The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, had one of the most curious plots in the series, and it was supplemented by an assortment of some of the most interesting and well developed characters Zelda has ever seen. Yet among this entourage of developed characters there were a few whose appeal stemmed from a purposeful mysteriousness, such as the Happy Mask Salesman and Majora’s Mask itself, both of whom have extensive mysteries surrounding their origins. In addition, these two, though separate for most of the game, are in truth intricately connected. Who are these two exactly, and what are their stories? Let’s begin with the easier to explain of the two: Majora’s Mask.
“The mask that was stolen from me… It is called Majora’s Mask. It is an accursed item from legend that is said to have been used by an ancient tribe in its hexing rituals. It is said that an evil and wicked power is bestowed upon the one who wears that mask. According to legend… the troubles caused by Majora’s Mask were so great… the ancient ones, fearing such catastrophe, sealed the mask in shadow forever, preventing its misuse.”
~Happy Mask Salesman
What is Majora’s Mask? Let’s start with the facts. Majora’s Mask is an ancient relic used in the past by a now vanished tribe for hexing rituals. The Mask is able to bestow great power, but also great evil, upon its wearer, and was thus sealed away out of fear. The Mask is also sentient, containing a great maleficent spirit intent on destruction. This evil spirit is what is responsible for the troubles in Termina during the course of the game.
It is likely that Majora is a demon of destruction, and the Mask its sealed form. One of the most useful songs in MM is the Song of Healing, a soothing melody capable of easing a soul’s ills and turning the soul into a mask. The ancient tribe spoken of in Terminian legends may have used similar magic to seal away Majora, creating a powerful Mask for their own use; masks created from the Song of Healing are magical, granting special abilities to the wearer. Majora’s Mask would then too retain some of Majora’s demonic powers, which the ancient tribe exploited. However, it’s unlikely that a demon can be contained forever, so the tribe sealed the Mask itself away once Majora began to regain some degree of control.
Curiously enough, if one were to study Majora’s actions, one would find that the demon seems to have the mentality of a child. The most striking evidence comes from the Moon that Majora summons to destroy Clock Town. The Moon is incredibly odd in itself, having a face, sentience to the point of limited speech, and what appears to be an endless and serene meadow inside itself. Due to the small size and strange appearance of the Moon, it is extremely unlikely that the Moon is a real astrological body; rather, it is likely a manifestation of Majora’s desires for destruction. It is Majora’s own creation, and potentially a mirror to Majora’s soul.
“I… I shall consume. Consume… Consume everything.”
So what does the Moon tell us about Majora’s psyche? There are three layers to consider: the exterior, the interior, and the mini-dungeons/boss room. The exterior is what we see for most of the game: an angry face with malicious eyes bent on destroying and consuming all around it. This is the part of Majora’s mind that is shown to the world: a desire for chaos and destruction. This desire is also manifested in the various cruel pranks that it forces the Skull Kid to perform.
“Your friends… What kind of… people are they? I wonder… Do these people… think of you… as a friend?”
“What makes you happy? I wonder…what makes you happy…does it make…others happy, too?”
Surprisingly, the second layer, the interior meadow, is a shocking contrast to the exterior. It is beautiful and serene with children playing around a beautiful tree. The entire scene makes one think of innocent childhood, but the questions raised by the masked children are deep and slightly disturbing. They deal with the idea of reciprocal happiness and friendship. This scene shows a child-like mentality of curious naivety, while at the same time showing great insecurity. Majora questions the ideas of happiness in its mind, but would never admit such thoughts; the child wearing Majora’s Mask is the only child that asks no questions.
The third layer is the mini-dungeons and the boss room. The mini-dungeons all lead into a childish playpen, and despite their danger, they are simply games to the masked children. The boss room is psychedelic in appearance, twisted and distorted, holding a generally chaotic feel. The message is clear: Majora may be childish in mind, but that childish mentality is at its core twisted and deranged.
There’s a curious thing to be noted about the masked children in the moon; they all bear a striking resemblance to the Happy Mask Salesman. Indeed, one of them even asks Link if he shall grow to become a mask salesman himself. If the theory that the Moon is a manifestation of Majora’s conscience is accepted, then we must wonder why the children look the way they do. The Happy Mask Salesman held the Mask for a period of time, but the likelihood that his time of possession was long enough to have an effect on Majora’s psyche is slim. The ancient tribe, however, would have possessed the Mask long enough to leave that kind of effect. Perhaps the children’s appearance was based on what Majora remembers of the ancient tribe. If this were the case, then perhaps the Happy Mask Salesman is connected to that ancient tribe. Such a connection is very likely, but a small coincidence such as the appearance of the masked children is hardly enough to prove it. However, there is far more evidence than just this.
“You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?”
~Happy Mask Salesman
The Happy Mask Salesman is one of the most mysterious characters in the series. It is clear that he possesses unusual abilities, such as changing positions without moving, pulling an organ out of nowhere, disappearing into thin air, and possessing knowledge of powerful magic such as the Song of Healing. This last point is particularly interesting. As mentioned before, magic similar to the Song of Healing may have been used to originally seal Majora into its Mask form; the song itself may have originated with the ancient tribe. In addition, the rest of Termina seems mostly devoid of magic users. Given such circumstances, it’s peculiar that the Salesman has knowledge of the song; this knowledge may be further evidence of his connection to the ancient tribe.
In addition, the Salesman seems knowledgeable of other secrets as well, such as the gateway between Hyrule and Termina. The Salesman seems to know all about Link’s actions in Hyrule, and it is highly probable that the Salesman in OoT is the same Salesman we meet in MM. He claims that retrieving Majora’s Mask should be a simple task for “someone like [Link]”, implying knowledge of Link’s heroism. This would show an ability to travel back and forth between Hyrule and Termina. Indeed, the Salesman even appears to have been robbed by the Skull Kid in the same forest that connects the two worlds.
There still remains the question of how the Salesman came to be in possession of Majora’s Mask in the first place. If he is indeed a descendent of the ancient tribe one would think he had enough sense to stay away from the Mask, especially since he is clearly knowledgeable in the ancient legends surrounding it. However, it is that particular connection to the tribe that may have driven him after the Mask out of curiosity and a sense of familiarity. He must have possessed some of the great powers and extensive knowledge of the tribe just to find the mask, which would further strengthen evidence of his connection with the tribe.
After finding the Mask, the Salesman claimed he “could sense the doom of a dark omen brewing.” He clearly knew the dangers of the Mask, so why did he keep it instead of returning it to its sealed location? Why did he risk having it stolen? The most likely reason is that he wanted to have the Mask destroyed. Though he himself does not seem to possess the ability to destroy the evil in the Mask, he found someone who could: Link.
“All I ask is that you also get back my precious mask that the imp stole from me. 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…”
~Happy Mask Salesman
Ultimately it is Link that drives the evil out of the Mask, though with considerable assistance from the Salesman. Quite curiously, the Salesman seems to know far more than he ever lets on. He leaves Termina in three days, which is the same amount of time the moon will take to fall. When he does leave, he disappears, as if he was never there. In addition, he forces Link to retrieve the mask, claiming to be “a busy fellow”, when in reality he spends all three days in the Clock Tower waiting. But despite this seeming lack of action, the Salesman helps Link out tremendously. When Link fails to play the Song of Time in time to stop the moon, he blacks out, only to wake up in the Clock Tower with the Happy Mask Salesman urging you to continue. No game over screen or anything. It seems as if the Salesman pulls Link back in time. It’s not all that surprising actually; the Salesman doesn’t seem affected by the time paradoxes made by the Song of Time. Not only is the inside of the Clock Tower one of the few places in the game where time stands still, but the Salesman was also completely unfazed by the fact that Link brought back the Ocarina only minutes after they had met (Link met the Salesman just before dawn of the first day and brought back the Ocarina just after dawn of the first day, albeit in a different 3-day cycle).
Still, in retrospect, teaching Link a song and pulling him back in time during the few instances he fails doesn’t seem like doing very much, but despite the Salesman’s lack of other actions to retrieve Majora’s Mask it is clear he understands the danger the Mask poses. When Link fails to retrieve the Mask with the Ocarina, the Salesman completely loses his composure, and this is the only time in the game that he does. He obviously comprehends the severity of the situation, and he is obviously knowledgeable about Mask’s lore. At the same time, he seems confident in Link’s ability to retrieve it, and very pleased after its evil is dispelled.
Majora and the Happy Mask Salesman, two enigmatic entities connected through their mysterious origins. Evidence shows that Majora was seeking to continue the destructing it craves, and the Salesman seeking to destroy the Mask for good and finish off what the ancient tribe started. But the truth is we will never know the exact nature of these two characters. Maybe that’s all for the better; after all, the mystery is what makes characters like these two so appealing.