It’s human nature to hide. In one-way or another we all wear a mask of some form from time to time. We like to put on personas to hide our insecurities and our shame. We wear faces that aren’t ours and convey personalities other than who we truly are.
The Legend of Zelda is full of messages that are applicable to us all, and when it comes to hiding behind masks, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask have plenty for us to learn. The Nintendo 64 classics caution us of the dangers that come with hiding our true selves, with the underlying message to just be yourself.
Wandering Kakariko Village’s graveyard in Ocarina of Time is a young boy who may have a “cute face,” but for him that is no asset. He wants to be “heart-pounding” like his idol, Dampé the gravekeeper. Link sells the young boy the Spooky Mask so that the child can hide his youth beneath the ReDead-like woodcarving. The boy puts on a mask of death and terror to hide his fragile and innocent stature.
In Majora’s Mask the Clock Town citizen Kafei hides his insecurity and identity behind the childish Keaton mask. Kafei was the victim of a curse from the Skull Kid that rendered him, a fully-grown adult, as a mere child. At this low point of Kafei’s life the thief Sakon robbed him of his wedding gift intended for Anju, his fiancée. Unable to face his fiancée as a child and, more significantly, unable to face her without his gift, Kafei flees and hides behind a mask.
Within the moon of Majora’s Mask there is a lone child sitting beneath the lone tree. He is sitting cowered over with his arms hugging his own knees. The child is confident that he can defeat Link at his game of good guys and bad guys; however, the child’s surety comes only from his true self being hidden behind Majora’s Mask.
The prime example of hiding under a mask comes from the Skull Kid. In Ocarina of Time the Skull Kid purchases the Skull Mask off Link to make him “look a little bit tougher.” He needs a mask to hide his weaknesses, but the Skull Mask is not enough. The Skull Kid goes on to rob the Happy Mask Salesman of Majora’s Mask and dons it himself. He hides from the world that banished him and becomes immersed in revenge.
Skull Kid’s story reveals the first danger of hiding behind masks: you can become a slave to the façade. Skull Kid was overwhelmed by the spirit and will of Majora, becoming a mere puppet. The thoughts of destruction and revenge that he merely entertained became a reality for Termina because of Majora, but the destruction of the land was never what Skull Kid wanted.
Beneath the mask: “They hadn’t forgotten about me… Friends are a nice thing to have…” – Skull Kid
Whatever our masks in life may be, the longer we literally or figuratively hide behind them the more we become a slave to them. We can become a slave to portraying a personality that isn’t ours merely because its what we’ve come to be known by. We can become a slave to hiding behind our makeup because we can’t bear to be seen without it.
Like Skull Kid, possessed by Majora, we too can lose sight of ourselves. Skull Kid would never hit his friend Tael, but Majora made him do it. Behind our masks there is a sense of power that isn’t a part of who you truly are. We do things that simply aren’t us. Even Link himself dons the Giants Mask when he feels too insignificant and small. Majora’s Mask cautions us that if you’re not being yourself, you’re risking becoming a slave to your masquerade.
Shiro, the injured soldier who nobody can see, reveals the second danger of hiding behind masks. This soldier dons the Stone Mask that makes the user “blend into backgrounds and move about without being noticed.” The same fate awaits those consumed by the masks in their lives. We can become so concerned with fitting in that we wear so many guises that we’re no longer noticeable.
Wearing masks makes you as “plain as a stone” because it is no longer you. You just blend in. What we perceive as our insecurities are what make us individuals. Sometimes we all wear so many masks that who we are inside is lost and we just become an overlooked part of the crowd.
There is nothing worse than pretense, and unlike the world of The Legend of Zelda, there is no Mask of Truth for us to be able to truly see “people’s hearts and minds;” to see who they truly are beneath it all. Life is about who is still your friend without your masks, not with them. Don’t live a lie. Be the truth. Be yourself.
At times we can lose ourselves under the masks, but just like with Skull Kid, your true friends never forget about you. Despite what you may do and who you may wrong in your façades, your true friends will never forget about the real you.
As the Four Guardian Giants express, and the wandering spirits of Ikana echo, true friends will forgive you and love who is beneath the mask. Whatever the masks in your life may be, no mask looks better than who you truly are behind it.
About the author: Dathen was a lead writer for Zelda Informer from 2009-2012. He left us for a professional position at the major sports-news website The Bleacher Report, but still writes here on occasion as a guest contributor.