top of page

Death of the Great Deku Tree: How Empathy Comes in All Sizes

by Shane Kelley

When Nintendo decided that it was going to add N64 titles to its Nintendo Online repertoire, I personally was excited to play games I haven’t played yet or have not played in a very long time. Seeing the first wave of games, I saw many favorites from my past and a lot I still own physically. What I was most excited to see was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It is my favorite game, and the thought of playing it once again on my television was so exciting.

Image Source: The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts

I had previously purchased the Zelda Game & Watch handheld, which has 4 games on it. As I sat and played it one day, my daughter came into the kitchen and asked what I was doing. I said that I was playing Zelda. Being already familiar with who Zelda, Link, and Ganondorf are, she asked if she could play. I immediately thought, "Sure, why not?" I had her try her first experience in the series with The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. This piqued her interest a bit more, and from there, more exposure was inevitable.

My daughter is familiar with the trio from the series for a few reasons: she has a Zelda and Link plushie that we create stories with at bedtime, and she is aware of the plethora of Zelda amiibo I own. She constantly takes them off the shelf, and all the women, including multiple Princess Zeldas, Mipha, and Urbosa, unite to fight Ganondorf and a Guardian. Her Imagination is powerful, and because of that, her stories are strong and magical, much like my own.

Photo provided by the author

Next, I had her play The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening remake for the Nintendo Switch, and although she was enjoying it, I wanted her to experience a 3D Zelda like Ocarina of Time.

So, the next step was letting her explore the vast land of Hyrule in Breath of the Wild. Having her jump off cliffs, get stuck, and fight enemies really gave her a bigger scope of what this game series had to offer.

I showed her a place in the distance and asked her, "Can you get to that location?" She started heading towards it. She died many times, and I said, "Can I show you some things that may help you?"

This is when her mind was blown. First, I showed her the paragliding feature, which was so exciting to her. Next, I summoned the motorcycle, which changed the whole experience for her and made the game even more fun. Lastly, when she was stuck, I told her that if you go to the map, you can fast travel to any of the points that are blue, which really opened the possibilities for her. We eventually played together and beat Calamity Ganon, and she witnessed her first Zelda ending.

Now to the point of the title. As my life became a bit busier, I had pushed off buying the online expansion pass, but when things started to become a bit less chaotic, I once again thought about purchasing the pass. Because of my experience playing Breath of the Wild with my daughter, I finally purchased the online expansion pass and started a playthrough of Ocarina of Time.

I had my daughter explore Kokiri Village, obtain the Kokiri Sword, and eventually meet the Great Deku Tree. She thought the tree was so cool and funny, and I was happy that she liked the character. I then said that we must go inside the tree and remove the bad guys.

She asked me how they got there, and I proceeded to tell her the story of how Ganondorf wanted the Kokiri Emerald, but since the Great Deku Tree had refused to give it to him, Ganondorf placed a curse on him by plaguing him with a parasitic creature known as Gohma. My daughter got mad and said that Ganondorf is mean and not nice; she was sad for the Great Deku Tree. I told her, "Let’s get the bad guys!" So, we proceeded into the tree, but I, fully knowing what would happen, felt sad for her reaction.

Letting her navigate the dungeon while I assisted was fun--and a bit of a task--but we managed to get to Gohma. Letting her experience fighting the creature firsthand made her scream as she attacked it, and after a few handoffs back and forth, we had slain the parasitic queen. My daughter was relieved that we had rid the tree of its problem, but, of course, that wasn’t the end of the story.

As we exited the Great Deku Tree and talked to him, I read the words aloud for her to follow along. During the scene in which the Great Deku Tree’s color slowly fades from its wooden skin and the leaves wither, my daughter realized that he had died. She started to feel sad and asked if there was anything we could do, and I said, "This Great Deku Tree served its purpose and watched over its forest family to its best abilities." I recalled feeling sad myself the first time I played this game as well, so I knew it could be a tough thing to experience. Even though it is in a video game, it can still evoke emotions.

My daughter asked if the tree went to heaven; I told her that tree as nice as this surely went to a place as wonderful as a heavenly forest. I then told her we needed to find Ganondorf, to which she replied, "He needs to go to jail for being so mean."

Image Source: The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts

The empathy my daughter feels for people, animals, and trees with mustaches is such a great gift, and I’m glad she has this. When the digital world makes you feel something, it can ultimately help you deal with potential situations in the real world.

Though subjects like death are always hard for many people, you don’t have to go through these situations alone. Be kind, show empathy, and help all those who need it. Evil is always lingering, but light comes from those who harness these traits to diminish the dark malice that envelops our surroundings. Be one that lights the way for others to carry on the positive vibes the world so desperately needs.

Thank you for following along my blog journey, and please follow me on Twitter @stillsaneshane.

Cover and Source Images: The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts from Dark Horse Books (not an affiliate link)


Jan 20, 2023

I loved this article. This inspires me to do this with my children. I also love your daughter making stories with all of the plushies. It would be awesome for you to share your plush collection on discord.


Dec 15, 2022

Wow. Thanks for writing that.

Dec 15, 2022
Replying to

very deep and thoughtful

bottom of page