you into more turmoil, just like it did for Link. His quest in Majora’s Mask was him still trying to come to terms with these changes., having lost his childhood without even having a complete one. Termina’s fate of being ‘destined to fade’ is yet another reminder that childhood is meant to end.
Link learns to move on, just as we must, but he makes the fatal mistake that we often do. We forget those that we do have; those there to support us. Don’t needlessly abandon and shut out those who you do have, like Link does to Zelda when he leaves to search for Navi. Yes, you must move on. Yes, you must hold on to your memories, but don’t leave those who are still with you. Those that are such an integral part of your life that childhood or adulthood really doesn’t matter. They are the most important.
It is all about finding your place in life. We get thrown all over the place like Link, because to find our place in life we have to go where we don’t belong. We need to know where we don’t belong to know where we do belong. There is turmoil, there is hardship, but there is also an ending. Link took until the end of Majora’s Mask to find what he was after, which tells us above all to persevere because it doesn’t come quickly or easily. It is your journey, and you must take it. Remember the past and carry it with you, but use it as a tool to help you overcome mountains along the path, not as something that weighs you down. To truly move on from our childhood we must remember that it is gone but not forgotten. Remember that adulthood is not the end, but where it all beings again.
Cremia informs Link that “by doing one good deed, a child becomes an adult”, so no matter how far removed from my childhood I may feel, there’s still a long way to go before adulthood is truly reached.
Saria represents Link’s Childhood: gone but not forgotten!
This article was largely inspired by Dan Merrill’s “Immortal Childhood”, a must read for Zelda fans. Not only will it help you to understand the morals in the Zelda series, but it can really assist you in coming to terms with changes in your life, especially from childhood to adulthood, and even life to death.
Dan Merrill’s ‘Philosophy of the Wind Waker’ also touches on the topic of letting go of comfort zones and moving on to achieve our destinies in life, another great and inspirational read.
About a year ago I wrote an article called “Link in Wonderland“ – an analytical comparison between Majora’s Mask and Alice in Wonderland. My findings were largely focused on how both contained a message about moving on from childhood to adulthood, so that piece is fantastic further reading on this subject.