This is a guest article written by Mike (surname withheld at author’s request). “The Hauntology of The Legend of Zelda” is the unanimous winner of our guest article contest, so give Mike a warm round of applause and be sure to read his brilliant examination of hauntology and its presence in the Legend of Zelda series.
Hauntology is the philosophy of ghosts. Initially a concept created by French philosopher Jacques Derrida to describe the lingering traces of Marxist ideology upon society, the term has since branched out to apply to various artistic movements of all mediums. Modern hauntological art typically refers to electronic music which utilizes vintage and eerily nostalgic thematic effects reminiscent of library music from former decades. In this sense, the hauntological style plays upon an enigmatic form of fragmented and anachronistic memory, in a dreamlike and often subtly dreadful manner. Remnants of the past are re-applied to the present; the past exists within the present, constantly haunting humanity.
One of the most striking and interactive uses of the hauntological style is in regards to video games, whereby hauntology affects not only the artistic vision, but also the psychological implications of the gaming process. Perhaps the most notably recent examples of majorly commercial hauntological video games have been Fallout and BioShock. Both games take place in retro-futuristic worlds, where the aesthetics and ideas of former decades clash with modern science and technologies in a dystopian manner. Throughout the games, the specters of the past haunt the player through the form of old audio recordings, seemingly dated ideological references, and distant yet all too familiar aesthetics. Without reading into back-stories or fan-theories, these games throw off the players perception of time, leaving them wondering whether or not such aesthetics, ideas, and other content is more significant than initially believed to be.
To the trained eye however, these two games are quite obviously hauntological, whether intended or not. Because the chilling art deco style of BioShock and the Cold War dread of Fallout are so intrinsically linked to our own realities, it is easy to distinguish the hauntological aspects of the games, at least when compared to more fictitious games. One of the most striking examples of hauntology applied to fantasy based gaming is with regards to The Legend of Zelda series. The series’ narrative always focuses on legends of the past; tales of a young hero who defeats evil are passed down each generation. The fact that the legends are constantly repeated is itself hauntological, but moreover, it is because all the ideas, people, and entities of these legends continue to linger and exist in ways that continually impact the present. Of course the effects the legends have vary accordingly with each individual Zelda game, but the point is that past events continually haunt in a cyclical manner, even to the point where the protagonist is impacted.
The player in a Zelda game primarily controls Link, who is a literal incarnate of the legendary hero, and as such, it is Link’s fated duty to prevent the spread of evil. He cannot escape the past, nor can any of the other characters such as the Princess Zelda herself, or the antagonists such as Ganondorf. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is chronologically the first of the series, and in it, the primary antagonist Demise essentially sums up the entire Zelda series:
“My hate… never perishes. It is born anew in a cycle with no end! I will rise again! Those like you… Those who share the blood of the goddess and the spirit of the hero… They are eternally bound to this curse. An incarnation of my hatred shall ever follow your kind, dooming them to wander a bloodsoaked sea of darkness for all time!”
It is important to note that throughout the game, Demise is sealed away as the Imprisoned. His presence therefore is felt only through warnings and an overarching sense of dread, until finally he temporarily breaks free in his weakened imprisoned form and must be sealed away again. The seal Link places on Demise is weak however, leaving him to worry whether or not he will return; Link is thus directly haunted by his presence. Such haunting is intensified by demon lord Ghirahim, who acts as an agent to free Demise from the seal, and likewise lingers in the shadows waiting to cause Link harm. Although the Zelda series is by no means a horror series, one can easily be affected by such apprehensive danger, burdened by their past and their present. Once the climax of Skyward Sword is reached, Demise is finally freed from imprisonment by Ghirahim, leaving Link to an epic final battle. Upon his inevitable defeat, Demise utters the previously mentioned words, which signal the reasoning behind the existence of future villains such as Vaati and Ganondorf, the latter of which is visually quite similar to Demise. Furthermore, when Demise perishes, his residual consciousness fills the air in a ghostly manner, and is then absorbed by the Master Sword. This leaves the Master Sword to become a haunted object, as it lies dormant and sealed away upon completion of the game. In the end, while Link ultimately is reunited with Zelda and happiness is shared among friends, there are major hauntological implications of the previous events: An incarnate of Demise will rise in the near future, an incarnate of Link will be burdened to a legendary curse, the Master Sword shall contain a haunted presence, and the ancient knowledge of the Triforce will continue to linger in the minds of men and god alike. Future events in the Zelda universe are thereby hauntologically defined by the events of Skyward Sword.
Following Skyward Sword on the timeline is The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. The legend of the hero in this game is presented as follows: Evil spirits gathered in Hyrule with malicious intentions, but a tiny race of mice like people known as the Picori (technically called “Minish,” but Hylians refer to their race as Picori), came from the skies above, gifting a heroic youth with a sword to defend against the evil. The hero saved the world and as a result, the people of Hyrule now hold a yearly festival honoring the Picori and of course the hero himself. What is peculiar about this legend is the more direct interaction it retains with the present, however. The legend speaks of a magical doorway opening once per century. Once open, the Picori are able to travel to Hyrule from their own world, where they may only be seen by children such as Link, who is assumed to be younger than in Skyward Sword. At any rate, the hauntological overtones are made apparent mainly through Vaati, the primary antagonist of the game.
Vaati bears a slight resemblance to Ghirahim, and keeping Demise’s curse in mind, it is entirely possible that Vaati is a reincarnation or a descendent of the demon lord. Whether or not such a theory is true is, however, irrelevant. The point is that Demise’s curse has come true: Link shares the blood of the previous hero, and is therefore haunted by the past. The evil spirits of the Minish legend may very well have been spectral incarnations of such hauntology. Even Vaati’s five forms have hauntological aspects to them when considering their resemblance to previous enemies in the Zelda series. Following The Minish Cap is The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords. The conclusion of Minish Cap was that Vaati became sealed in the Four Sword. As one can imagine based on Demise’s imprisonment, such seals inevitably weaken over time. Vaati’s presence haunted those tied to the legends, until finally he broke free from the seal, having lost many of his memories: The theme of fragmented memories is important to hauntology, which emphasizes dichotomy between familiarity and what can only be described as eerily nostalgic amnesia.
Meanwhile, Link had been split into a total of four separate copies of himself; further fragmentation of memory and identity. The Links are based upon the four elements of air, earth, fire, and water, but also have distinctive personalities. This is vaguely reminiscent of how victims of intense psychological trauma—though in Link’s case, the trauma would come from constant hauntological forces—utilize disassociation to cope with stress, and often times suffer multiple personality disorder. Link also had the ability to split into separate copies in certain instances in The Minish Cap, where the Links who took damage disappeared. Link was ultimately witnessing apparitions of himself, only to know they would disappear. Although we are not led to believe he had such thoughts, it would be logical witnessing his own self perish would take a psychological toll on Link; The possible negative outcomes of his life haunt him vicariously through his three separate copies. Ominous and hauntological overtones can therefore be concluded through such examination of Link as a result.
Next in accordance to the timeline is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, considered by many to be the best in the series. Ocarina of Time was the first three-dimensional Zelda game, and as such, it was able to better convey a brilliantly crafted and intricate atmosphere through the unique graphics of the time period. Most of all, the game’s graphics helped illustrate the darker elements of the series, be it through the enemies and characters or the locations of foreboding woods, crumbling ruins, or most of all, the blood-soaked dungeon known infamously as the Shadow Temple.
“Shadow Temple… Here is gathered Hyrule’s bloody history of greed and hatred… ”
Home to some of the most disturbing creatures in the Zelda series, the Shadow Temple exists tucked away in the graveyard of Kakariko Village, and is only accessible through the melancholic nocturne of shadows, a song Link learns from the mysterious Sheik. Before venturing into the depths of the Shadow Temple, Link must travel to the bottom of the well of Kakariko Village in order to find the lens of truth. According to the old man in the village, the previous owner of the lens of truth once lived on the exact spot where the well now stands; his memory lingers over the deathly dungeon. The well is a maze littered with corpses and blood and containing a myriad of fake walls and floors, only noticeable with the lens of truth, which is obtained from the dreadful Dead Hand mini-boss. Hauntologically speaking, there is a distinctive and dark presence of the well, juxtaposed with the warmth of Kakariko Village.
But this presence is even more apparent in the Shadow Temple. In Japanese, the temple’s name is refereed to as “Yami no Shinden,” which is the same name of the Palace of Darkness from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past; vaguely familiar, ghostly locations have a tendency to appear regularly in hauntology. The Shadow Temple was initially built to contain five out of seven sages (who Link must unite with in order to defeat the evil Ganondorf). It was built by the Sheikah, or “Shadow Folk,” the legendary and enigmatic tribe who swears allegiance to the royal family of Hyrule. The Sheikah’s presence can be felt throughout the game via their esoteric symbols, such as the Sheikah emblem of a crying eye, which often appears to watch over Hyrule as a specter. Their presence is also felt through their peculiar artifacts such as the lens of truth. Impa and Sheik are two Sheikah who Link directly encounters on his journey as well, and they retain a rather distant and mysterious demeanor, much too focused on their ancient duties to become overly friendly with Link. It should be important to note that in many of the later games in the series, the word Sheikah is never used, but players can infer their existence and thus feel their ghostly presence residing over the lands.
Back to the Shadow Temple itself, it exists in the shadow of Death Mountain and is therefore referred to as the “House of the Dead.” But in hauntology, nothing truly dies. The presence of specters can be felt throughout the entire temple, via the general design of the torturous temple, the nature of the shadow monsters such as Bongo Bongo, or of course, the malicious spirits who haunt the temple. As mentioned previously, the Shadow Temple houses the negatives of Hylian society such as greed and hatred. From first glance, the temple appears to be a torture dungeon, possibly even a place of human sacrifice. This would mean the haunting comes from the victims of torture and those who died here. On the other hand, one popular theory suggests that the Shadow Temple is merely a personification of Hyrule’s darkest emotions, and is nothing more than a nightmare Link must overcome. Both theories ultimately support the hauntological perspective however, as they leave plenty of room for the presence of spectral forces, haunting memories, and a cyclical viewpoint of time. Both the bottom of the well in Kakariko Village and the Shadow Temple itself likewise continue to haunt the player long after their completion, mainly through the lens of truth, which must be utilized frequently in areas such as the Haunted Wasteland, a place where literal spirits known as Poes roam the land causing mischief. The Poes Link encounters throughout the Haunted Wasteland and even the fields of Hyrule itself however, are nowhere near as ominous as the ones he encounters in the Shadow Temple. These spirits represent the darkest hauntological forces in the game. The walls of the temple are covered with watchful eyes of spirits, and walking into by them often yields a disturbing warning or statement made by an unseen force in what sounds like an archaic, Lovecraftian manner:
“What is hidden in the darkness… Tricks full of ill will… You can’t see the way forward… ”
Aside from the Shadow Temple, the plot of Ocarina of Time must also be considered from a hauntological perspective. The primary antagonist of the game is Ganondorf, who bears a striking resemblance to Demise, and ultimately, Ganondorf is the most major reincarnation of Demise and his hatred; the most major instance of hauntological forces at work in the series. In the early parts of Ocarina of Time, Link is troubled by nightmares he has relating to Ganondorf, and many characters indirectly warn of his presence, which directly affects Hyrule in the form of darkness. The initial threat of Ganondorf is perceived only through the dread relating to the legend of the hero, and the curse Link bears. Ganondorf himself however, is inherently haunted by the Triforce, the legendary sacred relic he is always attempting to gain.
At the climax of the game however, Ganondorf makes his presence much more menacing when he manages to transform Hyrule into a desolate wasteland, seven years after Link is sealed into the Temple of Light. The most affected area is of course Hyrule Castle Town, where all the inhabitants have vanished, and zombie like creatures called Redeads roam freely. The hauntological overtones of the game are fully realized now, as the past lingers dreadfully over the land, existing within the tumultuous present times. Ganondorf’s darkness has also increased the presence of spirits such as Poes, leading the mysterious Ghost Hunter to Hyrule Castle Town. His intentions are never made clear, and though he is friendly to Link, he admits admiration for Ganondorf, claiming his destructive nature is beautiful. The Ghost Hunter explains Poes to Link:
“The ghosts, called Poes, are spirits of concentrated hatred that appear in the fields and graveyard. They hate the world!”
He offers Link money for each Poe he captures, rewarding him further should he catch a Big Poe. But the most stunning asset of his existence is his ability to read minds. He knows what Link is about to say before he says it. As such, the Ghost Hunter’s psychic knowledge represents hauntology’s ghostly and omniscient understanding of past, present, and future, and how time interconnects. As for his own individual being, there are many theories surrounding his existence. One theory is that the Ghost Hunter is the ghost of the Hyrulean soldier who earlier in the game expresses an interest in ghosts and chaos. On the other hand, there is also the theory that the Ghost Hunter is the spirit of the man in Kakariko Village who initially owned the lens of truth, and that the red dot on his head, is an extension of the truth seeing eye. Another theory is that the Ghost Hunter is actually the boy in Kakariko Village’s graveyard, grown up by seven years. There is also the theory that he is a Garo spirit (robed ninja like beings who appear in the game’s sequel) or is at least deeply connected to the Garo. The first and second theories hold the most weight in reality, as the first more plausibly explains the Ghost Hunter’s connection to the Triforce on his belt. In any case, all these theories paint the Ghost Hunter in a distinctly hauntological manner: His past is contained within his present, his memories can still be felt lingering, and his desire to spread anxiety and dread, mixed with his involvement with ghosts, is obviously hauntological. The Ghost Hunter remains one of the most perplexing characters in the entire Zelda series. Ultimately when considering Ocarina of Time in relation to hauntology, the most major hauntological component is right in the title and the main plot of the game: Link is the hero of time. He is able to venture back and forth between the seven year span of the game’s events. When he is in his teenage form, characters such as the Kokiri of Link’s home village remark on how eerily familiar he is, unaware of his true identity and the unfolding chaos of the world. Thus, Link’s past is also contained within his present, and his interactions between time periods carries hauntological meanings. At the end of the game, Link and the seven sages seal away Ganondorf and peace returns to the land of Hyrule. Of course as already discussed, the outcome of the seal should be anticipated by the player by now. What is special about Ocarina of Time is that the game technically has three possible outcomes in accordance to the official timeline. Defeating Ganondorf has two possible outcomes, one leading to Majora’s Mask and one leading to The Wind Waker. Or conversely, Link can fail his quest leading to the era of light and darkness, and the decline of the hero where Ganondorf is revived. For the sake of of this article, only the first outcome will be explored.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is the direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, and is perhaps the most unusual and dark game in the series. Having defeated Ganondorf in the previous game, Link is sent back in time to experience the childhood he lost in seven years. Eventually he embarks on a journey to find his previous fairy companion Navi, and while traveling in the woods, he comes across an impish child known as the Skull Kid. The Skull Kid robs Link of his ocarina—the instrument he used in the previous game to travel through time. He attempts to get back his precious ocarina, but the Skull Kid stops him in his tracks by using dark magic to convert Link into a Deku Scrub, a plant like humanoid creature. The magic comes from an ancient and terrifying mask known as Majora’s mask, as explained by the mysterious Happy Mask Salesman whom Link encounters in Termina after escaping from the woods with Tatl, a fairy who had previously been traveling with the Skull Kid. Link soon learns of the apocalyptic danger the world faces in regards to Majora’s mask: The moon will crash onto Earth in three days if the mask is not retrieved. Only after getting the ocarina of time back from Skull Kid does Link proceed to stop the coming danger, and he does so by once again traveling through time.
In the first place, Majora’s Mask is decidedly hauntological in regards to the ever present clock at the bottom of the screen, warning the player of the coming danger. But secondly, the game also focuses on the use of masks as a means of changing Link’s identity. The masks Link uses are especially hauntological, as they often represent the very essence of previously encountered characters. Wearing certain masks in front of characters in the present also breeds interesting interactions, where many times Link is mistaken as somebody else. In this sense, Link is fundamentally altering the familiarity of the world around him and even his own identity. Previous characters and interactions become repeated, sometimes in an unfamiliar or eerie manner when characters no longer recognize Link, or recognize him only by the masks of the dead. In these regards, Majora’s Mask is vividly hauntological, with each character repeating their pasts with a growing sense of dread, and Link himself operating almost akin to a specter. Amnesiac anxiety is thus an integral part of the game, where the player must constantly define and then undo history to the point where it seems history shall have no end.
And whatever the player does in Majora’s Mask, the masks serve as a constant reminder of the past. There is no escape from the ghosts of history. Combine this type of haunting with the constant reminder of impending doom, and thus the player is left with a game being haunted literally by time itself. Such could potentially be psychologically damaging to Link himself, who may often be left wondering: Have I been here before? Why am I not being recognized? What is the nature of time? And so forth. Time is beyond your control, even when you know what will happen or what has already happened (e.g. the events of Ocarina of Time) and thus an unprecedented sense of dread inevitably set in.
Majora’s Mask also features the presence of dark hauntological forces as well. Villains such as Ganondorf are not in the game, but one can certainly feel their presence. The ancient gods, the Sheikah, everything swirls together in a hazy cloud of apocalyptic anxiety. But the most stunning example has to be in regards to the Happy Mask Salesman. Previously encountered in Ocarina of Time with a much more minor role, he is now one of the primary characters in the game, and yet he still resides mostly in the shadow of Clock Town. He knows exactly who Link is and where he is headed, and moreover, seems to appear out of nowhere. Most of all, supposing Link fails to accomplish their task in the allocated three day limit, it is inferred the Happy Mask Salesman is literally able to reset time himself and bring Link back to the dawn of the first day. If Link is successful in his task, the Happy Mask Salesman thanks him and then simply vanishes into thin air. So how does this bizarre man have such powers? It is heavily speculated that the Happy Mask Salesman is an Ancient One or a descendent of one. Although the ancient tribe has disappeared, it is thus possible he is one of the only surviving members or offspring. This theory is made feasible by the fact he possess strange powers such as the song of healing, the ability to seemingly vanish, and even to generate apparitions. Another theory is that the Happy Mask Salesman is himself a deity or supernatural being. Time stops when visiting the Happy Mask Salesman in the Clock Tower, suggesting he does indeed posses godly abilities. Either way, it is clear the mask salesman is both haunted and haunting; he is a hauntological force capable of moving through different times and even dimensions. Assuming this is correct, is Link the hero of time in this game, or merely an agent of the mask salesman who truly understands and controls time?
Finally, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess follows suite on the timeline. Twilight Princess is interesting because alongside Majora’s Mask, it is also tied for the darkest Zelda game, visually and psychologically. The events of the game take place several hundreds of years after Ocarina of Time (and consequently, Majora’s Mask), where at the end of the game, Link goes back in time to warn Zelda of Ganondorf’s true intentions. As such, Ganondorf is hunted in order to be killed by Ancient Sages. However, the execution fails when Ganondorf overpowers his captors, eventually killing one of the seven sages. This leads him to be banished into the realm of Twilight, which in Twilight Princess is having strange interactions with the kingdom of Hyrule.
Twilight Princess opens with Link and Rusl, the master swordsman of Link’s home, Ordon Village, talking together in the sunset. Rusl asks Link an interesting question and poses a philosophical thought:
“Tell me… Do you ever feel a strange sadness as dusk falls? They say it’s the only time when our world intersects with theirs… The only time we can feel the lingering regrets of spirits who have left our world. That is why loneliness always pervades the hour of twilight… ”
Rusl’s initial statement here haunts Link throughout the game, as the world becomes covered in Twilight. Rusl foreshadows the events of the game shortly after this scene as well:
“Tell me, have you noticed how strange this wood seems lately? I feel… uneasy about what may lie in wait…”
This sense of uneasiness is the result of the haunting presence, looming just beyond notice. Of course, that haunting presence soon makes itself apparent in the form of monstrous beasts who attack Ordon Village, kidnapping the children and knocking out Link. When Link awakens, Ordon is shrouded in Twilight. He runs towards the bridge leading out of Ordon and into the nearby Faron Woods, but is stopped when a large luminescent wall blocks the path. A Shadow Beast from behind the wall then grabs hold of Link and drags him into the realm of Twilight, where he turns into a wolf and passes out. Link is dragged by monsters to a dungeon in Hyrule Castle, where he meets the enigmatic Midna, a the princess of the Twili race. The Twili, who are seen later in the game, bear a slight resemblance to the Sheikah. Many also speculate that the Twili are either Ancient Ones or even Gerudo who gained the powers of the magical Fused Shadows. Whatever race they descended from, they are themselves haunted by the twilight and their past ancestors. Even their behavior is rather ghost-like, as with the exception of Midna and Zant (the main antagonist aside from Ganondorf), they speak in wails and moans and visually are quite spectral. And as for the Twilight Realm they reside in, such a place is the epitome of ghostly: Perpetual twilight and lingering, nostalgic haze, where the shadows contain spirits of former memory. Continuing with the plot of the game, Link—still in his wolf form and now working together with Midna—soon escapes the dungeon and meets Zelda herself, who reveals Zant’s plan to shroud all of Hyrule in eternal Twilight. When Link and Midna leave Hyrule Castle, they return to Ordon where the guardian spirit, Ordona, tells Link he must bring light to the land. Midna agrees to help Link but only should he gather the Fused Shadows, artifacts with powers that are unclear at this point. He then embarks on his quest to restore light to the world.
In a sense, Link’s journey is akin to restoring order to the present by removing the hauntological forces of both the past and future. Should Twilight cover the land, it would render history trapped in a cyclic state. This is similar to how in hauntology, the specters (personifications of memories) of the past impact the present so that the future itself looks like the past, (i.e. the past inside the present). When Link enters the Twilight Realm, all humans appear as glowing spirits and cannot see Link. It is therefore as if Link is existing outside of time, the people of Hyrule instead being trapped to time; they have fallen victims to hauntological forces. The spirits of people likewise live with constant dread, knowing something is wrong but unable to truly understand. They live in fear of a nameless evil, of a haunting specter. To the player who can guess where the game is headed, such hauntological forces once again relate to the legend/curse of the hero and the fact that Ganondorf is restless in his imprisonment.
Link is involved with a myriad of interactions with spirits in this game, perhaps more so than any other Zelda game. The point is that there is always some form of spectral presence Link encounters, whether directly or not. It is a spirit who reveals to Link that the reason he was turned into a beast is because he is in fact the chosen hero. (Along these lines, Link’s transformation into a beast is somewhat similar how he would “transform” when wearing masks in Majora’s Mask; Interaction with other characters when in beast form is hostile and unfamiliar, as Link’s identity is lost temporarily). Spirits of the past therefore help Link by means such as revealing important information. Or, spirits of the past work against Link in other instances throughout the game. The most noticeably helpful spirit is the Hero’s Spirit. Revealed later to be the literal spirit of the previous incarnation of Link, this spirit offers Link advice and heroic battle techniques. But considering the fact he is the skeletal spirit of an older Link, his presence is therefore hauntological in the sense that the past is directly interacting with the present. Link is witnessing firsthand a hauntological specter of a being who is essentially himself. Aside from the Hero’s Spirit, the other primary example of hauntological spirits are the Ancient Sages, ghostly beings who appear at night in the desert, speaking of the past and warning of the future.
However, aside from the extended involvement of spirits in Twilight Princess, one of the most haunting features of the game is the environment and its affects on the characters. Of course when humans are in the Twilight Realm, they become spirits. But Twilight Realm or not, many of the locations of the game are very haunted by the past. The Arbiter’s Grounds are haunted by Poes, the Temple of Time is haunted by the memories of the legends, and so forth. Visually, all these locations are quite dark or claustrophobic, inducing a sense of dread in the in-game characters and the player themselves. Hauntology often examines the effects of setting on the mind in this sense. For instance, a place where a dark event occurred in the past will be haunting to whoever visits the place; the specters of the past thus rule over each location in the game. Not to mention the fact that there are a myriad of Poes haunting nearly every location in the game as well. But most hauntological of all is simply the fact that the game is visually quite dark. One cannot help but feel there is an undefined hauntological presence lurking in the shadows of Hyrule Field at night, or in the drab Kakariko Village beneath Death Mountain. A sense of paranoia soon sets in, and many of the characters seem haunted by something. While riding on wolf Link’s back, Midna is constantly looking over her shoulders as if something is nearby as well. The twilight holds many secrets of the past, and many haunting forces with malicious intentions.
The hauntology of the game is further intensified when Link must attain the Master Sword—haunted by the consciousness of Demise and memories of the former heroes—in order to truly set the events of the legend into play once again. Link must not only use the Master Sword to defeat Zant and Ganondorf, but also the Mirror of Twilight, which has been fragmented into numerous pieces. Such fragmentation is indeed similar to fragmentation of memory, a key theme of hauntology. At one point in the game, a mirror fragment possess Yeta, a female Yeti. This represents the most violent affects of nostalgia and hauntological malice in action, as the past and the spectral forces contained within the mirror fragment are too much for the mortal to handle. Perhaps the memories of the past were too much for Yeta to bear in this instance, leading her to become a monstrous vessel for a hauntological specter. Speaking of memory, it is important to note that Ilia, one of the Ordonian children kidnapped earlier in the game and rescued along with the other children shortly after the initial events transpired, is currently suffering from amnesia at this point in the game. Only after acquiring more mirror shards and the help of an elderly woman named Impaz does she regain her memories and realize her own role in the overall hauntological narrative of the game.
Possession by and even worship of hauntological specters also exists in the game. In terms of possession, we see this primarily when Midna becomes possessed by the Fused Shadow. The Fused Shadow bears a resemblance to Majora’s Mask in regards to the eyes, and thus it is possible the Fused Shadow is another mystically haunted object from the tribe who created Majora’s mask. Once used, the Fused Shadow transforms Midna into a beastly figure capable of using great powers and visually looking similar to the deity Majora. Controlled by the hauntological forces of the mask, she destroys the barrier that blocks off Hyrule Castle, where Ganondorf is residing having been freed from his imprisonment earlier on (Midna’s power was also responsible for killing Zant). Conversely, there is also worship of hauntological forces in the game as well, expressed through Zant himself. Before battling with the rage ridden Zant, he explains the reasoning for his actions:
“The people of our tribe [the Twili]… a tribe that mastered the arts of magic… were locked away in this world like insects in a cage. In the shadows we regressed, so much so that we soon knew neither anger nor hatred… nor even the faintest bloom of desire. And all of it was the fault of a useless, do-nothing royal family that had resigned itself to this miserable half-existence!”
Clearly he is haunted by the past. But more than this, he equates Ganondorf to a godlike figure capable of resurrecting Zant as a hauntological agent to suit his interests. Of course convincing Zant he was a god was merely a ploy Ganondorf used to break free from his imprisonment, but nonetheless the fact remains: Zant worshiped a being of recurring hauntological legend and as such, he worked to make the future/present akin to the past so as to suit Ganondorf (a physical manifestation of hauntological darkness in this case). Once Zant is defeated, he essentially vanishes into memory, becoming hauntological himself. Ultimately, the final battle in Twilight Princess then takes place between Ganondorf and Link, as predetermined by history, or in such a case as this, hauntology. During the second stage of the battle, Ganondorf transforms into his beast form, Ganon. Of course this represents his hatred and his magical abilities, but also inherently represents his strong desire to defeat Link and continue living in the same manner he did in the past. That is to say, this transformation represents the ultimate manifestation of corrupt hauntology. But by the last stage of the battle, Link acquires arrows of light from the ancient spirits and uses them to kill Ganondorf while on horseback (reminiscent of previous battles in the game and earlier Zelda games, which is itself playing upon the players familiarity and nostalgic memories). Ganondorf is inevitably defeated, and before dying, he envisions Zant’s death as well, symbolizing the two antagonists are indeed perished. Now that both of the major evils are dead, Midna’s curse is lifted and the world is restored to its former state. The heroes of the game travel back to the desert to send Midna off into the Twilight Realm via the fully restored Mirror of Twilight. Before she vanishes into her realm however, she shatters the mirror so as to present such evil from spreading once more. As such, she is essentially defying the hauntological forces which initially caused such evil, and is preventing the past from reoccurring.
Ultimately, there are many more instances of hauntology throughout the Zelda series. Nostalgic Ghost in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for example, can be said to be another literal spirit of hauntological dread and nostalgia. In The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, Link also has the ability to alter time, and thus once again is acting again darker hauntological forces. Even the visuals and music of the games can be looked at hauntologically. Even the player’s own memories of games can be examined from a hauntological perspective. In recent times for example, an internet story created by Jadusable focused on a haunted Majora’s Mask cartridge, and such a story is designed to confuse the memories of players and provide them with a sense of dread at the perceived lack of control and awareness Link (and thus the player) has in the story. In essence, the hauntological aspects of the series as expressed in this article can be summed as follows:
1. Skyward Sword: Sets the entire legend into play by haunting the hero with the burden of Demise’s reincarnation.
2. The Minish Cap and Four Swords: Demonstrates the first chronological instance of reincarnation of hauntological forces. The psychological impacts of ghosts and fragmented memories are explored as well.
3. Ocarina of Time: Demonstrates hauntology in a more ominous manner, not only of the hero/villain of the legend, but also of Hyrule’s dark past. Furthermore establishes Link as the Hero of Time, which is a reoccurring theme and memory of future Zelda games. An emphasis on haunted places is also frequent throughout the game.
4. Majora’s Mask: Demonstrates hauntology in an apocalyptic context, with a much more foreboding sense of dread and unfamiliarity. An emphasis on haunted objects is also frequent throughout the game. A perceived lack of control and amnesiac repetition of the past also equates to hauntology.
5. Twilight Princess: Demonstrates hauntology between both haunted objects and haunted places, as well as both neutral/benevolent and violent hauntological forces that interact directly with the world. A sense of undefined paranoia is prevalent throughout the game, largely due to the dark visuals.
Each new Zelda game will undoubtedly contain many more hauntological elements, so long as the narrative relies on the subject of legends, and the objects and locations contain a haunting past.