Castle in the Sky: You Know Who Else Was a Sky Pirate?

Studio Ghibli: Castle in the Sky

This past Friday, Japanese television network Nippon TV aired Studio Ghibli's 1986 classic Laputa: Castle in the Sky. During the broadcast, the network's shared trivia and memorable quotes on Twitter. One fascinating revelation: the character of Dora, the leader of the pirate clan, was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's mom. He wanted to portray his mother as a brave and rogue-ish-yet-heroic figure. He even remarked that she was a dominating figure, where even a family of four sons would never dare to challenge her. And, of course, he was motivated by the trauma of his mother's long battle with tuberculosis, which lasted nine years during the young Miyazaki's childhood.

Whenever I think of Miyazaki's references to his mother, I am reminded of the mothers in My Neighbor Totoro and Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, who were bedridden with illness. The Nausicaa books contain an especially haunting moment where Nausicaa discloses feelings of isolation and alienation as a result of her mother's ordeal, resulting in one of the most chilling lines of the entire novel: "My mother taught me that some wounds can never be healed. But she didn't love me."

How much of that was based on Miyazaki's own childhood? How much is invented solely for the story? Like all artists, he probably took a little from column "A" and a little from column "B". By all accounts, he remained deeply devoted to his mother throughout her life, and she lived to a very old age. His thoughts on the matter have remained private, however, leaving us to speculate and theorize by examining his art.

I like the idea of Dora as a heroic mother, and she's a great, curmudgeonly character who supplies great heart to Castle in the Sky. I can't imagine the picture without her or her bumbling sons. They're not so much pirates as a family on endless adventures.

You can find the Nippon TV Twitter messages here and here, in Japanese, of course. Thanks also to Geek for sharing the news on their site.

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