Featured Image art by Jasqreate
The Legend of Zelda is one of the most renowned series in all of gaming. Yet for all its legendary achievements and milestones, there are a few hot topics that remain consistently debated among fans: Which game is the best? Are the 2D games better than 3D? Can anyone rival Prince Sidon’s sexy smile? But the one I’m here to talk about today is part of the underlying tapestry of the games- the lore. I want to explore a chunk of Zelda’s over-arcing story that we already know about and look further between the lines, fleshing out details set in stone to create a new section of bridge between three connected tales: Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Twilight Princess.
(Please note: this post contains SPOILERS for Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Twilight Princess)
The Story We Know
Ocarina of Time launched in 1998 for the Nintendo 64. It made waves for its innovation at the time. But rather than serving as one more link in the chain (HA!), Ocarina’s story actually split the overall Zelda timeline into three separate pathways due to Link’s time travelling: a timeline where a young Link is victorious, a timeline where an adult Link vanishes entirely due to going back in time, and also a darker future where Link is actually defeated by Ganon. For this writing’s purposes, we will be examining the timeline where a young Link is victorious, Ganondorf is imprisoned before he can destroy Hyrule, and Link’s fairy and closest friend, Navi, departs him for a mysterious beyond when all is said and done.
The events of this Child Timeline lead directly into Majora’s Mask. Link leaves Hyrule searching for Navi and is assailed by the same Skull Kid he met and helped in Ocarina of Time, in the Lost Woods. The Skull Kid has been taken over by the evil powers of Majora’s Mask, which the Skull Kid stole from the Happy Mask Salesman. Link is charged with returning this mask to the salesman and eventually does so. However, he still never finds his fairy-friend, Navi.
And then the timeline jumps forward, abandoning our tried-and-true hero for a brand new Link, born and raised in the quaint village of Ordon. Through various circumstances Link is eventually pulled into the otherworldly Twilight Realm and transformed into a wolf by the evil energy within. Here he meets Midna- a being from that realm- who aids him in regaining his human form. She then travels with Link as he fights against Zant the Usurper King that has overtaken Midna’s people. It is eventually revealed that Zant draws his power from Ganondorf- the same Ganondorf who was imprisoned following the events of Ocarina of Time, unbeknownst at that point in the Twilight Realm. Link once again rises to the occasion to defeat both Zant and the vile Gerudo King once and for all… but not without the training of a mysterious, skeletal gold knight.
The Story Between the Lines
While Twilight Princess never explicitly comes out to say it, the golden knight (or Hero’s Shade) is in truth the lingering spirit of the Hero of Time from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. As stated in the Hyrule Historia, “Ever since returning to the Child Era, the swordsman has lamented the fact that he was not remembered as a hero. This is the reason he passes down the proof of his courage and his secret techniques to the Link of this era…” This is further proven by the Shade’s ability to transform into a wolf just like the Link from Twilight Princess- a power granted by the Triforce.
But why was the Hero’s Shade not remembered as a hero? Was it because he departed Hyrule and vanished from the spotlight after Ocarina of Time? Or did he succumb to the curse of the Lost Woods, alluded to in Ocarina of Time when a Kokiri girl tells Link that all who venture into the woods eventually become a Stalfos? This would certainly explain the golden knight’s undead appearance. We might never know the exact truth of the Hero of Time’s fade into obscurity, but more on that later.
Ocarina of Time naturally leads into Majora’s Mask as a sequel. Now that we’ve connected Ocarina of Time directly to Twilight Princess with the Hero’s Shade, I want to stitch the gap closed between Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess- two of the darkest Zelda games out there.
Many Zelda fans debate whether Majora’s Mask actually happened or not due to its ethereal beginning and reused character models from Ocarina of Time. Some say it’s an allegory for Link’s death, or that it is all a dream. But I think we are given enough hints to confirm its place in reality. In Majora’s Mask, the Happy Mask Salesman tells Link about the history of the evil mask with the following:
“It is said to have been used by a mysterious ancient tribe in its hexing rituals. The legend goes on to say that an evil and wicked power comes upon the one who wears the mask and that the troubles caused by it were so great that their folks sealed the mask in shadow forever, preventing a catastrophe and future misuse.”
The salesman goes on to say that the ancient tribe vanished from the face of the world. This “tribe” sounds suspiciously similar to Midna’s Twili people, who were initially banished to the Twilight Realm in ages past for attempting to usurp the Sacred Realm using the power of the Fused Shadow. These Fused Shadows were artifacts of dark power that combined and took the form of headgear, as we see regularly throughout Twilight Princess. And perhaps we should take a look at the Fused Shadow side by side with Majora’s Mask…
They might look quite different at a glance, but take a close look at the eyes- they are identical in shape. Same aesthetic, same dark powers. When you add in the nigh-identical histories of the Twili and the mysterious tribe mentioned by the Happy Mask Salesman, the pieces of the puzzle fall right into place- Majora’s Mask is an artifact of the Twili people.
Now let me make this clear- I’m not vain enough to say that this theory is 100% truth, but there’s enough pepperoni on the cheese for me to assume this is a pizza. The implications that this probable connection has only serves to deepen the backing lore of The Legend of Zelda series. To me, it feels like a cool anime where we are introduced to a concept inside a singular villain only to find out that there are MYRIAD others like it just waiting in the shadows to face the protagonist. Could there be other mysteries of the Twilight Realm left to uncover?
The Story We Don’t Know (Mini ‘Craft It’ Section)
We might have enough information to form some hypotheses about the Zelda series at large, but there’s still a gaping hole remaining between the stories of the Hero of Time and the Hero of Twilight. What elapsed for the Hero of Time after he saved Termina from certain destruction, and how did he become the skeletal, regret-filled warrior we encounter in Twilight Princess?
I would love to see a new Zelda game explore the final days of the Hero of Time. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
That sort of dark concept and direct sequel mentality isn’t par for the Zelda course, but it makes perfect sense. Link experiences a devastated, decaying Hyrule when he travels forward in time, and Majora’s Mask takes on heavy stakes in its own right with the Moon looming over Clock Town in its constant, death-filled approach. The Hero of Time might be a child, but he has been subjected to the darkest scenarios ever seen in the Zelda universe and knows the world well beyond his years due to his time travelling. His grand finale should carry on that blackened torch.
Our hero’s story picks up in his adulthood as he continues the search for his departed friend Navi in a distant land. But, in typical Zelda fashion, he finds himself confronted with some new evil that has besieged the region with strange powers of darkness. And the villain wields said through a stone mask with eerie eyes. Naturally, Link recognizes the similarity to Majora’s Mask and sets across the land to destroy the villain’s lackeys hidden away in their fortresses.
Link still wields his sturdy Gilded Sword and Mirror Shield from Termina even as an adult, but eventually has to replace them with equipment more suited to bring down his shadowy new foes, culminating in an epic suit of golden armor, a matching shield, and an upgrade of some sort for the Gilded Sword (You see where this is going). Ultimately, the Hero of Time begins to look more and more like the Hero’s Shade from Twilight Princess.
But it would be foolish to discard all that Link learned from his time in Termina. Instead of killing his enemies, Link uses the Song of Healing to purify his darkened foes, acquiring their shapes and abilities as equippable masks. These would function as transformations a la the Deku, Goron, and Zora masks in Majora’s Mask and give Link access to previously unreachable parts of the map. Obviously, mainstay items like the bow, bombs, and Hookshot would be acquired too.
The end of Link’s tale against his foe would take a turn not often seen in Zelda- our Hero will strike a victory against his foe, but not before being wounded beyond the point of recovery. The final spiel from the falling foe will reveal that it is a being from the Twilight Realm- an emissary sent by Ganondorf, much in the same way that Zant is used in Twilight Princess, but without being possessed by him (hence the Gerudo prince’s actions hereafter). Link passes away without being able to relay his training or knowledge of the Twilight Realm to any other, nor the impending threat posed by the recovering Ganondorf who he previously thought imprisoned for good. He is never reunited with the long-lost Navi and he comes to terms with her own departure from the world as he leaves it himself. Naturally, several decades pass until the events of Twilight Princess begin to unfold.
This post began as a brainstorming of “What even happened to the Hero of Time?” but turned into way more than I thought. But that’s all it is: thoughts, ideas, and theorizing. But what do you think about the Hero of Time’s fate? Do you imagine something different for the young Hylian’s fate? Let me know with a comment or on Twitter @brinkofgaming and we can nerd it up Zelda-style!
As always, thanks for reading! Game on!