For years, players have been pondering the deepest mysteries of Link’s Awakening, and the 2019 Switch remake only re-ignited these mysteries. Who is Marin? Was Koholint ever real? Was it the Wind Fish’s dream, or Link’s? Lucky for you, Link’s Awakening just got a lot less confusing.
The Characters Are Link’s Mental Pictures of Reality
So, basically, Link’s Awakening starts out in reality. Link finds himself navigating a storm with his boat, but he ends up shipwrecked and knocked unconscious. Everything that happens from this point on is in Link’s dream; the real dungeon-solving and storyline all happen within Link’s mind. If you still don’t get it, Link is dreaming up this journey, probably because he’s gone on so many of these adventures in his real life. He also dreams up some pretty interesting characters. This includes, of course, the beautiful Marin, the wise Owl, and Marin’s huge-nosed dad, Tarin.
Marin is Link’s mental picture of Princess Zelda. (No wonder she bears such an uncanny resemblance to the princess…) Upon first meeting her in his dream, he actually mistakes her for the damsel in distress, only for Marin to react in confusion and tell him her real name. This is likely why Marin gets herself in trouble on the Tal Tal Mountain Range bridge later in the story. Link knows Princess Zelda as a girl who always needs to be rescued, and his mental picture of her wouldn’t be complete without at least one rescue.
The Wise Owl is Link’s mental picture of Kaepora Gaebora, an owl known for assisting Link. The Owl’s appearance is nearly identical to Kaepora’s, and his wise clues for Link are reminiscent of Kaepora’s wisdom. (Fortunately, the Wise Owl is less annoying than Kaepora… phew.) Like Marin, Link’s dreams contain his mental pictures of real people he’s met before.
Tarin is Link’s mental picture of Zelda’s father, the King of Hyrule. Though he looks much different than the noble kings appearing in other Zelda games, he does appear as Marin (the mental representation of Princess Zelda)’s father. If he represented someone else, he would likely not play the role of Marin’s dad. One thing that is confirmed is that Tarin isn’t the same wise we know from A Link To the Past… I mean, he eats a random toadstool in the forest and turns into a raccoon, and is about to do it again right before Koholint vanishes.
The final boss is Link’s mental picture of Ganon. Link hasn’t only met allies on his real-life journeys, but he has also infinitely faced Ganon in all of his many forms. As part of the Triforce, he, Zelda, and Ganon are destined to meet no matter how many times the two heroes defeat him. The shadowy final boss obviously resembles the Great King of Evil in particularly his third and fourth phases. There’s even that signature aura of dust in his battling room.
Was the Wind Fish Real?
The extra confusing part of Link’s Awakening is how the Wind Fish survived Koholint’s vanishing and remained to fly above Link once he woke up. No one other than Nintendo can really explain what’s really going on, but I suspect it’s basically the fantasy version of a person dreaming about something, then seeing it come true in reality. So yes, the Wind Fish was real, and it was the only part of Koholint that ever was real.
Link is depicted for one of the only times in Zelda history as a villain-ish character, creating a world fans fell in love with only to destroy it mere in-game days later. In a certain sense, he annihilated all of the too-good-to-be-true citizens of Koholint Island. But, like all dreams, we must wake up from them and come to our senses, which is necessarily the foundation of Link’s Awakening – and what makes its end so heart-wrenching.