A friend of mine recently had a very happy ending – a beautiful wedding in London, a wonderful man (in uniform no less!), family around to celebrate and great dancing. Except, it isn’t the ending is it? It’s the end of one phase and the beginning of a grand adventure – One I wish them both all the best with – Congrats Hannah and Calum!
Of course, going to weddings always makes me think of happy endings, and those special Romantic Happy Endings we’re all told to believe in when we’re young. In the modern storytelling era, it seems that Romantic love is the thing we are most enthusiastic about. There are “Rom Coms” and retellings of classics (having just watched Far From the Madding Crowd it brought back the thought that in some of these old romances the marriage proposals come along pretty quickly). There are traditional romances, quirky romances and tragic romances. In huge “action adventures” there are mini romances with love blossoming. (This is a good thing, as it’s not just storytellers “shoehorning” in a love story to satisfy potential female audiences [ “ism” alert!] but is a way to round out stories and make them less one-dimensional and showing that every great story has all elements and themes of life, not just one.) Even in the death, destruction and backstabbing of Game of Thrones there is still room for gentle (and some not so gentle) love stories – though as soon as someone gets a happy ending, you worry that one or both might die soon – poor Ygritte).
But there are those love stories that surprise you, that you’re not sure of, where there are different types of love woven together and those ‘other’ loves don’t hamper or get in the way of the supposed main romance, but enhance it. Take the film of Howl’s Moving Castle for example. I really didn’t expect a love story – the film is based on a great children’s book by Dianna Wynne Jones – but found myself captured by a story of different kinds of love where Love really did win out in the end.
With undertones of an anti-war message, a clear love of the wonder and innocence of magic and an exploration of the classic story tropes of curses and true love’s kiss, Studio Ghibli and Miyasaki share with us another masterpiece.
Amidst magic and war, curses and demons we have the simple story of girl meets boy. Or a not so simple story – Boy sees girl and shows an interest; his (sort of) ex gets jealous and puts a curse on the girl; boy’s heart/soul already belongs to the star/demon he found as a child; boy can be a jerk but then he rescues girl in a very show off way; girl makes sure the rescue involves the evil ex-girlfriend; another boy, whose True Love is our girl and is himself cursed, follows them all around; and girl is rather put out by boy’s slovenly habits and potential to turn into a death dealing bird monster.
Through all this complexity, it’s Sophie’s gentle heart, generosity and kindness that draws all the elements of the story together. It is she who brings the “Witch of the Waste” into their family. She doesn’t even consider it as forgiveness, she just welcomes her as someone whose power is suddenly taken and is now in need. It is she who with firmness shows a mother’s love to both Marco and Calcifer – treating the fire deamon as a person regardless of his nature or what others think. It is her love and sacrifice that undoes the curse on the roaming Prince who had fallen in love with her – in a traditional story it’s the Prince she would end up with, but even acknowledging her friendly affection for him, can’t deny her love for Howl. It is her continuing, faithful and holding on kind of love that saves Howl, Calcifer and by consequence herself. The selfishness of the Witch of the Waste by seeking Howl’s heart only to possess it for herself (and in her own way, she does love Howl – but gets it oh so wrong) almost kills them all. But Sophie’s Selfless True Love, which seeks both the good of the beloved, give him back to himself and to share him balances the Witch’s actions and pulls Howl from beyond the brink.
And isn’t that one of the strange oxymorons of True Love. That it becomes stronger the more it is shared. That to truly ‘hold on’ to someone, you have to share them, to give them back to themselves, to give them away. If love was a pie, it doesn’t diminish with each piece shared – instead the more people you share it with, the bigger the pie becomes, and so there are enough pieces for everyone. Go share your pies my friends ❤