Friday, May 05, 2006

An Antidote to Lewis

Howl's Moving Castle came from Netflix yesterday.

Needless to say, the kid was deeply excited -- as in bouncing around the room, can I watch it can I watch it can I watch it NOW excited, so, even though she had already had her TV for the day (Monty Python's Holy Grail, natch), I let her watch it.

She's a Hayao Miyazaki ( junkie and, in fact, so am I -- so much so that, even though it was the middle of a working day and I was, in fact, at work (writing, drinking coffee, deep in the draft of book five), I sat down with her to watch.

I never do this. I'll watch TV at, you know, night. When I'm worn out from work and can't possibly work anymore. But during the day? When there's more work to be gotten out of me? Never!

He's so good, Miyazaki. If you haven't watched his movies, go and get them and watch them, all of them. Start now. No kidding. Turn off your frakking computer and go do it.

Not just good stories, although the stories are good, classic archetypal stories, but beautiful artwork too, rich and detailed and such fine colors and I just love his characters and every single one of them is written with love and -- unlike Mr. Lewis? -- he does not lie. He has paid attention to the world, and he shows us what is there.

No, of course not what is factually there. I know we don't in fact have fire demons and folk that change themselves to birds -- but he doesn't lie about how characters would act, how love works and would work, under a given circumstance, in order to make a point he wants to make. Which is the sacred charge of an artist -- to be true to the art. That's moral art.

This story, Howl's Moving Castle, interestingly enough, is, essentially, the same story Lewis is telling in Till We Have Faces, and, if we had more time, I would love to include it in my myth class. Unfortunately, the semester is OVER. Maybe next time.

But it's the story of a girl who is sort of ugly, and who is mistreated by her mother and sisters because of it, though one sister loves her and treats her well.

Then a lovely boy, Howl, who is also a sorcer, carries her off (briefly) in an attempt to hide her from some soldiers who are intent on raping her (the country is torn by war).

An evil witch (old enough to be his mother!) who is in love with Howl (well, she has a thing for beautiful young boys, as she confesses later) is infuriated by Howl's attempt to protect the ugly girl and lays a curse on her, making her both old and ugly.

The age serves, as the girl -- Sophia -- finds, as a kind of a mask. A veil. No one cares, now that she is old, that she is ugly. They only care, now, who she is. (This was something Lewis was also getting at in his book, but less adroitly, I think.)

Sophia is free, now, that is, to be a human being, not an Other, not member of the sex-class. It no longer matters what kind of a commodity she is, or where she walks, or who she walks with. She's not something that can be stolen or used or abused anymore, and, free from status-cares, she no longer has to worry about maintaining her status.

She finds this hugely liberating.

She ends up, via the services of a magic scarecrow who she accidentically helps, who then helps her, in Howl's Moving castle, and lots of other things happen, but the main thing that happens, through the whole text, is that Sophia moves further into the wisdom of love: what it is, why it matters, and what, since we love people, we should do: give them our attention, treat them well -- all of them, mind you, even those we might think of as our enemies, even those who might look a bit odd, even those who get sulky from time to time -- and act right, even under pressure, even when it's difficult.

It was a brilliant, mystical story.

Go. Rent it. Now.

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