The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild does not dole out rewards predictably. Often you’ll spend an afternoon figuring out some elaborate puzzle, only to walk away with some rupees or a weapon you didn’t need. Other times the reward will be just as “useless,” but more special than any pile of loot could be.
Breath of the Wild spoilers follow.
Early into Breath of the Wild you’ll meet Kass, a handsome winged Rito with an accordion. He’s on a pilgrimage around Hyrule in search of ancient secrets, performing songs he’s learned about various places across the map. You usually come across him as he’s standing in a field or forest, and the lyrics of his songs will point you toward a hidden shrine or treasure. He also hangs out at the stables in Hyrule, cleverly weaving a version of Epona’s Theme from Ocarina of Time into the music that normally plays while Breath of the Wild’s tamed horses stand nearby.
Kass hails from the Rito Village in the northwest part of Hyrule, a vertiginous alpine town built into the side of a great stone pillar. Once you’ve tamed the Divine Beast that’s been terrorizing the village, a sidequest opens involving a bunch of kids and a music recital at a place called “Warbler’s Nest.” You meet a little Rito named Kheel, who informs you that she wants to eat some salmon meuniere before she’ll go with her sisters and perform their recital.
You climb all over the Rito Village finding Kheel’s four sisters, each of whom gives you an ingredient for the sophisticated dish. I’m more of a “throw five mushrooms in a pot and hoark it down” kind of Zelda chef, so it was refreshing to make something so refined. With Kheel happy, she and her sisters head to Warbler’s Nest to sing.
You’ll find them down across the way, playing their role in a shrine puzzle. It’s a neat one, too—you have to listen to the notes they’re performing, then use a korok leaf to blow wind through the rings surrounding the shrine pedestal. Once you’ve matched the sequence of notes, the Voo Lata shrine opens up.
I expected the shrine to be one of those “by entering, you have already proven yourself” deals, which were so welcome at the start of the game and increasingly disappointing as I’ve gotten closer to completing the last one. Instead it’s a neat gliding puzzle that starts off with a huge ladder leading to a massive open room filled with lava, spikes, floating walls, and gusts of wind.
After you’ve completed the shrine, the kids head back to Rito Village. You’ll find Kheel, Notts, Kotts, Cree, and Genli back in town on the flight platform, whistling along with the musical score. Composer Manaka Kataoka’s lush interpretation of Wind Waker’s Dragon Roost Island theme is one of my favorite pieces of music in the game, and it’s somehow perfect to hear the kids’ warbling whistles joining in. The first time I found them here, I thought that was the end of the story. Of course, it wasn’t.
Explore enough of Hyrule and you’ll probably find Kass’ journal, which he keeps in a small shelter atop Washa’s Bluff. He describes each of the places you can find him in the world, which is helpful in tracking down all of his songs and solving their riddles. There’s one where you have to capture a specific animal in the fields north of Kakariko Village, and another where you have to shoot arrows through circular rocks west of Hyrule Field. Solve them all, and Kass will return home to Rito Village... and his five musically inclined daughters.
I remembered Kass mentioning missing his family at one point when I spoke with him, but I didn’t make the connection. When you return to the Rito Village after seeing the recital at Warbler’s Nest and solving all of Kass’ song puzzles, you’ll find him back home on the flight platform, accompanying his daughters. You can watch that here:
Kass asks Link to come visit him at night, after his daughters have gone to bed. After hours, he tells Link that he knows who he is, and that his teacher was the court poet at Hyrule castle, working for Zelda herself. He reveals that his teacher loved Zelda, but she could never love him back because she had fallen for Link. Kass thinks it was the strength of her love that finally unlocked her abilities all those years ago, allowing her to seal Calamity Ganon in Hyrule Castle.
It’s actually a major piece of information. Zelda’s feelings for Link are ambiguous throughout the game. Knowing she loved him isn’t essential to understanding the story, but it’s a nice detail. Kass then plays one last song for you, a song that at long last builds into the classic Zelda theme. As with the other times Koji Kondo’s beloved melody sneaks its way into Breath of the Wild, it sounds like an echo of another time. It’s a lost heroic anthem for a lost hero.
The full story of Kass and his daughters took me many hours to complete. I did so organically, and only toward the end had I heard that something cool would happen if I completed everything. The reward for all my hard work and puzzle solving encapsulated one of Breath of the Wild’s more beguiling tendencies when it comes to rewarding the player.
Occasionally I’ll complete a puzzle or side mission and will get something useful—a new sword or shield, or a nice piece of armor. More often the rewards are less practical. My reward may simply be to see or hear something that makes the world around me a bit richer: some story, some puzzles, and in the end, a song.