The Happy Mask Salesman (or HMS) is the source of much speculation and intrigue in the
Zelda community, and rightfully so. The hints as to his origins and to what exactly he is are scattered throughout
Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time in such a way that bringing them all together takes some serious snooping through the text of the games and some serious consideration of the motifs in Majora’s Mask. Some have taken particular note of the dark and frightening aspects of Majora’s Mask – especially the Salesman’s erratic behavior – but Miyamoto has said that that game is meant more to get gamers thinking than to frighten, that the designers’ goal was “to present something which is very mysterious, rather than scary.”
Let’s see, then, what we can discover about the mystery of the HMS. This article will first go over what is obvious about his character, examining what he says about himself in his opening speech in
Majora’s Mask. Then I shall take a look at what may have happened in Ikana Canyon before it became a region of unsatisfied, anti-social undead. Finally, I shall take a look at the relationship between the moon children, Majora’s Mask, Skull Kid, and the Happy Mask Salesman before drawing some conclusions.
The Salesman’s Mask
First let’s work with what’s obvious. The following is a monstrously blocky quote of his opening speech in
“You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you? I own the Happy Mask Shop. I travel far and wide in search of masks…During my travels, a very important mask was stolen from me by an imp in the woods. So here I am at a loss…And now I’ve found you. Now don’t think me rude, but I have been following you…
“…For I know of a way to return you to your former self. If you can get back the precious item that was stolen from you, I will return you to normal. In exchange… All I ask is that you also get back my precious mask that the imp stole from me. What? Is it not a simple task? Why, to someone like you, it should by no means be a difficult task.
“Except…The one thing is…I’m a very busy fellow…And I must leave this place in three days. How grateful I would be if you could bring it back to me before my time here is up…But yes…You’ll be fine. I see you are young and have tremendous courage. I’m sure you’ll find it right away.
“Well then, I am counting on you…”
— The Happy Mask Salesman, from Majora’s Mask
Most of us should be familiar with this speech, but it’s sometimes good to take a close look even at the familiar. First, we learn that this is indeed the same character whom we encountered in
Ocarina of Time. This makes him somewhat familiar. Seeing him with his traveling gear and out from behind his desk also opens us up to considering him in a new light as a character.
Second, we learn that he travels around looking for masks. He does not make the masks on his own, nor does he buy them from another vendor. He ventures out into the world looking for masks. This brings up the first question: why does he do this? His dialogue in
Ocarina of Time suggests that he does it to make other people happy. However, the events of Majora’s Mask are traumatizing and suggest that he either has very malicious intentions for the masks he collects…or that he is much more powerful, omniscient, and benevolent than he lets on to be. Some have speculated that he wants Majora’s Mask in order to use it for himself; I suggest, however, that he is keeping it as part of his collection for benevolent purposes, i.e. so that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Think that may be a stretch? Well, we also learn from this opening speech that the HMS is very, very powerful. He has the ability to reveal the true forms – the true faces – of people. He also has the ability to travel unnoticed as Link and the player are only made aware of his presence when he decides to reveal himself in the clock tower. Considering how important Majora’s Mask is to him, he very well could have been following Link since Link and Skull Kid met in the woods. Also, consider what we learn from the HMS later on: the Song of Healing. The song
“heals evil magic and troubled spirits, turning them into masks.” If the HMS were evil or malicious, why would he teach this song to someone else, much less use it himself to heal Link.
Finally, we learn about the Salesman’s mysterious omniscience. He says that he is
“a very busy fellow” and “must leave this place in three days.” This seems innocent until we learn that the moon will collide with Termina at the end of three days. The HMS’s time limit and the time limit given by the moon’s descent are two critical points of the game and the fact that they match is too uncanny to be mere coincidence. On top of knowing about Link’s condition and Skull Kid’s involvement we learn from this and later dialogue that he also knows how to solve the major problem plaguing Termina (not to mention his extensive knowledge of the masks Link finds).
From the outset of the game, then, we learn a few things about the nature and abilities of the Happy Mask Salesman. Though much of his power remains a mystery, what he can do and what he does know are enough to inspire a sense of awe when considering his character.
The Salesman’s Origins
Before delving into Ikana Canyon, let’s first consider a few things from the HMS’s second major bit of dialogue. First, he tells Link that Majora’s Mask
“is an accursed item from legend that is said to have been used by an ancient tribe in its hexing rituals…that an evil and wicked power is bestowed upon the one who wears that mask.” In case the player missed it when Skull Kid turned Link into a Deku Scrub, this indicates that Majora’s Mask is a bad thing.
However, the mask is not merely a tool. Something else the Salesman says tells us what masks are in
Majora’s Mask: upon teaching Link the Song of Healing, he tells Link that “this is a melody that heals evil magic and troubled spirits, turning them into masks.” This quote and the application of the song reveal a profound fact about the nature of masks – especially transformative masks – in Majora’s Mask: they are a medium for possession. Those of us who have completed Majora’s Mask are aware that the titular object is not merely wood and paint, but an actual being capable of thought, movement, and intention. It has a will of its own, and it is capable of influencing others even without the aid of a host like Skull Kid.
With that said, there are three major bits of dialogue that explain what may have happened to the Ikana Kingdom. First, the composer brother Sharp tells Link to
“go to the temple in this land and sever the root of the evil curse that torments” the spirits of the dead in Ikana. Upon first consideration of this line, it seems that Sharp is talking about Twinmold. However, as Hylian Dan has pointed out in his article detailing his observations about the Stone Tower Temple, “Twinmold’s desert lair is filled with monuments in honor of Majora’s Mask. And in the first room of the Stone Tower Temple, there is an enormous statue. At first, the statue seems to depict a grotesque face sticking out its tongue, but when the tower is reversed the statue bears a striking resemblance to Majora’s Mask.” He says elsewhere in the article that the Stone Tower Temple was likely the place in which Majora’s Mask was sealed.
This idea is highly plausible, and I hold to its validity. When Twinmold is defeated, not all is once again well in the ruined Ikana Kingdom: the Gibdo still infest the well, the Stalchildren still roam the graveyard under the watchful eye of Skull Keeta, and, unless the player has visited him, Flat remains sealed away in his tomb even though his brother is no longer at the spring near Ikana Castle. Though Sharp does mention that it “was all a trick of the masked one who had upset things,” he must be referring to some problem besides that which is unsettling the unsatisfied and anti-social undead still roaming the canyon even after Twinmold is gone. Whatever the exact conflict Sharp is talking about, the “root of the evil curse that torments” the undead in Ikana is apparently Majora’s Mask, not Twinmold.
The King of Ikana affirms this. It was not until someone
“thrust open the doors of that Stone Tower” that forgiveness and friendship vanished from the hearts of the citizens of the Ikana Kingdom. It is unclear exactly when this happens, though Flat’s message to Sharp may indicate a millennium between the fall of Ikana and Link’s arrival in the Canyon. But it seems to happen long before the events in Majora’s Mask involving Link take place. The question, then, is who thrust open the doors to the Stone Tower. I propose that it was the Happy Mask Salesman.
This may seem like a loose theory, but no other candidate is as plausible. He collects masks, and he was in possession of Majora’s Mask. For all we know, he had no ill intentions to use Majora’s Mask (if he did, then would he not have done so before Skull Kid got hold of it, and would he not have allowed Skull Kid to destroy Termina instead of aiding Link to stop the imp?). He also has a mask on his person that is very familiar:
Recognize it? Take a look at the Mirror Shield found in Ikana Castle:
Keep in mind that shields in the Hero of Time games are surfaces on which royal and tribal crests are emblazoned. The Hylian Shield has the crest of the royal family of Hyrule, and the Mirror Shield in
Ocarina of Time has the Gerudo crest on it. Since the Mirror Shield shown above has that face on it and is found snug in a treasure chest in the castle of the Ikana royal family, it’s safe to assume that the face is a crest and the shield is a treasure of the Ikana Kingdom. From there, we can draw the conclusion that the mask on the Salesman’s pack is also from Ikana, likely from somewhere in the castle or another area associated with royalty.
So the Happy Mask Salesman who seeks out, collects, and keeps masks from all over was in Ikana Kingdom. When he was there is unknown, but it seems that he was the one who retrieved Majora’s Mask and therefore thrust open the doors of the Stone Tower. This is just speculation, but if Flat’s
“thousand years of rain” is a poetic way of expressing past sorrow, then the HMS is well over a millennium old and may perhaps be a god of some kind.
The Salesman’s Burden
This brings us to the Moon Children. The nature of their identities deserves an article in itself, but for now, let’s just take a look at a few things necessary for drawing conclusions about the Happy Mask Salesman.
First, there’s their uncanny appearance. Each of the Children bears a striking resemblance to the HMS: same hair color and style, same skin color, same body and facial structure. Unfortunately, removing the masks they wear reveals a blank face and not one resembling that of the Salesman.
Then there’s their obsession with masks. They ask for masks, they wear masks, they desire to see “your real face” (whatever that is). Talking to each of them and giving up 20 of your collected masks results in their giving you a mask. They also mention Link possibly becoming a mask salesman. This last bit is a very interesting piece of dialogue. Do they think that Link’s becoming a mask salesman is contingent on the number of masks he possesses? Or do they see a potential in him to become a mask salesman despite his possession of many masks? They seem to measure philanthropic capacity by how many masks a person gives them, and the exchange is similar to the system associated with the HMS in
Ocarina of Time: give a mask to someone wanting it, get something good in return (rupees, a heart piece), everyone’s happy.
However, the questions that each of the children asks are also very important and it may even be beneficial to this analysis to take them in a particular order. First, the one wearing Odolwa’s remains asks,
“Your friends…What kind of…people are they? I wonder…Do those people…think of you…as a friend?”
“You…what makes you…happy? I wonder…What makes you happy…Does it make others happy, too?”
“The right thing…What is it? I wonder…If you do the right thing…Does it really make…everybody…happy?”
“Your true face…What kind of face is it? I wonder…The face under the mask…Is that…your true face?”
This sequence culminates in the anti-social child wearing Majora’s Mask calling you “boring” and saying you have “weak” masks. First notice that the questions work from outermost influence to innermost nature, from friends outside of one’s influence to one’s personal ethical choices to one’s nature and identity.
Perhaps this indicates the progression of thought in Skull Kid’s mind once he donned Majora’s Mask. The mask may have possessed him not in a dramatic way (as with Link and the Deku Mask or Goron Mask, etc.) but in a slow and subtle way: through a questioning of his loyalties, of ethics, and of his identity. This is a part of the wicked power of Majora’s Mask. It boxes a person into themselves through a questioning of good relationships, good ethics, and a healthy identity, resulting in an ultimate abandonment of all three. Once this is accomplished the mask is then free to fill in the voids in the person with its own evil persona, will, and intentions.
From here we can start to draw conclusions about the Majora’s Mask. First, remember that only Majora’s Mask enters the moon – the remains of the other four major bosses remain on Link’s person until the fight with Majora’s Mask. This suggests that the Moon Children are all projections made by or manifestations of Majora’s Mask. If this is valid, then we can also conclude that Majora’s Mask contains at least five different personalities, all of which had influence over Skull Kid in turn while he was wearing Majora’s Mask.
This in turn gives us a depiction of evil that is quite profound, yet subtle. What began as seemingly innocent – the simple retrieval of a mask by the HMS, the curious donning of a colorful mask by Skull Kid, the bitter and child-like mischief of Skull Kid’s “pranks” – slowly but steadily grew into a magical, celestial body capable of destroying an entire country.
The relationship between the Happy Mask Salesman and the Moon Children remains unclear. Perhaps they are Majora’s attempts to foil or distract Link by giving him something uncannily familiar to an experience from his adventure in Hyrule. Perhaps they influenced the Salesman to become a Salesman instead of a collector. We don’t really know and, perhaps not unfortunately, the game gives no clear and definitive answer.
What is the Happy Mask Salesman?
This question remains and it, too, is a bit murky. We know some of the things of which the HMS is capable (amazing stealth, powerful and good magic, pulling a pipe organ out of nowhere) and we know the vast extent of his knowledge, especially his knowledge of masks. We can also conclude that he is not malevolent: there is no indication that he has used Majora’s Mask for evil (though it itself may have influenced others, especially those in Ikana, from a distance), he assists Link in stopping the catastrophe in Termina, and, though some may take the line in which he notes that
“the evil has left the mask after all” as indicative of disappointment at not getting a chance to use the mask, it could just as easily indicate relief or curiosity or disappointment in the mask’s new mundane nature.
From the observations made above, we may speculate on a few other things: considering his possession of both Majora’s Mask and the mask with the same face as that on the Mirror Shield, he may be a citizen of Ikana who wandered from the Kingdom in search of masks before it fell into ruin; he may also be a god or other immortal spirit who seeks the happiness of others through the exploration of different identities.
Whatever else the Happy Mask Salesman may be, he is certainly a major catalyst for the events of the game and a source of resolution for its conflicts. Some gamers have noticed an interesting resemblance between the HMS and Shigeru Miyamoto. This, coupled with his knowledge of Link, Skull Kid, masks, and other elements of the game, may suggest something very profound about his character and
Majora’s Mask overall. If one were to consider Majora’s Mask from an allegorical or meta-narrative perspective, the HMS would be the game designer who gives the game player their task to accomplish. My own ideas on this concept may be explored in later editorials, but my observations here already make apparent that Majora’s Mask is meant to be what one poet has described as dulce et utile (sweet and useful).
our transportation (Epona), retrieving our item (the Ocarina of Time), and returning to our true form. The initial meeting with the Happy Mask Salesman begins to turn us away from ourselves and towards another character, another person. We’re tasked not only with retrieving the Ocarina of Time for our benefit of returning to our sword-wielding Hylian form, we’re also tasked with retrieving Majora’s Mask for the Salesman even before we know about its nature and how evil it is.
Once the Salesman transforms us back into a Hylian – without asking first for his mask, mind you – we’re informed about the mask’s power and potential. Our immediate quest – to regain our Hylian shape – is fulfilled and we’re almost forced by the game to turn our attention outwards. As we play
Majora’s Mask, we learn about the true nature of evil – subtle, devious, and full of clever lies meant to trip up its victims – and how counter it – by turning our attention outward towards the love and needs of others, and helping where we can without necessarily thinking about our own benefit.