Needless to say, the Legend of Zelda series has reams of music that's worth honoring here at Note Block Beat Box. Narrowing the showcase down to one tune is almost impossible. Do you highlight the iconic main theme, which has since been played by the world's best orchestras? Do you examine the black march that accompanies you through A Link to the Past's Dark World? Or do you give praise to Ocarina of Time and Gerudo Valley's Mariachi-inspired strings and brass?
All are worthy of their time under the hallowed spotlight that is the Triforce's golden shine, but there's a certain weight and significance to The Song of Healing from 2000's The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. The Song of Healing conveys a great deal of emotion despite its simplicity. It also makes a subtle but very significant appearance in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
Nintendo games, including Legend of Zelda titles, are generally celebrated for inspiring joy and happiness. Majora's Mask, on the other hand, will punch you in the heart several times across the course of its three-day apocalypse. Then you get to reset the clock and let the game go to work on you all over again.
And the older I get, the harder Majora's Mask hits me. It becomes easier to read behind the themes of fear, death, and abandonment: Skull Kid's world-destroying loneliness, Anju's valid fear that her fiancée has run off with her best friend, the population of Clock Town slowly getting stoned at the Milk Bar (come on, we all know what the Milk Bar is referencing), the feeble preparations for the festival that's never going to happen as long as that hateful moon is hanging in the sky, etcetera. Good news is sorely lacking in Termina.
Worse, the story for Majora's Mask is driven by characters who attempt to save their loved ones from non-moon related problems, and die in the process. Their regretful, restless spirits are left to linger until Link brings them peace with his Ocarina and the Song of Healing.
The Song of Healing is actually Saria's Song from Ocarina of Time played backwards at a slower tempo. The Zelda series often contrasts light and dark and explores mirror worlds, so it's appropriate that Saria's jaunty green tune has a dark blue underbelly.
Despite the melancholic feelings it inspires, listening to the Song of Healing really is soothing if you're in a troubled mood. Sometimes the cure for sadness isn't a troupe of clowns or a good joke. Sometimes you just need to cry a bit.
The Song of Healing's role is obvious in Majora's Mask, so what about Twilight Princess?
You can be forgiven for missing the song's presence in Link's Wii / GameCube adventure: It only shows up once. Listen carefully and you'll notice Wolf Link howls it when he first meets up with the Golden Wolf who gradually passes down his fighting techniques throughout the game.
Link's ghostly teacher is none other than The Hero's Shade -- the very same Link that saved the world in Ocarina of Time, then journeyed (fruitlessly, perhaps) to find Navi in Majora's Mask. He's also the direct ancestor of Link from Twilight Princess.
The Hero's Shade is a grody-looking dude who's one step away from Zombietown. But looks aren't everything, and the Song of Healing is typically reserved for dead people filled with regrets. So what's the Shade's deal?
According to the Hyrule Historia, the Hero's Shade hails from the Legend of Zelda timeline where Ganondorf never conquered Hyrule. After Princess Zelda returned adult Link to his childlike state using the Ocarina of Time, he and the Princess warned the King of Hyrule that "The Man from the Desert" had designs on conquering the realm. Ganondorf's plans were headed off at the pass -- and Ganondorf himself was possibly beheaded -- so that's that.
But even though everyone prospered in this alternate, peaceful Hyrule, its version of Link never forgot his struggles against Ganon. Outside of his excursion to Termina, Link probably led an incident-free life that made it inconvenient or impossible to pass down his sword skills. Said skills died with him, and the regret was seemingly enough to keep at least part of him anchored to the mortal world.
It's never explicitly stated why Link couldn't pass on his skills. The easiest assumption is that he never had children, but that's wrong because the Shade makes it clear Link is his direct descendant. He even softens up at the very end of the lessons and refers to Twilight Princess's Link as "My child."
Maybe the Hero of Time lost his deadliest sword skills when he returned to his child-body, and he never quite recovered them until he entered his purgatory. Maybe the peaceful world he grew up in meant his children were never interested in swordplay -- or he was forbidden from teaching them. Realistically, what are you going to do with a skill like the Mortal Draw in a world without conflict? Use it on a cow?
Either way, the Hero's Shade is stony and cold when Link first meets him, but he's fulfilled and at peace by the end of their sessions. He can finally move on without regrets. The Song of Healing, the first wolf-song Link howls to make initial contact with his uneasy ancestor, serves its purpose well in Twilight Princess.