Is Link really dead in Majora’s Mask?
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask are among two of my all-time favorite video games and by far my favorite installments in the Legend of Zelda series. Twilight Princess and Breath of the Wild are quite good as well, but they don’t hold the same place in my heart. I particularly enjoyed Majora’s Mask as a child (probably because it was the darkest games I was allowed to own), but playing it again as an adult made me realize I like it even more now.
I can get very engrossed in the lore of content I like: I frequently buy spin-offs like comics and art books (hello, Hyrule Historia) and spend more time than I’m willing to admit watching YouTube videos and pursuing wikis. As a result, I’ve stumble upon some really obscure information about the franchises I like and some really bizarre fan theories. Usually, these theories are so far out there (like Dumbledore is a time traveling Ron Weasley??) that I can simply dismiss them, but every once in a while I come across a theory that really grabs my attention and I become obsessed about figuring out whether or not its true.
There are a lot of “this character is dead” and “this character is crazy” theories out there. In fact, I’ve ran into them for almost every story I’ve ever done any sort of digging on, including My Neighbor Totoro and Harry Potter. Most of these theories have little to go on in the actual source material and would completely ruin the tone of the work if they turned out to be true, but the “Link is dead” theory from Majora’s Mask is one that I’ve had a hard time pushing from my mind, because so many things about the game seem to suggest it’s true.
There are five major areas in Termina (the world Majora’s Mask takes place in): Clock Town, Woodfall, Snowhead, Great Bay, and Ikana Canyon. Each of these areas deal with the death or loss of a character at some point during the events surrounding the game (like Darmani the Goron warrior or Mikau the Zora). But the ways in which characters in these areas respond to that loss is probably why so many people have picked up on this theory: They all show some element of the Kübler-Ross model, more commonly known as the five stages of grief.
The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. All five of these stages are seemingly represented in the five major areas of Termina. The citizens of Clock Town remain in denial of the looming moon over their city and continue to plan their carnival. The Deku King is angry at the innocent monkey for his perceived role in his daughter’s kidnapping. Darmani in Snowhead represents bargaining as he tries to find a way to come back from the dead. In Great Bay, Lulu, the Zora who lost her eggs, signifies depression as she looks out longingly at the sea, and the Composer Brother, Flat, finds acceptance in his brother’s death in Ikana Canyon.
Even the order of these stages is represented by the order of the game, starting with denial and ending in acceptance. Many people also reference the game’s repeating three day mechanic as a metaphor for grief and how it can make it feel impossible to move on with your life.
But why would this suggest that Link was dead? It doesn’t really, but other aspects of the game do. Majora’s Mask begins with Link wandering around in the Lost Woods, which anyone who played through Ocarina of Time (or even just played the beginning) would know you can’t do. He is also without a fairy, which the Kokiri in Ocarina of Time tell Link is a big no-no. There is a very particular path that will lead you through the woods and if you stray from that path, you’ll end up lost. Link falling down the tree in the Lost Woods and surviving is also pretty suspect as well.
And the fact that this is the only Legend of Zelda game that doesn’t take place in Hyrule is definitely something to consider as well. Even the name of the country seems to suggest something, well…terminal. Many of the characters from Ocarina of Time also have twins in Termina as well, which seems odd given how different Termina is from Hyrule.
Another aspect of the game that seems to point to Link being dead is the Elegy of Emptiness, a song you receive toward the end of the game that allows you to create effigies of sorts from your transformation masks. These masks represent characters who have died in the game from the Deku Butler’s son you see at the beginning of the game before you get the Deku mask, to Darmani the Goron, and Mikau the Zora. These are the only masks you are able to create statues from. But you are also able to create another statue…of Link. Why would you be able to do this when all the other statues represented people who were dead? Could Link be dead too?
Some people also point to the famous line spoken by the Harry Mask Salesman at the beginning of the game: “You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?” While most people would take this line to refer to the fact that Link was transformed into the Deku shrub before he meets the Happy Mask Salesman, this line is also repeated if the player reaches the end of the three days without stopping Skull Kid. It’s placement right before a Game Over seems to suggest something more sinister, perhaps that Link is dead and Termina is some sort of purgatory.
But from there, the theory starts to break down. While it’s hard to deny that death is a major theme in Majora’s Mask, nothing definitively points to Link being dead during the events of the game. While the exact location of Termina and its relation to Hyrule are a bit fuzzy, Link probably isn’t dead for a couple of key reasons.
I mentioned earlier that Link travelling through the Lost Woods without a fairy could suggest that he died there. Lore from other games seems to suggest that as well. When you return to Kokiri Village as a adult in Ocarina of Time, and talk to the Kokiri guarding the Forest Temple, she will explain that Hylians lost in the woods without a fairy will die and turn into a Stalfos.
In Twilight Princess, Link meets a Stalfos-like character, known as the Hero’s Shade. Hyrule Historia confirms that this creature is a direct descendant of Link. Could it be the Link from Majora’s Mask? While that’s an interesting concept to consider, the Hyrule Historia also states that while it’s true that those lost in the woods will turn in Stalfos, that is only true for adults. Children lost in the woods are supposed to turn into Skull Kids, which would have been the case if Link truly died in the beginning of Majora’s Mask.
There’s also the fact that timeline continues after Majora’s Mask, according to the Hyrule Historia. Link would have needed to grow up into a adult for the Link in Twilight Princess to truly be his descendant. I find it hard to believe that Nintendo would be okay with the idea of Link having children when he was still a child. There’s also the ending of Majora’s Mask, which could suggest that Link has finally come to terms with his own death as he rides Epona back into the fog of the woods, but it could just as easily suggest that he is simply leaving Termina to return to Hyrule, which would make a lot more sense based on what we know about the series.
Of course, I haven’t gone over everything related to the “Link is dead” theory in this post, but I tried to touch on the key points, at least those that point most directly toward the theory. It’s easy to believe this theory could be true, I think, especially when you compare the dark themes of Majora’s Mask with the rest of the games in the franchise. But the thing is, it’s probably not true.
Not only has Nintendo never confirmed this theory, almost none of these theories ever end up being true. People consuming art will often see what they want to see in it, and it becomes easy to ignore things that might suggest otherwise. This theory in particular has really stuck with me, despite that I have multiple reasons to suggest it’s not true. However, what theories like this do prove is the power of art to inspire fans to interact with and engage in larger conversations about it.
And for me, stuff like that is really fulfilling, for multiple reasons. As a creator, I love the idea that something I could put out there would inspire people to the lengths that some content as inspired me (it also terrifies me). People want to believe theories like “Link is dead,” because it confirms what they already know about the game and it makes them feel involved in its impact on popular culture. It’s also fun to debate and research theories like this.
The fact that I’ve been able to read so many well-thought out pieces by people who cared enough to engage in a conversation like this is also incredible. And while the truth of these theories is interesting to know, for sure, the outcome isn’t really the things that matters.
I love crazy theories, because I love the games that inspired them. Majora’s Mask is an incredibly profound game, and companion content like Hyrule Historia brings a lot more context to the world. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether Link is dead or not. But it does matters the lengths to which people can engage, interact and be inspired by these games and theories.