Dedicated to the deer that roam the neighborhood where I am currently living. They aren’t Legend of Zelda fans and they make driving precarious, but they sure are cute.
It was not uncommon for wild animals to wander into the Kokiris’ village. Birds and squirrels were frequent visitors and residents, but so, too, shier beasts like foxes were seen among the little hollow tree houses. Every so often, in the spring, herds of deer would make their way through the area. One year, a herd seemed to make the village its territory. Perhaps it was the grass, which had sprung up especially lush that year, or maybe a feeling of safety that the
provided, it being an area that was protected from evil by powerful spirits. Kokiri Forest
This herd was all does and their young fawns. There were no predators here, for the Kokiri did not eat meat, having all of their balanced meals provided for them by the growth of the forest under the benevolence of the Great Deku Tree, supplemented, on occasion, with milk from wild cattle, which were happy to provide for the children if they hummed or played a certain tune on any instrument they had available. Even if they had been omnivores, the Kokiri would never have tried to take on venison, for deer were too large and strong for them to bring down – not to mention the fact that they thought of the animals as “cute.” The beasts grazed along the outskirts of the village in the mornings and evenings and would disappear into the depths of the forest at .
The Kokiri could approach them with no trouble. Does grazed passively as the children petted their necks. They’d approach even the fawns, offering them apples, berries and other treats. The animals sniffed and snorted at the children’s guardian fairies as they flit around their long noses and broad ears.
Then, there was Link, known throughout the village as their only member who did not have a guardian fairy. Whenever he tried to approach any of the deer, their ears would shoot up in alarm, they’d bark and they’d run back into the woods. One doe had even stood before her fawn and threatened the boy, stamping her hoof and lowering her head. He always approached slowly and quietly, to show that he was no threat. He approached the deer the same way as the other children did. He had no idea why the animals did not like him and it gave him a lonesome sorrow.
He sat upon one of the village precipices late one morning, looking down upon the village and the resident herd with the telltale lights of his friends’ fairies among them. His ears twitched as he heard the clatter of feet on the wooden bridge that lead up to this place.
“Oh, hi, Saria,” he said as the girl sat beside him. Her fairy, Ephemera, was nuzzled comfortably in her green hair, sound asleep. That was a peculiar quirk about fairies – When they were not flying or floating about, they liked to rest atop the heads of their charges, often snuggled in their hair for warmth. The name of a Kokiri’s fairy was usually known only to the Kokiri child and the fairy themselves, but Saria had shared the name of her fairy with Link. Ephemera did not seem to mind and had come to act as something like a “shared fairy” at times during certain games and when Link was feeling lonely, at the bidding of Saria, of course. Her name meant “Something Fleeting.”
“What are you doing up here all by yourself?” Saria inquired. “You look sad. Has Mido been saying mean things again?”
“No,” Link replied, his gaze set on the herd of deer in the distance below. “Why do they run away from me?” he asked. “Whenever I get close, they run. Everyone else can get close to them, but they’re scared of me… like I’m some kind of monster.”
“Oh, Link,” Saria sighed, placing a hand on his back, “you’re not a monster and don’t you ever think like that! You’re just a little different, that’s all.”
“Different… because I don’t have a fairy…”
“I think the deer are scared of you because you have a bit of a different aura.”
“Aura? What’s that?” Link asked, turning to his friend.
“It’s… it’s kind of like a smell. You smell different to them.”
Link gave her a look of surprised offense. “But I take baths in the pond just like everybody else!” He sniffed his arm, “I don’t smell!”
Saria laughed, “Not like that, Link,” she said. “It’s hard to describe… it’s like an energy… yeah, an energy! Everyone has an energy and yours is different from everyone else’s. We’re all… lively, peaceful… Your energy is strong, Link, really, really strong. I think that’s what the deer are afraid of. You’re the strongest of any of us here.”
“I don’t feel very strong,” Link said, swinging his legs over the edge of the precipice. “Isn’t Mido the strongest? I wonder if there’s a way to make the deer not afraid of me. I don’t want to hurt them.”
“Maybe you need to make an extra effort to let them know you aren’t going to hurt them,” Saria said, “because you’re so strong. Approach them quietly and make yourself look small. Be quiet and be patient.”
Link would never forget the morning when the fawn took the apple from his hand. The only Kokiri in the village that were awake at the time where him and Saria. She watched him as he edged close to the fawn and its mother. The doe stood beside a tree and watched the boy carefully. Link held out the small wild apple and edged, ever so slowly, toward the speckled fawn. The fawn thrust its nose out, sniffing cautiously, and edged ever so slowly toward Link. It gently began nibbling at the edge of the apple, mulling the skin of the fruit with its lower jaw, before biting into it and snatching it out of Link’s palm.
Link backed away easily, tears of joy at the edges of his eyes. He dared not come closer to the animal. He dared not try to pet it like the other Kokiri would do with the deer. He had already done enough and did not want to overstep his “strength.” He watched the fawn nibble the apple on the ground.
“I did it!” he said, backing into Saria.
“I saw!” Saria exclaimed, “It’s wonderful!”
“I wonder if I can do that again. Maybe I can be friends with him… or her.”
“It’s a boy,” Saria said factually.
“How do you know?”
“I can feel it,” Saria said. “I’m sure if you could get a good look… under him… in the right places… you might be able to see, but I can feel that he’s a male. He has the energy of a stag. He’s going to grow up into a big, strong stag.”
“Strong…” Link mused, looking with pride upon “his” fawn.
“I think you’ll grow up, too,” Saria said to Link, “big and strong, like a stag.”
Link was left puzzled by her words. Weren’t they all going to grow up? They were the Great Deku Tree’s children. Weren’t they all going to grow up bigger eventually? He’d heard someone say once that the Kokiri did not grow up. Ever since he could remember, Link had always been growing up. He remembered being very small, with everyone around him big. Saria had always been bigger than he was and, even though he’d grown tall enough to meet her eye-to-eye, he still thought of her as “bigger.” There were Kokiri that he was bigger than, and he watched them grow taller with the passing seasons. However, there was no one in the village that was especially big.
In their forest, the animals aged. The Kokiri were in a position close to nature and could observe it well. They watched tiny young animals, the fluffy little ducklings and goslings that followed behind their mothers, fox kits, baby rabbits, and, of course, the fawns, grow as days and seasons passed into their adult forms. They knew that the adults fell in love – very occasionally, a Kokiri might actually see a pair of animals mate (a weird, painful-seeming thing to them) and they knew that offspring came about from this, in turn. That was something that adult creatures did, and not for them.
The Kokiri knew little of death, but they were aware of that, too. They knew that some adult animals grew old and died because of it. They understood that some animals ate other animals to survive. A Kokiri that saw the predation principle in action would, more likely than not, have nightmares over it for a while. In fact, the Great Deku Tree forbade the children to go into certain parts of the forest because there were creatures living there that might eat them.
Link wondered sometimes if those were reasons why the Kokiri were forbidden to leave the forest to go into the mysterious “outside world” that lay beyond its sacred borders. The Great Deku Tree was clear that the Kokiri were his most beloved children and that his instructions were set in place solely to protect them. Were there dangerous things waiting there in the outside world that would eat them? Were they in danger of aging like the animals if they left – of growing up to the point at which they’d start growing old?
Link’s fawn grew little by little. He became taller and began losing his spots. Link never could get closer to him than he had the first day the creature had eaten from his hand. He was able to get the fawn to sniff his hand, and, of course, managed to feed him more apples. Eventually, the herd moved on, off into the darker parts of the woods. One or two stragglers would come to the village in the evenings to graze, and, despite how closely the deer resembled each other, Link always knew his fawn. He’d come around less and less until Link did not see him anymore. The boy would spare an idle thought now and again to wonder whatever happened to the animal, but life went on in the village.
One afternoon, Link went along with Mido and the two boys who liked to call themselves the “Know-it-All Brothers” on an expedition to prove his “manhood” into one of the forests’ forbidden areas. It was not the “outside world,” but it was close. Each boy felt a thrill of danger – they could get into very serious trouble for this! They also felt very brave. After this, they could tell the girls and smaller boys of the village tales of the things they saw and be hailed as manly and heroic. Link really didn’t want to go along at first, and tried to stop the others because he didn’t want to make the Great Deku Tree angry, but Mido wouldn’t let up with calling him a wimp, so he came along to prove him wrong.
Shadows and flame shifted among the trees as the boys watched from the ground-foliage. Creatures were moving around in the deep woods. Link scrambled over a rock to get a better look.
“Get down, you freak!” Mido hissed. “They’ll see you!”
Link swiftly complied. Saria had long told Link that he was just a little bit different from all of the other Kokiri, but she had always managed to make him feel special for it, while Mido seemed to make it a personal mission to make him feel inferior for the little things that made him off-kilter. One annoying difference that Link actually noticed was the fact that he did not blend in as well to his surroundings as all of the others did. When he walked away from one of his friends, they’d disappear after a few feet, the only thing about them visible being their guardian fairy. His good friend, Fado had told him once that the name “Kokiri” had once meant “Mist Children” in some ancient tongue. They’d vanish into the mist and blend into the trees. Link never did and, much like with the fact that he frightened deer, he did not know why this was. Anyone who walked away from him could see him clearly, even after several feet – just like an object or like an animal.
“We should never have brought him along!” one of the Brothers complained. “He’s as solid as a tree trunk! He’ll give us away and the bad creatures will get us!”
“I didn’t want to come along in the first place!” Link protested, “But now that we’re all here, I want to see what’s going on. If I’m quiet and patient, maybe I can get close!”
“Here’s an idea!” Mido postulated, “We send Link out first. If he can creep up quietly enough to see what those shadows are without them seeing him, we can follow. If they don’t see him, they surely won’t see us. And… if they do see him, we run and the monsters will have him to eat while we get away.”
“Hey!” Link whined.
“Are you scared?” Mido taunted. “You want to see what’s on the edge of our forest, don’t you? You aren’t a real Kokiri, anyway. If you want to be a real man, you’ll show your bravery and do this for your boss, maybe then I’ll accept you as a real Kokiri instead of just a fairyless freak.”
“Alright, Mido,” Link said with a pout. “But if a monster chases me, I’m running right towards you!”
Link crept quietly through the forest, careful not to snap twigs or to rustle the dry fallen leaves. His boots were like cat’s feet as he edged closer and closer. Very soon, he signaled with his hand for his comrades to come follow him.
“Are those… adults?” one of the Know-It-All Brothers whispered. “They look just like us, but they’re… big!”
“They’re Hylians,” Mido said with a snort. “The Great Deku Tree personally told me all about them.”
“Really?” the other Brother gasped.
“No, he didn’t!” Link groused. “Mido hasn’t been called to see the Great Deku Tree!”
“Okay, so I heard it from his voice on the wind, and Fado said some stuff, too, and Saria,” Mido insisted. “Besides, I’ve been boss long enough, I have to know stuff.”
“What are Hylians?” one of the Brothers asked. For being know-it-alls, the brothers truly did not know everything, but at least they both seemed willing to learn.
“They’re outsiders,” Mido said flatly. “The Great Deku Tree keeps them away from our village because they’re dangerous. The wind from his meadow even told me that they kill each other.”
“They kill each other?” Link gasped.
“Yeah,” Mido said with smug authority. “They have these things called wars because they aren’t smart enough to decide who their boss is going to be. They fight over who’s going to be in charge of them and they kill each other over it. They come to the edges of our forest to hunt the animals to eat them.”
“Do you think they’d want to eat us?” one of the Brothers gasped.
“I don’t know,” Mido said, “but the Great Deku Tree keeps them out of our village. They probably would hurt us if they knew about us. They’re why we keep the Kokiri Sword in a spot where they can’t reach with their tall, big fat bodies. What’s even scarier is that Saria told me that they get old.”
Both of the Know-it-all Brothers gasped in unison.
Link kept watching the band of dreaded adults impassively. “I don’t think they’re so scary,” he said.
“They’re like the animals,” Mido said, “They look like us, like people, but they get old and die like animals. That’s scary.”
“They look big and strong, though,” Link said.
There was a rustling in the leaves and the two Hylian men sitting at their campfire looked up. The children froze. Link shivered slightly. Two other Hylians came out of the forest opposite them, carrying something on a long pole – a slain deer tied up to it by the feet. It dripped blood upon the ground from an arrow wound.
The Kokiri boys squeaked in unison, and, also in unison, bit back their noise. Link’s heart raced. To his small relief, it was not “his” deer. It was a small doe. However, Mido was right – these men were predators and maybe they would come and get them if they made too much noise and were noticed. When Link began backing away, ever so quietly, he noticed that his compatriots were no longer with them. He could see the lights from their fairies jouncing off in the distance among the trees, back toward home.
With all of his little differences from the other Kokiri, some of them said that Link might be an outsider, or someone that the Great Deku Tree made to be like the outsiders. He thought upon this often, but at this moment, it was unthinkable – one of these beings was the last thing Link wanted to be.
Hylians were not monsters. Some of them were even children. That was something that Link found out when he left the forest. What would have been a broken rule for other Kokiri became a mandate for him, given as the Great Deku Tree’s last request. It began with fulfilling an order to meet with the princess of the Hylians and then it turned into a journey in which he met many kinds of outsiders.
Even most of the adults he met were not so bad in his eyes …not so scary. Maybe he was just unafraid because he had Navi with him. As his guardian fairy, she gave him council and helped him to defend himself. He wasn’t alone anymore and she told him whom he did not have to be afraid of.
One evening, when he was on his way to
, he was invited to stay for an evening and eat at an inn in Kakariko. He was fed a stew made with a strange food that was new to him called “beef.” He liked it very much – he even felt like his body craved it. He was told that it would make his muscles strong. He found out later that it was the flesh of a cow. While mildly horrified at first, he couldn’t bring himself to the same sense of revulsion he would have felt over it if he’d still been living in the forest. Death Mountain
This was just how Hylians survived. They were predators, but none of them had once ever tried to eat him. When he thought about it, he couldn’t say that he wasn’t just as violent, as he’d slain many monsters to break curses and for the sake of self-defense. While the monsters were not like people or animals, he’d come to know what various kinds of blood smelled like and was not in any position to judge what people did to live. The majority of the people posed no danger to him and almost everyone he’d met was fascinated him by him and Navi. “The Children of the Mist” were a legend to them, something little known and seldom seen, and, moreover, a source of delight.
Seasoned dried beef became a staple of his travel supplies.
Link wondered why there’d been the order for Kokiri to never leave the forest. The outside world had its dangers, monsters that he found himself fighting with the Kokiri Sword, but it was not nearly as terrible as it had been made to sound. The Hylians were like some of the animals in that they ate animals and in that they grew very big and grew old, but other than those things, Link didn’t find them to be very different from the Kokiri.
He had left the forest and had not died. He remained a child until he was sent into a long sleep of seven years. When he’d awakened to learn this news and to find that he had grown big, he wondered if he suffered the curse of leaving the forest. He worried that he might be growing old. He had a small hand-mirror that he’d bought for himself in Kakariko, when he’d been small. He’d look into it obsessively at least once a day, checking his blond hair for traces of gray. If a Kokiri could grow this big in only seven years in the outside world, maybe that meant that he was soon to get old and die. Navi would tell him that he was being ridiculous when he checked himself in that mirror. She told him that she’d never known any Kokiri that had ever grown up as big as he had so quickly, but she assured him that he was not dying.
He made his way back into the depths of the forest, seeking Saria, who’d called for his help through connection she’d placed on the ocarina song she’d taught him. He’d stopped by
and none of his old friends had recognized him. Some of them had blamed him for the Great Deku Tree’s death and for all the monsters that had invaded the village as a result, and they told him this without realizing whom they were talking to. All of them were afraid, but, strangely, not afraid of him although he was an adult and they thought that he was an outsider. He’d thought, perhaps, that the monsters now in possession of the forest made them unafraid of the “monsters” from the outside world. Maybe it was just something about his face, or the way he carried himself that told them that he was a familiar person, even as they could not see him for who he was. Kokiri Village
He was told that Saria had gone to the old Sacred Meadow and had disappeared. Every one of the Kokiri looked to him with expectant eyes, as if they knew that he intended to save them. Even though he had gone outside the forest and they hadn’t, it was still strange to Link that no one, not a single one of his friends, had grown or changed a bit since he’d last seen them, while he had become so tall. Kokiri were not supposed to grow old, but he thought they’d have grown up a little bit by now.
As he marched through the woods, the Master Sword in his hand made him feel powerful. Saria was right. He’d grown up big and strong, like a stag. He hoped that he was strong enough to save her.
A movement in the periphery of his vision caught his attention. He turned swiftly, ready to cut down danger. He breathed easily when he saw just a deer, picking its way among the trees. It was a stag with a magnificent rack of antlers. He looked like a proud beast in his prime. The animal picked up its head and looked straight at Link. Link stood perfectly still and stared right back. The young man smiled.
“Hey there, old friend.”
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