Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Princess that Loved Insects

Ames, Iowa (July 27, 2013)

One of my favorite authors is Hayao Miyazaki. I say author because his work go beyond animations. Miyazaki is a magician, capable of conjuring the fantastic worlds hidden inside us, that we lose growing up. Well, we never really lose them, they are just really well hidden, and a wizard like Miyazaki knows how to bring them back. When I am asked about my favorite Miyazaki movie I have a hard time to answer. Maybe Owl's Moving Castle, because of Sophie's strength. Or Spirited Away, because even putrid monsters deserve kindness. Or My Neighbor Totoro, of course, because I see him everywhere and I know I am never alone.

The truth, though, is that there will always be a special place in my heart for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the first movie by Miyazaki I had seen (whose manga I have read many times). Nausicaa is a princess who love insects, like the very unconventional lady in the XII century Heian tale. Nausicaa insects are enormous, the result of a human-made disaster that has rendered most of the world inhabitable and covered by a toxic jungle. Nausica knows in her heart (and by scientific experimentation) that the toxic plants are the agents of renovation in the world, and that the insects are the jungle caretakers. Together they are forces of creation, as opposed to humans that, even encroached by this environmental disaster, keep making things worse by pursuing war and destruction. Nausicaa is the one that restores the balance. 

What's not to like? When I was a little kid my parents brought me to a wedding that, as customary in Italy, consisted of a brief ceremony in the church, and an interminable lunch in some restaurant in the countryside. Naturally I got bored pretty soon and got permission to go outside to play in the restaurant garden. Earlier in the day I had noticed that people had been giving presents to the couple, and I was feeling a little sorry that I didn't have anything to give myself, so I decided to find something special for them. And something I found, and happily carried hidden in my hands, to the bride still sitting at the restaurant table. What I was not prepared to, though, was the weird reaction I got when I opened my hands: the bride had not screamed before, when receiving the presents from the other guests! Well, that's how I learned that not everybody likes bugs as much as I do, and beetles good wedding presents do not make. Who knew!

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