I’m not sure I can explain why this game hurt me so much, but I’ll do my best.
The most obvious element of melancholy during the game’s ending is Midna’s decision to shatter the Mirror of Twilight, thus preventing future passage and exchange between Hyrule and the Twilight world.
At the end of the game, Midna says, “Light and shadow can’t mix, as we all know,” and Zelda responds with, “Shadow and light are two sides of the same coin… One cannot exist without the other.” As Link and Midna’s friendship demonstrates, light and shadow can indeed coexist. Why would Midna feel the need to separate the two worlds?
The conflict in Twilight Princess isn’t the result of the contact between the light world and the twilight world, but rather the product of Zant’s psychosis and Ganondorf’s rage. Neither Ganondorf nor Zant would have been able to do anything without the power of the Triforce, however, so it could be that Midna was trying to protect her people from Hyrule, especially since she knew from firsthand experience how powerful even the Triforce of Wisdom can be. It could also be that she’s trying to protect herself from temptation.
I also have Feelings about Ganondorf’s death.
In most games, there is a narrative process through which the villain is demonized. In Final Fantasy games, for example, the main antagonist will start off as someone pursuing a reasonable goal and gradually become less human and more symbolic of a greater evil.
The opposite is true in Twilight Princess, in which Ganondorf is introduced as a monster and then becomes an actual person. When Link finds him in the Hyrule Castle throne room, he is sitting alone. Everyone and everything he once knew is long gone, and all he has left is his former goal of domination. He has finally achieved it, but it no longer has meaning. As he talks to Link and Midna, he gestures toward the symbols of power he has acquired, Zelda and the stone Triforce above her throne. The camera uses forced perspective to make it seem as if he is holding them in his hand, even though they are far away. This is an ironic juxtaposition against his words. He calls the Twili people pathetic and speaks of their anguish, but it’s clear he’s projecting his own suffering as someone who was similarly “cast aside by the gods.”
Ganondorf also becomes more human over the stages of the final battle. He begins as Ganon’s Puppet Zelda, transforms into Beast Ganon, then fights on horseback using the ghosts of dead riders, and finally faces off against Link alone. In other words, he progressively sheds his layers of dark magic, bestial rage, and his past as a warlord to finally stand as himself, armed with nothing more than the sword once used to execute him without trial.
When Link bests him by driving the Master Sword into an ancient wound that never healed, Ganondorf speaks one of his most famous lines, “The history of light and shadow will be written in blood.” Based on everything Link has learned during his interactions with Midna and the four Light Spirits, this statement is not wrong.
Before Zelda passed the Triforce of Wisdom to Midna, she had explained, “These dark times are the result of our deeds, yet it is you who have reaped the penalty.” This would indicate that Zelda is aware of the blame that falls on her people, as well as her own responsibility to make amends. Couldn’t she and Ganondorf have worked something out?
Twilight Princess begins with Link’s mentor Rusl asking, “Tell me… Do you ever feel a strange sadness as dusk falls?” As melancholy and lament are two of the major themes of the game, I get the feeling that the Hylians are entering the twilight of their civilization. Ganondorf, who was chosen to receive a portion of the Triforce, might have become an external force that could have shocked Hyrule out of the sort of cultural stagnation that beset the Twili and the Oocca. Before he fights Link and Midna, Ganondorf accuses the them as being “faithless,” which is unpleasantly apt. If they had not insisted on continuing to fight the increasingly humanized Ganondorf out of nothing more than their desire for revenge, then Hyrule would not have been denied the opportunity for energetic growth and powerful dynamism that he represented.
Here are my tears. Witness them.
Ganondorf, Zelda, Zant, and Midna were all doing the best they could in a shitty situation, and I feel for all of them. Each one of them was trapped, and none of them could have been the hero.
Link could have only been the hero because he was innocent, and he could have only been innocent because he was ignorant of what the stakes of his quest actually were.
To be honest, Twilight Princess is a fantastic game, but I – like Link – still don’t understand large portions of its plot. That’s okay; the game is very pretty. I hope Nintendo will put out a remake at some point in the future.
Because I apparently haven’t spent enough time crying over Zelda games, I’m going to play The Wind Waker next. Be strong, my heart.
( Header image by bigmac996 on DeviantArt )