The Illusion of Being Alone

Majora’s Mask is well known for its many complex layers of underlying meanings, messages, and inspirational themes. Cliché as that may sound; it is even more of an understatement than it is a cliché. 11 years later, and we are still discovering and discussing new themes that we find in Majora’s Mask. There is so much beneath the surface of the game, and it will always be able to provide something new each and every time it is played.

The message that has always stood out most for me is one of appreciation, as Link learns during his quest. Intertwined with that, Majora’s Mask has a lot to say on friendship, and its opposite, loneliness. It was this theme that took prominence for me in my most recent playthrough of the game. A theme that permeates right from the main storyline of the Skull Kid, through to Kafei and Anju’s classic sidequest, and even to the barrenness of Ikana. What is there to the game’s emphasis on the importance of friendship and the dangers of loneliness? Let’s take a look.

The earliest moment in the Skull Kid’s story is recalled to Link by Anju’s Grandmother as he dons the All Night Mask. It all begun when the Four Giants decided to guard the people while they slept, and took 100 steps in each compass direction, as the story runs. The Skull Kid, referred to as a little “imp”, was saddened by this because he had been friends with the giants since before they had created the worlds.

This Skull Kid is the same one that Link played Saria’s Song for in Ocarina of Time’s Lost Woods. We don’t know who he was originally, or what led him to flee into the Lost Woods. It may have been due to being alone or an outcast. Whatever the reason, the life of a Skull Kid is a lonely one. It is like a doomed, cursed life of aimlessly wondering the woods.

At some stage the Skull Kid stumbled into Termina, or at least what there was of it, and become friends with the Four Giants. They would have meant a lot to him. They are likely to have been his only friends, and then they left. Of course he was saddened; of course he felt abandoned. Most of all, he felt neglected and miserable. He was lonely, and lonely means dangerous.

Anju’s Grandmother goes on to tell of the Skull Kid spreading his anger across the world and wronging all people. He spread his misery to everyone else. As the saying goes, loneliness needs company. It is reminiscent of the song “Lonely Won’t Leave Me Alone”. Skull Kid had lost his only friends and lashed out at everybody. There were two new friends that he made in Termina and was content with for a time – the fairies Tatl and Tael – but even their companionship was not enough to suppress his anger.

The people of Termina sought the Four Giants to protect them from the Skull Kid, which in itself tells the extent of the damage and trouble that he caused. The Giants responded and banished the Skull Kid back to Hyrule, referred to in the story as the “heavens”. In Skull Kid’s mind, it was the ultimate abandoning. He was utterly alone.

Skull Kid and Four Giants

How exactly all of the events of the Skull Kid’s past fit together chronologically is unknown. We can’t be sure of when he visits Termina; of when he meets Tatl and Tael in relation to his fallout with the Giants; and whether that was before or after his moments with Link in Ocarina of Time. Skull Kid is keen to buy the Skull Mask in Ocarina of Time, not only to hide behind, but because it makes him look tougher. In my opinion, it is fitting that this occurred after his banishment from Termina, when he is vulnerable. He wants to hide, but also to appear tough.

This is where we can now pick up the story of Skull Kid as it happens throughout the Majora’s Mask. Just prior to the game Skull Kid obtains the mask through assaulting and stealing it from the Happy Mask Salesman in the Lost Woods. It was his way of both releasing his anger, and hiding behind yet another mask. However, Majora’s Mask is not to be used lightly, and while at first he is pleased with his power, it eventually becomes too much for him.

Majora’s Mask is another aspect of the story that the details are hazy on. The powers of Majora had been sealed within the Mask, but we don’t know the extent of what this means. It seems as if the power of the mask gave Skull Kid either the ability, or the courage, to return to Termina and continue what he started. What he didn’t realize is that the Mask had its own agenda to destroy Termina, and would come to use him. Skull Kid became the mere puppet of Majora, and to that extent, was another victim.

Tatl believes that Skull Kid’s personality, and trait of “always playing tricks”, is the reason that he always finds himself alone. He was a weak individual – a loner. He was desperate but also dangerous. His misery caused him to wrong the people of Termina, and eventually become the slave of Majora. He was by no means a bad character, or the game’s villain. He made some bad choices. Some desperate choices. It is a sad story.

Skull Kid lashes out at the friends that he does have, when he hits Tael, but Tael is the one who understands him. Having been with Skull Kid for the whole time Tatl is with Link, and beforehand, Tael sees that it was the power of the mask that controlled Skull Kid. That it was “too much for Skull Kid to handle”. All of this was caused by one very simple factor – Skull Kid was lonely. It was just to spread his own misery, it was a desperate cry for attention.

As he always does, Link went on to defeat Majora, after Skull Kid had been abandoned, yet again, by Majora. It is now that Skull Kid realizes what he has done. How he has wronged people and why he has been left by his friends, or why he thought they had deserted him. At the very same moment he realizes that his friends had never actually abandoned him. He had only thought they did.

Link and Skull Kid

The Four Giants had been protecting their land and people when they banished the Skull Kid, but they “hadn’t forgotten about” him. They still thought of him as a friend. They cared for his wellbeing and intervened not only to save Termina from Majora’s moon, but to aid their friend. It was the Giants that told Link and Tatl to “forgive your friend” from early on in the game. Tael cared for Skull Kid the whole time, and worried as he watched Majora abuse the Skull Kid. Tatl, even though she claims she can never forgive Skull Kid for hitting her brother Tael, she comes to understand, and eventually forgives.

The Four Giants and the fairy duo had never forsaken the Skull Kid. Despite what he did, they remained his friends, just like true friends do. Despite circumstances and what Skull Kid had done, they forgave him. They were always there looking out for him. Tatl shows signs of concern for Skull Kid, it is just her personality to deny such feelings. Skull Kid wronged them, but they stuck with him.

Skull Kid thought that “they didn’t want to be friends” with him, and isolated himself. He is the prime example that loneliness, more often than not, is an illusion. It is self imposed, perhaps due to hiding behind masks, or being unable to forgive yourself for your own actions. Skull Kid learned that when he couldn’t forgive himself, his true friends still cared. They had forgiven him. They looked at him with pity and wished, even strived, for him to be all right again.

Even Link had previously met Skull Kid when he taught him Saria’s Song and sold him the Skull Mask. The Skull Kid remembers Link as having “the same smell as the fairy kid … in the woods.” Even a person who he had barely known had cared for him, and even saved him. Skull Kid was grateful to Link and extended his hand of friendship to Link as well, ending with the line “Friends are a nice thing to have…”

Everybody has somebody, and the key point from Skull Kid’s story is that despite what you think, someone is there for you – despite what you do, your true friends forgive you. Link watches the story of Skull Kid and comes to learn, and apply this very same lesson to himself. It is not just Skull Kid where Link sees the power of friendship and danger of loneliness, because that very same theme is right there in his face all throughout his quest.

As he travels through Ikana, Link sees what has become of a once mighty kingdom due to fights amongst friends. King Igos du Ikana tells Link that “believing in your friends and embracing that belief by forgiving failure” is the way to avoid the destruction of loneliness. Petty fights amongst friends are not reason for hating each other, they are a natural part of any relationship. It is how people overcome those fights, how well they forgive that is important. If we didn’t forgive, then we would all be alone like those in Ikana, but it is our nature to forgive, and to care.

While still in Ikana Link sees Pamela caring for her father as he is tormented and cursed to become a Gidbo. She doesn’t mind what he is becoming, she has to save her father. Her friend. Family are friends. Likewise, Flat is concerned for his brother Sharp, who sold his soul to the devil and locked Flat in a prison. Despite Flat’s anger there are also tears, as he forgives his brother and wishes for Link to save him. Being the hero that he is, Link obliges, and all Sharp wishes is for his brother to forgive him, not knowing that Flat already has.

Kafei and Anju

Reuniting Kafei and Anju is one of the most renown sidequests in all of gaming, and it also strikes a chord in tune with this theme of friendship. Having being cursed by Majora to appear as his teenage self, Kafei is too ashamed to face his fiancée Anju. He isolates himself, not realizing how much Anju misses him.

Through an epic quest spanning the full three day cycle Link is able to bring the two closer and closer until they are finally reunited. Anju believes in Kafei, despite rumors that he is having an affair with Cremia, and waits for him as the end of the world approaches. Kafei arrives in the dying moments in his cursed young body, and all Anju has to say is “Welcome home.

Link himself cannot be overlooked in all of this, because this very theme of loneliness hits very close to home in Link’s case. In many ways, he would find it hard not to see himself in Skull Kid. Majora’s Mask begins with Link having “crept away” from Hyrule in search of his “beloved and invaluable friend” Navi. Navi was the only one who had been with Link for his whole journey in Ocarina of Time, and the only one that truly understood what he had gone though. At the game’s conclusion, Navi left Link, leaving him feeling abandoned, just like Skull Kid. It is for this reason that Link didn’t give up on Skull Kid, because to do so was to give up on himself.

Link comes to Termina in his search for Navi, and he doesn’t find her, but he does learn an important thing about friendship. That it shouldn’t be forgotten. That it shouldn’t be cast aside easily. Yes, Link had lost Navi and couldn’t ever regain her, but Navi hadn’t left because of a petty fight. She didn’t hate him. It was her destiny to leave, and she will always be a friend to Link, whether she is with him or not – just like Saria.

It is intertwined with the message of appreciation in that Link comes to appreciate the friendships that he does have, and just how valuable they are. He had left Zelda and any other friends that he may have, such as Malon, in a vain effort to pursue Navi. Through Skull Kid, Link knew that he must return and be with those who he has.

Happy Mask Salesman

The farewell bidden to Link by the Happy Mask Salesman is as follows: “Whenever there is a meeting, a parting is sure to follow. However, that parting need not last forever… Whether a parting be forever or merely for a short time… That is up to you.” His words allude to Link’s parting scene with Zelda, shown earlier in the game as a flashback. Link understands that what he has been searching for is the very thing that he left behind – friendship. The same thing he returns to Hyrule for at the game’s conclusion.

Majora’s Mask ends with the tree stump carving of all the friends – Link, Tatl, Tael, Skull Kid and the Four Giants with Saria’s Song echoing in the background. The very song of eternal friendship. The Skull Kid, Igos du Ikana, Pamela, Sharp and Flat, Kafei and Anju – they all show Link the meaning of friendship. They showed Link the dangers of loneliness, but also that it is always self imposed.

The illusion of being alone was one that even the Lens of Truth couldn’t pierce. It took a whole journey for it to become clear to Link, but now he knows true friendship. He knows that friendship is forgiving, and he knows that forgiving is not forgetting. He knows that if you forget, then there is nothing you can forgive.

Forgiveness is friendship. Failure to forgive is loneliness, and that is dangerous. The destruction of loneliness is a big price to pay, but through forgiveness and not isolating ourselves at every wrongdoing, true friendships can be built. Yet again, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask proves that it exists not just to be a fun game, but to continuously challenge and inspire the very way we live our lives!

Sorted Under: Editorials, Zelda News