The connections between Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask are arguably the most interesting and most debated of the entire, storied Zelda franchise. Both games seem to feature characters that look the same, and yet are totally different people. However, the same can’t be said for the Skull Kid or the Happy Mask Salesman, both of which are the same characters that were in Ocarina of Time. How it is possible that these two characters were able to make an appearance in Majora’s Mask leads to even bigger questions, such as “What is Termina?” and “What really are the Lost Woods?” To answer these questions and put both of the aforementioned games into context with the series as a whole, we must first start with the connections between the two, and attempt to put this puzzle of a story together.
The Happy Mask Salesman is absent from Castle Town at the beginning of Ocarina of Time, noticeably so. His Happy Mask Shop is an empty building, save for one potential customer, and the owner is nowhere to be found. The Happy Mask Salesman doesn’t make an appearance in his shop until after Link gives Zelda’s letter to the Hylian guard in Kakariko Village. The question is why? What was he doing before the events of Ocarina of Time take place? The answer may be found in Majora’s Mask. In Ocarina‘s dark sequel, we learn that the Happy Mask Salesman had been searching for Majora’s Mask for a very long time. As he knew the overwhelmingly destructive power that the mask held, it is very unlikely that the salesman would have opened up shop until he could be sure that the mask would not be used for unspeakable purposes. In other words, by the time Link hands over Zelda’s letter to the guard in Kakariko Village, the Happy Mask Salesman has already acquired Majora’s Mask. We do not learn of where the mask was retrieved, but we can safely assume that the salesman was in Termina some time before the events of Ocarina. This assumption can be made based on the masks that Link can get at the Happy Mask Shop.
The guard in Kakariko says that Keaton is his son’s favorite, but not exactly what it is. The way the Keaton mask is talked about in Ocarina makes it seem as though Keaton is simply a popular character in Hyrule. However, in Majora’s Mask the Keatons are actually real creatures that Link can interact with. It is very possible that after traveling to Termina and seeing a Keaton for himself, the Mask Salesman crafted a mask based on the fox, and introduced it to Hyrule as a character, which would explain why Keatons never appear in Hyrule; they don’t exist there.
Yet even before the Majora’s Mask retrieval, the Skull Kid left Termina and began a life in the Lost Woods. From what we know of the Skull Kid’s history, he was very good friends with the four giants, but because of their duty to protect Termina, abandoning Skull Kid so that they could do their task. However, the Skull Kid didn’t understand that the giants were still his friends, and mistakenly viewed the actions of the giants as hateful, and wanted revenge. Broken and distraught, the Skull Kid began to take his anger out on the people of Termina, only to have the giants awaken and banish him from that land. How could the Skull Kid get from Termina to Hyrule? The secret lies in the Lost Woods. A Zelda Universe article compared the Lost Woods to the Woods between the Worlds of the Chronicles of Narnia, reasoning that just as there were a number of ways to enter the worlds in Narnia, there had to be multiple ways of doing the same in the Zelda universe.
The Lost Woods really are the Woods between the Worlds. The Lost Woods don’t only connect Termina to Hyrule, but to many other worlds as well, and has portals to many different places. For example, despite the Lost Woods being located in the southern part of Hyrule, there are portals to Goron City and Zora’s River. Therefore, just as there are multiple portals to different places in the Woods between the Worlds, the same is true of the Lost Woods. The portal to Termina is simply just one of the many portals hidden in the depths of the forest. The Skull Kid, after being banished from Termina, must have wandered in the forest for quite some time, before finding his way to Hyrule. Luckily for him, he made a quick friend in his new home. Saria, a Kokiri girl, was very understanding to the Skull Kid’s plight and even taught him her special song in recognition of their friendship. Link also became a quick friend of the Skull Kid’s, due to Saria’s song. Link would also sell a mask to the Skull Kid and even pay for half of it himself. It seemed as though the Skull Kid had finally made some good friends, but due to events in Hyrule, the Skull Kid’s happiness would be short. In both the child and adult timelines, Termina was destined to be destroyed.
All of a sudden, the Skull Kid’s new friend vanished, never to be seen again. Worried about events in Hyrule, and for the safety of her fellow Kokiri, Saria had less and less time to spend with the Skull Kid. When Saria notices that evil is coming from the Forest Temple and goes to investigate, she ends up getting trapped. The Skull Kid has no idea of what is really going on in Hyrule, but views the disappearance of Link and Saria as another betrayal. Crushed yet again, the Skull Kid returns to Termina, alone without any friends. While using a log for shelter on a cold, rainy day, the fairies Tatl and Tael become his new friends. Once more the Skull Kid returns to playing his tricks on the people of Termina, but deep down the Skull Kid worries if the fairies will abandon him too. The negative thoughts ignite the Skull Kid’s hatred of the four giants yet again. Sensing this hatred from another world, Majora’s Mask calls out to him.
The Skull Kid is corrupted by the power that the mask offers, and decides to steal it from the Mask Salesman. The Skull Kid returns to Hyrule one last time, and manages to steal the mask from the unsuspecting salesman, and then flees to the Lost Woods. Knowing the power of the mask, the Happy Mask Salesman closes shop, and leaves Hyrule in pursuit of the Skull Kid. Upon the destruction of Castle Town, nearly every citizen and shop owner relocate to Kakariko, but the Mask Salesman wasn’t one of them. By this time, he had already chased after the Skull Kid into Termina, and that land was destroyed. The fact that the Skull Kid and Happy Mask Salesman both returned to Termina explains their absence in the adult portions of OoT. Kaepora Gaebora tells Link in Majora’s Mask that it was Termina’s destiny to be destroyed, and so it was, in the adult timeline. Since Termina is a different world, the moon falling out of the sky would have no effect on Hyrule, which is why there is still a moon when Link is an adult. If Termina was simply neighboring land of Hyrule, there would no longer be a moon, or possibly any life in Hyrule at all as the falling moon would have likely destroyed the world.
In the child timeline, things happen mostly the same. After receiving the Ocarina of Time from Princess Zelda, Link begins to wander through the Lost Woods in search of Navi. Saria and the other sages have their hands full, however, with Ganondorf. Knowing what Ganondorf had planned, the sages attempted to kill him. Obviously, as Twilight Princess showed us, they fail miserably. The shock at seeing a fellow sage killed, along with Ganondorf’s immense strength due to the Triforce of Power, only reinforced the fact that the sages would not be able to rest, and return to their normal lives. It is at this point that the Skull Kid enters the Lost Woods and meets up with Tatl and Tael, and then the events mentioned previously take place. The Skull Kid steals Majora’s Mask and begins the trek to Termina through the Lost Woods with the Happy Mask Salesman in hot pursuit. This is where the events from Majora’s Mask take place. When the Skull Kid sees Link riding through the Lost Woods, he doesn’t know exactly who he is, but from the green clothes he is wearing, he can guess that Link is a Kokiri. Having been abandoned by Saria and the fairy boy, both of whom were Kokiri, the skull kid decides that now is a perfect time to exact his revenge.
After being turned into a Deku by the Skull Kid, Link manages to make his way to Termina with the guidance of Tatl. The Skull Kid had intended for Link to stay as a Deku forever, but was not aware of the incredible magic and knowledge that the Happy Mask Salesman possessed. While he alone was not enough to save Termina, together with Link, Termina’s destiny could be changed. Of course, Termina was saved, but that’s not the end of the story. After saving yet another land, Link again returned to the Lost Woods in search of Navi. Some have theorized that Link may have been trapped in Termina, but that isn’t the case. At the end of Majora’s Mask Link is clearly seen returning to the Lost Woods, along with a stump that was carved with the help of the Skull Kid. Whether or not Link knew how to return to the Lost Woods, the Skull Kid certainly did, and would’ve helped Link if necessary.
Link then returns to Hyrule, but never gives up on finding Navi. Though he seemed to have a better relationship with Romani than with Malon, the fact that Link in Twilight Princess starts off in Hyrule means that the Majora’s Mask Link must have had a relationship with Malon, and the Link of Twilight Princess is his son (though it is possible that he had a relationship with Romani and that Link took their son back to Hyrule). After all, the first whistling stone that Link comes across is from the Song of Healing, the first song Link learned in Majora’s Mask. Not only that, but the Hero’s Shade calls Link his child, and directly quotes the Happy Mask Salesman, with the same advice that was given to him; “Believe in your strengths.” While the shield and sword of the Hero’s Shade both have a similar appearance to the Gilded Blade and the Mirror Shield, both of which Link possessed in Majora’s Mask, the fact that they are not exact has led some people to doubt as to whether he is the Hero of Time. They don’t see how Link could have gotten lost in the Lost Woods, with different equipment right after Majora’s Mask. But as stated earlier, it’s not possible for Link to have turned into a Stalfos right after Majora’s Mask as he was still a boy, and his child obviously hadn’t been born yet.
After Link returned to Hyrule and started a relationship with Malon, things changed. He wasn’t recognized as the Hero of Time (since he was separated from those elements in Majora’s Mask, which was why the last memories of the Hero were of him leaving, not returning. As Link continued to grow and explore, he needed new equipment. His Gilded Blade was reforged into a sword fit for a man, and his Moon Shield was also fixed up, explaining their slightly different appearance. With his new gear, Link left his family behind and once again entered the Lost Woods in search of Navi. Without a guide or any idea of where he was going, he wandered until he became a stalfos, never finding the friend he left behind.