The Lyrics Corner: Chthe’ilist’s “Tales of the Majora Mythos Part 1”
Here in the lyrics corner, we celebrate the rich diversity of concepts and themes touched upon by heavy metal artists. Whether they be of historical, mythical, or scientific nature, if the lyrics tread a different path from the standard reverence for death and blasphemy espoused by most bands, the words are worth highlighting. Today, we examine one of my favorite subjects rearing its head in an extremely unlikely place. [WARNING: EGREGIOUS LEVELS OF DORKERY INCOMING!] My friends, today I have the distinct joy to present to you an examination of lyrics written about The Legend of Zelda by a cavernous death metal band.
The song in question is a brand new track from Chthe’ilist‘s debut album on Profound Lore, Le Dernier Crépuscule. An extreme death metal band following in the footsteps of Incantation and Portal may seem like an unlikely candidate for discussing video games, but even a cursory glance of “Tales of the Majora Mythos Part 1” reveals not only a substantive knowledge of one of the best titles in the Legend of Zelda series but also a supplementary knowledge of prevailing fan theories and lore. There is a surprising amount of detail and depth to the lyrics that any casual listener may simply mistake as another mythological song, but such a thoughtful presentation and well-constructed lyrical approach is worthy of praise. Indeed, the song itself is much more poetic than you may expect from a song about video games, drawing upon the meticulous style of literary giants like Lovecraft and Howard to present an intrepid narrative of the Zelda mythology. Because metal critics unfamiliar with the Zelda series made the claim that the lyrics are Lovecraftian in nature, the band themselves took to their Facebook page to set the facts straight.
The game in question is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, initially released for the Nintendo 64 in 2000. The game was given an updated visual design last year with The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D for the Nintendo 3DS, but the mythology and story-line remained consistent between the two games. Majora’s Mask is the sixth canonical entry in the Zelda series and features our protagonist Link (the fourth Link to appear in Hyrule, chronologically speaking) searching for his dear friend Navi following the events of the The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. After being deceived by a mischievous Skull Kid, Link finds himself in the land of Termina as it is beset by a looming moon that seems to portend the impending destruction of all life. The game is widely considered one of the cleverest and deepest games in the entire Zelda series, with a story and design much darker and grimmer than most other entries. Although most games require Link to assume a mantle of heroism to save a land in turmoil, Majora’s Mask‘s grim moon casts a much more foreboding threat than many of the travails in the other games, forcing Link to assume the archetypal role of World Redeemer from Joseph Campbell’s monomyth. The fact that this mythological archetype can be so readily seen in the game, and is therefore worthwhile subject matter for music, is evidence for the omnipresence and importance of these myths for human cultural development. But I’m getting ahead of myself. As with all entries in the lyrics corner, I suggest you press play on the song below and reflect on the lyrics before diving into my notations. I also highly recommend that you click each link to get an understanding of how the lyrics depict events or characters from the game.
A cursed moon1 hangs low in the tumultuous skies, glowing ominously2 over plains of arid desolation. A stone tower3 stands before these haunted lands, its structure perpetually ascending toward the heavens. Bitter lamentations from lingering spirits4 echo through the valley, speaking of a forgotten aeon. Rumours of ancient men5, and their war against the gods, bridging their world to the sacred realm6.
“Into the streaming heavens,
bestial hordes impetuously ascended.”7
“A portal was opened in the inverted sky8, a gate leading to a realm of boundless deserts9.
There, they discovered a dormant evil10, sealed away into obscurity.”
“Harnessed by wicked men11 (It’s invicible might).
Blasphemous monuments12 (Of worship).
Bringing forth grimness13 (Upon their land).
Curse of the ancient ones14 (Dooming their world).”
Whispers reverberate under the wind, speaking of a omen of brewing doom, warning those who awakened Majora. Far beyond the battlements, resounds the howling of a thousand wolves15. Rancorous chants echo in the mountains16, “come forth impious legions”. Funeral winds sweep across the land, as Cimmerian17 shadows dance in a macabre harmony18, under the gleaming blood red full-moon, burning bright. Seraphic archangels of death19, wrathfully descending in infernal glory, in celebration of the imminence of Majora, harbinger of doom and misery. A curtain of darkness spreads over the plains. Draped in nightfall, the atramentous sky remains starless. As the moon seemingly grows larger20, the air thickens with the fumes of death. From poisonous swamps21, to monolithic mountains22, from cerulean oceans23 to barren dunes of sand24, vile energies emanate from the four corners of the earth, (an aura of) desolation brooding over Termina25. Inevitably, a mysterious sphere looms above the cursed landscapes. Doomed, the Terminians wait in disbelief26 as the moon is drawn down upon the earth. And far beyond the mountains, the stone tower stands alone as an ominous reminder of their heresy27.
1. Throughout all of Majora’s Mask, the moon hangs over the land of Termina, threatening to destroy everything. The moon’s face mirrors the titular Majora’s Mask to a degree and seems to indicate that the cosmic body is bound by primordial chaotic forces. Moreover, the moon here is used as a symbol to portray the lurking dread and gloom of the song.
2. When the malevolent spirit in Majora’s Mask becomes threatened, it hastens the impending destruction to be wrought by the moon’s collision with Clock Town. When Majora’s spirit exerts its power of the moon, the moon’s eyes glow with a malicious hunger.
3. Stone Tower is the location of the final full dungeon that must be completed before Majora’s Mask can be destroyed. It looms over Ikana Canyon and houses the Stone Tower Temple. The central focus this location is given in the song’s lyrics may imply that the band is aware of the various fan theories surrounding the history of the Stone Tower. In the game itself, it’s noted that the ancient tribe of Ikana Kingdom is “stained with a history of darkness” and “drenched in blood.” It’s never explicitly said, but this ancient tribe may be the same as those who used Majora’s Mask in the ancient hexing rituals before the mask was sealed away into the darkness so that its powerful cursing abilities could never be used. This theory also connects with the theory that Stone Tower itself was erected as a phallic defiance of the three Golden Goddesses of Hyrule. The evidence for this idea comes from the fact that the Stone Tower itself can be inverted and because etchings of the Triforce, the symbol of Golden Goddesses and an extremely important artifact throughout the Zelda series given to the people of Hyrule, can be found in Stone Tower.
4. The spirits here are likely either the Garo Robe ghosts that haunt Ikana canyon (and whose malevolent bloodlust remains in the mortal realm) or the skeletal Stalchildren, soldiers of Ikana Kingdom, who linger in the graveyard.
5. The ancient men here are likely the aforementioned ancient tribe. This line may be a knowing nod to the fan “rumours” presented in note 3.
6. The mention of the Sacred Realm here is intriguing because it also indicates that the band is aware of fan theories. The Sacred Realm itself is the golden realm wherein the Golden Goddesses sealed the Triforce before departing the mortal plain. Interestingly, the Sacred Realm is not actually mentioned in Majora’s Mask because the game takes place in Termina, not Hyrule, the land with access to the Sacred Realm, and because the Triforce seemingly has no bearing on the events of Majora’s Mask. However, there is a popular fan theory that the ancient tribe that constructed Stone Tower and who used Majora’s Mask in their hexing rituals are actually the Dark Interlopers, the ancestors of a race called The Twili, who attempted to break into the Sacred Realm using a mask-like artifact called The Fused Shadow in order to wrest control of the Triforce. The Dark Interlopers were banished into the Twilight Realm by the Golden Goddesses. Due to the fact that the Dark Interlopers were a magical race that used a mask-like object of power, many fans think the ancient tribe of Stone Tower and the Dark Interlopers are one and the same. This single line in these lyrics betrays an in-depth knowledge of the Zelda mythos well beyond that of most casual fans.
7. This quotation does not come directly from the game, but it may be a reference to John Milton’s Paradise Lost or Virgil’s Aeneid. If these allusions are in view, these lines lend a more mythological basis to the story beyond what is contained in the game itself and raise the stakes to an eternal struggle between good and evil.
8. The inverted sky here is a reference to the fact that you, as Link, must use the Light Arrow to flip Stone Tower on its axis in order to complete the dungeon. This knowledge is told to you by the defeated Garo Master.
9. Boundless deserts are referenced here for two reasons. First, the location where you fight Twinmold, the boss of Stone Tower Temple, is an impossibly large desert region. Second, the aforementioned fan theory regarding the constructors of Stone Tower being the users of Majora’s Mask holds that the strange desert region accessed through Stone Tower Temple is actually where Majora’s Mask was sealed. This is never explicitly claimed in the game, but the strange appearance of the Triforce symbols and other information about Stone Tower covered above have led fans to this theory. In addition to the Triforce symboles in Stone Tower, in the desert region itself where Twinmold is fought, you can find Majora’s Mask symbols carved into stone pillars. Granting even more credence to this theory is the fact that in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, it is said that the Dark Interlopers were driven into Gerudo Desert where they were sealed away. It is in Gerudeo Desert that the Link of that game, the descendant of the Link from Majora’s Mask, learns of the Fused Shadow.
10. The dormant evil here is Majora’s Mask. At the end of the game, the spirit within Majora’s Mask takes possession of the mask itself, abandoning the Skull Kid and hastening the impact of the moon. The reference, then, works on multiple levels in that the spirit of the mask lay dormant within the mask itself much as the mask may have lain dormant within the desert place.
11. See note 3 on the ancient tribe.
12. See note 3 on the phallic shape of Stone Tower as an inversion of the yonic might of the Golden Goddesses. Here the struggle between genders is seen as an eternal conflict, with direct ties to ancient, real-world creation myths. In many mythologies (e.g. the mythology of the Nuba people of Sudan), the creator is seen as a feminine mother. This type of latent psychological projection of life being born from an all-power mother is reflected in the mythos of the Legend of Zelda through the Golden Goddesses, Nayru, Farore, and Din, who cultivated the land, gave it life, and gave it law. If the Stone Tower is a perverse inversion of the feminine order, this inversion finds its culmination in the vulvar shape of Majora’s Mask transforming into an androgynous epitome of chaos. In many mythological traditions, particularly in Mesopotamian and Abrahamic traditions, chaos is personified in female form and represented as the sea. Intriguingly, Link, as the world redeemer of Campbell’s monomyth, un-inverts the phallic defiance by becoming the embodiment of masculine order in the form of the Fierce Deity, doing final battle against Majora’s Wrath inside the moon and being born again in the form of a child through through the womb of the moon. As the moon is destroyed, life is again brought to the land, and yonic order is restored. Clearly, the mythical archetypes of savior and creator-mother are woven into the fabric of the Zelda series. Perhaps this conflict between genders and chaos and order is further personified by the different vocal styles used in the song.
13. In the game, Ikana canyon is bound by a curse, and all residents within are placed under the weight of death. Aside from a thief whose hideout is near the canyon entrance, the only living residents of Ikana Canyon are a scientist and his daughter, and the scientist has been cursed to take the form of a Gibdo, a mummy from the Zelda series.
14. Again, the ancient tribe theory is in view here.
15. In Majora’s Mask, White Wolfos howl and haunt the northern mountain range while the curse of winter placed by the evil mask reigns over the region.
16. The Snowhead region in the game is a mountainous vicinity to the north of Clock Town. Majora’s Mask cursed the region by placing a monstrous entity named Goht inside Snowhead Temple and using it to spread an endless winter that is slowly starving the Goron inhabitants of the mountains. In these lyrics, the curse discussed is synonymous with cold and death, creating an icy tone throughout the song.
17. Interestingly, Cimmerian is an extra-canonical allusion to the work of Robert E. Howard and his Conan mythos. The reference is likely made here to refer to an ancient and powerful evil.
18. Although this line most likely is a simple metaphor for the evil gripping the land, an amusing second reference is in sight. In the game, Link may acquire a number of secondary masks that may aid him on his quest. One mask in particular, Kamaro’s mask, allows Link to perform a special dance taught by the spectral dance master Kamaro if he is located performing his routine under the moonlit night sky. The Kamaro dance can then be performed to win a Piece of Heart from the dancing twins.
19. Although the death analogy here is used in reference to the curse of calamity and mischief Majora has placed on the land, a second amusing reference may be in sight here. There is an optional side quest wherein Link must defend Romani Ranch from invading aliens attempting to abduct the ranch’s cows, thereby spelling doom for both the ranchers and the milk and meat-dependent Terminans. The angelic symbolism works as a metaphor for the extraterrestrial nature of the invaders. Interestingly, the invaders themselves are an allusion to the alleged Flatwoods Monster that terrorized the rural area of Flatwoods, West Virginia.
20. Majora’s Mask featured one of the most novel constraints of any Zelda game. As Link, you have only three (in-game) days to complete your quest. As the final dawn looms closer, the moon becomes ever larger in the night sky.
21. The region to the south of Clock Town cursed by Majora’s evil is the southern swamp. Majora’s meddling has caused poison to flow out of Woodfall Temple to pollute the waters of the swamp and doom the Deku Kingdom based in the swamp.
22. See note 16 regarding the northern mountains.
23. The region to the west of Clock Town cursed by Majora’s evil is the Great Bay. There, the Zoras are afflicted by unseasonably warm water flowing from Great Bay Temple that is killing all the fish in the ocean.
24. See note 13 regarding the curse on Ikana Canyon.
25. Termina, as mentioned, is the location from the game. Termina is a clever reference to “terminus” or end destination; this metaphor works on two levels in that the moon’s terminus is Termina and that the moon will be the terminus of life in Termina.
26. Throughout the course of the game, you’ll find a number of NPCs afflicted by small acts of mischief. The most heartbreaking, though, is undoubtedly the curse placed upon a character named Kafei who has been transformed into a child before his marriage to Anju. If you are able to aid Anju and provide her and Kafei with the Couple’s Mask, Anju will defiantly wait in her inn for Kafei’s return. A second character may also be in view with this reference. At the beginning of the game, the Carpenter Chief can be seen arguing with the chief guard about whether the townspeople should abandon their celebration and flee the town before the moon collides. If you explore Clock Town on the final night, the Chief Carpenter will be one of the few residents remaining in the village, blinded by his own hubris to the impending tragedy. The use of this allusion here is another important tie to the mythological basis for the Zelda series because throughout classical mythology, characters often meet their tragic ends due to hubris.
27. Again, the heresy of the sacrilegious worship of the ancient tribe is referenced.
So, did you learn anything? Did I miss anything? Have any suggestions for songs we should examine? Let me know in the comments below.