Jun 15 2011

#46 “Princess Mononoke”

From Katy in Chattanooga, Tennessee

To be honest, I had never heard of Princess Mononoke before I laid eyes upon this illustration. In saying that, I know that there are some of you gasping in shock and horror right now while others of you are scratching your heads in confusion. For those of you who don’t know, it appears that Princess Mononoke is a Japanese anime film which has been hugely successful both at home as well as here in the states. In fact, Roger Ebert even listed it as one of his top ten films of the year in 1999 when it was released in America. In Japan and abroad the film has received numerous awards and was supposedly the top-grossing film in Japan untilTitanic came along.

Anyway, I don’t want to give too much of the storyline away, but I will tell you that Princess Mononoke is a character in the movie (also known as San), who was raised by wolves. This instantly drew me to the story, but what I found most intriguing is that the film closely adheres to the famous “monomyth”  or “hero’s journey” format that is described by Joseph Campbell in his 1949 bookThe Hero with a Thousand Faces.

According to Campbell, all great epic tales consist of a series of about 17 specific elements that include titles such as “The Call to Adventure,” “The Road of Trials,” “The Ultimate Boon,” and so on. In many ways, I really agree with Campbell’s theory because many of our most popular stories from yesteryear and today truly do fit this format. Example range from classics such as The Illiad and The Odyssey to modern day blockbusters like Star WarsThe Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter.

As is often the case, the elements of the monomyth appear to get a little mixed up and switched around in Princess Mononoke, and from the little that I know about the story, the character of San could be viewed as either a “helper,” a “test,” or a “temptress” to the protagonist who is known as Ashitaka.

If you would like to read more about the monomyth, there is kind of simplified version of it available at this site: http://orias.berkeley.edu/hero/