I chose the film ‘Spirited Away’ by Hayao Miyazaki to map the stages of the hero’s journey. I decided to take a two fold approach to mapping the hero’s journey by creating illustrations of the stages as well as writing about them here on the blog.
- Ordinary World: The story begins with 10 year old Chihiro, the Hero, and her parents travelling together in their car to their new home. Her ordinary world is her life with her parents but her world is changing with the move.
- Call To Adventure: Chihiro’s father takes a detour to their new home and they find themselves at the entrance to a tunnel, what appears to an abandoned theme park. Chihiro feels the wind pulling her into the tunnel, she see’s this as a call to adventure.
- Refusal of the Call: Chihiro’s parents enter the tunnel to explore beyond. She initially refuses the call to go in, instead insisting they should stay by the car.
- Meeting the Mentor: Chihiro changes her mind and enters the tunnel with her parents. On the other side is what appears to be an abandoned theme park. But as her parents get closer to the building they smell food. They find a restaurant that has placed hot food out, despite there being no people to be seen. Her parents start to eat the food, Chihiro refuses and turns away. When she turns around her parents have been turned into pigs! In shock Chihiro runs further up the path, to find a bath house. The sun is setting and suddenly a boy appears in front of her who urges her to leave. She leaves only to find the field they walked through earlier is now a river which she cannot cross. The boy, Haku, finds her, and gives her food to eat saying she needs it or she will disappear. He then acts as her mentor, instructing her to ask for a job inside the bath house, from the boiler man.
- Crossing the First Threshold: Haku, the mentor, takes Chihiro to the bridge to cross into the bath house. She has to hold her breath in order to remain hidden, humans are not welcome in the spirit world she has entered. Together they cross the threshold into the bath house.
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies: Chihiro’s first test is to find Kamaji the boiler man, and ask him for a job, Haku, says she must not meet the witch who runs the bath-house. She fails her test, Kamaji will not give her a job, but he asks Lin, a worker, to help her find a job elsewhere. He becomes her ally, risking his own job to help her find one. Lin, at first seems hostile to Chihiro, seeing her as a nuisance more than anything else! Chihiro makes her way to Yubaba’s rooms, she is the owner of the bath-house, it quickly becomes clear she is evil and an enemy, wanting to feed Chihiro’s parents (now pigs) to the guests. She gives Chihiro a job working with Lin cleaning the bath tubs. Chihiro then faces her next test, helping out a river spirit who has become clogged up with human rubbish. Another test follows when a strange spirit, No Face, enters the bath-house and follows her around, becoming aggressive. Chihiro discovers Haku is also a dragon, and he has been stealing from Yubaba’s magic. Lin and Kamaji act as allies, helping her to prepare to leave the bath-house.
7. Approach to the Inmost Cave: Haku is injured having stolen magic from Zeniba, the twin sister of witch Yubaba. To save Haku, Chihiro sets out on a journey to Zeniba’s house. She catches a train with No Face in tow, this is her approach to the Inmost Cave.
8. Ordeal: Chihiro reaches Zeniba’s house expecting conflict, but discovers Zeniba is a kind witch. Zeniba tell’s Chihiro she has to look within herself to find answers to saving Haku and bringing her parents back, this is her ordeal.
9. Reward: Haku appears in dragon form at Zeniba’s, he takes Chihiro back to the bath-house. On the journey Chihiro remembers Haku’s real name, this free’s him from being a dragon spirit, and allows him to cancel his working contract with Zeniba. His happiness and freedom is Chihiro’s reward because she loves him.
10. The Road Back: Once back at the Bath-house Chihiro carries out her last test from Zeniba. She is then free to take the road back to the human world, and finds that the river has turned to grass allowing her to cross back to the tunnel.
11. Resurrection: Along the path back to the human world Chihiro finds her parents, this is their resurrection as a family back together heading to normal life.
12. Return with the Elixir: The family find their car and discover the tunnel and car are overgrown with plants. As they leave Chihiro’s father comments that moving home and making new friends is a bit intimidating. Chihiro replies that she thinks she can handle it, her elixir is her new found confidence and removal of fear about moving.