The Legend of Zelda series is full of classic quotes, ranging from entirely comedic right through to some of the most inspirational lines there are. As a child, many sayings in Zelda just seemed like nice little sentiments with no real meaning behind them. But as you grow up and experience more varied circumstances in life, you come to be able to relate to and understand them. For me, almost all of Sheik’s wisdom fell into this category until I had experienced something where I could relate to it. The children on the moon have always intrigued me, and their quotes have always made me think, but not until recently have I come to truly understand the essence of their meaning.
Those of you who have read an article by Dan Merrill, called ‘Immortal Childhood, will be well versed on how Majora’s Mask is a story that contrasts the world of childhood, and the world of adulthood. The five children on the moon are beginning to grow up themselves and ask questions about the world of adulthood. Their slow, inconstant speech indicates deep thought. They are unsure of what doing the right thing truly is.
One of the masked-children asks “The right thing… what is it? I wonder… If you do the right thing… Does it really make… everybody…happy?” The answer is, of course, no. What is the “right thing”? At times it is obvious, at other times it is not. What it always is, though, is completely subjective. The right thing for you will not always be the right thing for everyone else. For you to be happy, everybody else can’t be happy. You will make many choices in your life that you know are the right thing to do, for you, but others will be unhappy, disappointed and not see why. It is not possible to live a fulfilling life and to make absolutely everybody else happy.
We all know the clichés like “the nice guy always finishes last” and “to make it to the top you have to step all over everybody else”. These lines are not so far-fetched, and are exactly what the children of the moon are thinking about. They are asking whether they can make themselves content in life, while not harming everybody else around them. They seek the balance necessary to make it through life. We cannot get by striving solely to make ourselves happy, but at the same time, we cannot get by trying to make everyone else happy. We must find the equilibrium.
The children of the moon also ponder the ramifications of this on people’s relationships and friendships. “Your friends… What kind of…people are they? I wonder…Do those people…think of you…as a friend?” They are asking whether you and your friends strive to make only yourself happy or others as well. They ask whether there are people who really consider you a friend. Another way of looking at their question is: do you make them happy? Can somebody really be your friend if you don’t make them happy? The moon children are here alluding to the point that there is a choice. No one can please everybody and no-one can please themselves alone, if they want a fulfilling life. The trade off, the equilibrium suggested by the children, is to think of who you care about. Who are your friends? Who do you love? What relationships do your truly want? It is both for those people and yourselves that you need to think about choices that will lead to happiness. It is human nature that we can’t please everybody – we must choose who is important.
So does that mean once we know who we care about, we trample over everybody else? The children struggle also with this, but find answers. One child of the moon goes for the approach of not entirely shunning others and not-entirely embracing them. The approach of being neutral. He utilizes small talk, asking – “Ahhh. Nice weather…Isn’t it?” For some, that is enough to get by. Others struggle to come to terms with how to treat those around them. Those people that go around being nice to everyone, they do not truly feel that way. Likewise to those who are mean to everyone else, it is because they also choose to shun everyone instead of being selective. Neither is the way, which begs the question – what is?
There is the neutral small talk approach, and topically for Majora’s Mask, there is also the masking approach. “Your true face…What kind of…face is it? I wonder…The face under the mask…Is that your true face?” Our true face is how we truly feel inside. The mask is how we outwardly act. Do we put on a smile and act like everything is good? Do we just act nicely towards everyone, and only show our true face to a few? It is how some people get by. Others must mask themselves constantly, keeping their true face only for themselves. Again, it helps them get by. What is the right thing to do in all of this? That is what the children ask, because although there may be answers to their questions on a surface level, there is not when we go deeper. How to act, how to portray ourselves to the world – there is not a set right or wrong answer. It is about finding a way to cope.
While we are simultaneously trying to decide upon how to act ourselves, others are making that same decision, which impacts upon us. We can be ourselves, we can be open and make friends. Look at the Skull Kid’s story. He got hurt in his relationships. He decided to hide his true face behind Majora’s Mask. He chooses to be mean and hurtful to everyone, but it is not a sustainable lifestyle choice. Skull Kid comes to learn that even though almost the whole world hates him, he has his friends. Link from the Lost Woods, Tatl and Tael, and of course, the giants. They made their choice to stand by the Skull Kid. “You guys…You hadn’t forgotten about me? You still thought of me as a friend?” How others treat us often affects how we treat others. Skull Kid’s story shows that there are people in everyone’s life that strive to make you happy, despite what others think, and they are the people who it is worth you taking your time to make happy.
Now look at Link. He is commonly known as the passive yes-man, out only to please others, but is that the case? His journey in search of Navi is solely to please himself. He leaves Princess Zelda behind – his friend. All throughout Majora’s Mask Link is not out to please himself, but others. He becomes a part of the Bombers, Secret Society of Justice. Their motto is “helping people 24 hours a day”. For a full three days, over and over again, Link helps people. He sees others and who they really care about. He comes to learn a number of lessons. He was out there pleasing everybody, but had abandoned his true friend. He learned that he had to make Zelda happy. Circumstances, it seems, reveal who is worth our time and effort.
The other point that is apparent through Link is that to be truly happy yourself, you need to help others. If I was to try and give a definitive solution to the dilemma of the moon children, it would be to only strive to make yourself happy. It seems shallow, and arrogant, but is far from. It is a strong philosophy for life. You will find that to be happy yourself, there are people in your life that must be happy too. Striving to make those people happy will also make you happy. Through his dealings in Happy Masks and helping people, Link becomes content in Majora’s Mask. The children on the moon say “You…You’re a nice person… Aren’t you?” and “You’re…nice”. To be nice is to know where you stand and to be content about it. Striving to make only yourself happy is a good philosophy, because not only very soon do you discover those who matter to you, but you discover that being completely cold to everybody else just isn’t fulfilling.
We may know who we care about, but the final dilemma of the children is how to make them happy. Even if it is our life’s mission, we will disappoint. Perhaps honesty is the best answer. To be confident with your decisions, and able to explain why you have taken them, but not to be blind, to acknowledge when you have done wrong. Does this constitute the right thing according to the children? What about lying? Some people do it to protect others from the truth that would only hurt others? Lies can make others happy, but is it the right thing to do? Such are the questions raised by Majora’s Mask, but the game does not boast having answers to the unanswerable, only suggestions and advice.
If I was to sum up the whole Legend of Zelda series in one word, that word would be balance. The balance between Power, Wisdom and Courage. Moon and sun, light and shadow, good and bad. Every action has a reaction. Perhaps balance is the precise answer that the children of the moon seek. To be content in adult life you must be balanced. Hating everyone is not balanced. Liking everyone is not balanced. Being outwardly welcoming or “neutral” to strangers and others is balanced. Having those who you care for, and those who you don’t – it balances. Hating, although said to be a strong word that should be used lightly, is natural. To know “love” you must “hate”. Loving some and hating others equals balance! When your conscience next asks you the question that the children of the moon do, what is your response? “You… What makes you…happy? I wonder… What makes you happy… Does it make…others happy, too?”