In amongst the peach trees, Hana sits on a large root, staring down into the half-filled basket, contemplating her surroundings. Things are strange for her; she doesn’t remember how she came to Granny’s place, nor where she was before then. She doesn’t remember her family or friends, what her old life was like, or who gave her the name Hana. One day she woke up amongst the peach trees with a tag on her dirty shirt front – 花 was all it said. She didn’t even remember that being her name.
“Hana what are you up to? The tea’s getting cold.”
“Nothing Granny, I just got lost in my head. I’ll be right there.”
Hana scurries to pick more peaches, making sure to be gentle as she piles them up in her basket, and rushes back towards the house. Resting the basket on her hip, she slowly opens the door and feels the warmth of the fire against her face.
The table has plates of biscuits, slices and cake already cut up ready to eat. In the centre the teapot billows steam from the spout, two cups of tea on either side of it. Granny takes another forkful of cake into her mouth and beckons Hana over to the table. “Put the peaches next to the teapot, we can have some after our afternoon snacks.”
Hana takes her seat, eyebrows furrowing as her mind wanders back to the questions in her head. “Granny, where did you find me?”
“What do you mean, child?”
“When I first came here,” Hana clarifies. “I don’t remember anything from before I woke up here. I don’t know how I got here or where I used to call home. Do you know?”
“I’m afraid I don’t, child. You were brought to me out of the blue. There was a knock at my door and when I opened it my lantern took me towards the peach orchard.”
“No one else was there when you found me?”
“I didn’t see anyone. Why, are you missing home?”
“I don’t have a home to miss, Granny.”
Granny watches Hana take a bite out of a biscuit, her eyes downcast, gliding over the specks of chocolate chips. She couldn’t help but feel sorry for the girl – with no memory of her life she didn’t have anywhere else to go or return to. The minty-silver flash she caught out of the corner of her eye the day she found Hana springs to mind. I’ll have to have a talk with him.
“My dear sister, how long it has been. I see that elaborate bathhouse of yours isn’t doing anything for those wrinkles.” Zaniba sneers, glaring down at her sister across the table.
“You can hardly talk, you’re barely lifting a finger round here and you’ve got wrinkles as deep-set as mine. Where is that assistant of yours, I am waiting for a hot cup of tea.” Yubaba bites back, distaste riding on her gaze as she surveys the little cottage her sister lives in. Like a dingy shed, she’s like a swamp goblin.
“She doesn’t do all the work around here, Yubaba. If I ask her to make tea for the two of us than who is going to look after the flowers, hmmm? They won’t pick themselves.”
“You do have a lot of flowers, I don’t see why you need them all. The least you could do is give them to me for my bathhouse. I could have them crushed up and used in my herbal soaks.”
“You have your own garden, you’re not touching mine.”
Hana heaves a deep breath, fingers anxiously picking away at the seam of her long sleeves. Yubaba intimidates Hana greatly, so much so that Hana can barely answer a single question in her presence. She isn’t like Granny; Granny is kind and gentle whereas Yubaba is harsh and impatient. She demands answers the moment she’s finished speaking. Hana doesn’t like being in the room when Yubaba visits. Nevertheless, Hana slowly opens the door and creeps inside, careful to stay as quiet as possible to avoid catching Yubaba’s attention.
Hana quickly sets down the bunches of flowers she’s gathered on the benchtop, gathering them up into small groups to make them easier to handle. After she’s done that, she starts plating up some sweets for the table and nervously steps closer to the two witches. “Here are some sweets, Granny.”
“Thank you, child. Why don’t you go and see if there are more peaches to pick? I do believe I saw some at the tops of the trees this morning.”
“Yes, Granny.” Hana bows towards her, the necklace around her throat slipping free of her shirt. Yubaba sees the golden seal hanging against her chest as Hana rises back up and scurries back outside. A wicked grin begins to spread across her face.
“That assistant of yours, have you had her long? She looks so strong, I could use her at the bathhouse.”
“She’s staying with me, you greedy witch. You’ve got more than enough slaves in that tower of yours. Keep your slimy hands to yourself.” Zaniba hisses, giving Yubaba a heated glare.
Yubaba huffs, deciding to change the topic to something more bearable. Her thought stays with Hana and the golden seal sitting around her neck. How could she get it? And of all the magical things her sister possessed, why did she give the most powerful to that little girl to hold onto? How powerful is she?
Hana doesn’t feel right. There is something off in her bones – like a storm is nearing or a dark presence is heading their way. There is little she can do to push the feeling away so she heads out to the peach orchard to see how the trees are doing. There won’t be many peaches left but they have more than enough in the cottage. As for flowers, the shelves are filled from floor to ceiling so there’s no need to pick anymore. At the time of the year, there isn’t anything urgent to do so Zeniba gives Hana a lot of free time.
Shuffling through the grass, Hana’s hand can’t help but go to the seal around her neck. Maybe I should go back to the cottage, Granny would be able to keep an eye on me. Nodding to hersef, Hana takes one sweeping look at the trees and vows that she will return later before turnign on her heel and heading back to the cottage with a little more speed than before.
A flash of minty-silver catches her eye in the sky. The form was forming fast, swimming through the air with ease. Hana studies it carefully and her eyes widen. A dragon!
Hana feels her heart drop into her stomach as a memory lifts up to the surface of her mind. The minty-silver. Numbing cold throughout her whole body. The ear-piercing sound of thunder. There’s a heaviness in her chest that squeezes her lungs.
By the time she’s shaken herself out of her head, the dragon is just ten metres away. Hana bolts for the cottage, calling out for Zaniba as the dragon’s breath heats the back of her neck. A strong force like a wall of water pushes her to the ground and the dragon gnashes its teeth at her, claws digging into her arms as she fights to protect herself. Hana manages to roll onto her back, gritting her teeth as her tries to push the dragon off of her. “Granny!”
The dragon leers at her, raising one of its arms high to slash down on her arm. Hana cries out, rolling to the side, and the dragon swipes again. The string tied around her neck rips, the seal flying free. Before Hana can reach across to grab it the dragon has swallowed it up.
“You filthy, greedy leech! How dare you come here and attack her! Have you no manners?! No respect?! Do you not remember what you did?!” Zaniba fires off at the dragon, throwing curses at it and summoning paper birds that slice at its scaly skin and draw blood. The dragon flees, followed closely by the paper birds, and leaves Zaniba and Hana in the middle of the dirt road. Hana clutches her wounded arm close to the chest, whimpering in pain. Zaniba acts quick, healing her wounds and leading her back inside the cottage to rest.
Hana sits up in her bed, looking down at her pale, scarless arm. The pain of the dragon’s claws is still fresh in her mind and she can’t help but let slip a few tears. Glancing up, she spots Zaniba by the stove, pulling out some biscuits from the oven. Zaniba’s eyes meet hers as she places the tray on the benchtop.
“Ah, my child. How are you feeling? Does it hurt at all?”
“It doesn’t hurt now, but I remember it hurting a lot.” Hana slides out of bed and heads towards the table. It is set out for guests and Hana shakes her head, a frown pulling down at her lips.
“Are visitors coming?”
“Yes, they should be here soon. You’ve been asleep for a whole day – you must be hungry.”
Hana nods slowly, peering at the cake sitting on the table. A low rumble in her stomach pushes her to take a seat. As she does so the front door swings open and Zaniba welcomes the two guests inside. One is a little girl with brown hair and a green striped shirt. On her shoulder is a mouse and a little bird, a strange duo but fitting nevertheless. The other is a spirit of some kind, one that Hana has not seen before. Hana smiles at the girl softly, beckoning her inside.
The girl heads towards Zaniba at the stove, prsenting her with the seal. “Excuse me, Ma’am. Haku stole this from you. I came to give it back.”
Haku? Hana frowns again. Is that the name of the dragon? Surely this little girl does not know the dragon that attacked me?
“He sliced me in two, y’know, and I’m still angry. Not to mention he attacked Hana after everything he’s done for her.”
“What?” the girl looks up at Zaniba and across to Hana at the table. Hana looks down at the floor, rubbing her arm.
“What, the protective spell is gone!” Hana rushes over to Zaniba to see the seal for herself, noticing too that the seal felt empty in a way, lighter almost.
“I’m sorry, you mean that black slug that was on your seal. I think I squashed it with my foot.”
“Squashed it,” Zaniba laughes, throwing her head back and hands the seal over to Hana. Hana heads over to the spinning wheeel in the corner and picks up some woven string. She makes quick work of making in into a necklace for the seal to hang on once more.
“That wasn’t my slug. My sister put that slug in Haku so she could control him. You squashed it!” Zaniba cackles once more, being able to make sense of Haku’s actions a lot clearer. “What happened to my spell – only love can break it.”
Zaniba beckons the girl over to the table along with her spirited friend. For the evening they talk about Yubaba, the girl’s parents and Haku – the person Hana still doesn’t know what to make of yet. He had been controlled, yes, but the ferocity of his attack on Hana just to get the seal is difficult to forgive.
“Can’t you give me more of a hint than that. It seems that I met Haku before, but it was a long time ago.”
“That’s a good start. Once you’ve met someone you never really forget them. It just takes a while for your memories to return.”
Hana recalls the memory that resurfaced when Haku first showed up. The thunder and the numbing cold and the minty silver washed of colour. Perhaps that will happen for her too. She just needs time.
Hana returns to sitting on her bed with a cup of tea, watching over the Sen whilst the others work on the spinning wheel. After a while Sen goes back over to Zaniba and in the middle of their conversation the windows begin to rattle. Hana jumps up from bed, glancing over to Zaniba.
“What good timing, we’ve got another guest. Would you let him in.”
The girl goes to open the door, peering around before shouting out “Haku!”. Hana shuffles over to the door after the others, anxious to see the dragon standing proudly in front of the cottage.
“Haku, I will forgive you for stealing my precious seal and for hurting dear Hana, but in return you must take care of this girl.”
Haku bows to Zaniba and bows to Hana, locking eyes with the girl. The group leave, No-Face staying behind to help out around the cottage. Zaniba turns to face Hana, giving her a reassuring nod. “He will return and explain everything to you. Then you will know who you really are.”
Haku returns the next morning, knocking on the door this time. Hana opens it with a nervous shake, bowing to Haku. “Granny said you would be back to explain everything to me.”
“Indeed, it is only right. Would you like to go to the peach orchard, you seem to enjoy that place a lot.”
“Sure,” Hana leads the way, keeping her eyes locked to the ground. Once they’re in the orchard she turns to face Haku. “Can you start at the beginning. How did I get here?”
“Long ago, you use to visit a river. The Kohaku River. You would talk to it and it would listen. One day, you stayed too long and you got caught in a storm. You slipped on the bank as you stood up, hitting you head, and you fell into the water.” Haku pauses, glancing up at Hana. “I am the spirit of the Kohaku River. I tried to save you but you drowned. I saw you as a friend so I wanted to bring you to the spirit world so you could still enjoy your life and tell stories to others like you told me. I couldn’t bring you to the bathhouse, Yubaba would enslave you for eternity. So I brought you here.”
Hana looks down at her hands, her arms and her feet. They feel real. Now can I be dead?
“Zaniba put a spell on your spirit so that you would appear as human as possible. You would be able to do things like a human would – work and drink and eat and sleep.”
“You sent Sen back to the human world, didn’t you?”
“But I won’t be able to return to that world, will I?”
“No. This is your world now.”
Hana would be stuck in this world. She belongs here now, not living but not dead. A new life – an immortal life.
For my fanfiction piece, I decided to create a character, and tell the story from their point of view, that goes through their own journey within Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. However, she does not have the same ‘happy ending’ as Chihiro. Chihiro is allowed to return to the human world with her parents after completing her challenge. Hana does not have that chance.
Hana’s journey takes her from the mortal world into the world of Kami (Spirited). Having no recollection of how she got there, Hana must work hard and do her bit to help Zeniba, the old woman who took her under her win. Along her journey she is met with challenges and her curiosity and naivety of the spirit world tries to deter her from her path.
The revelation point comes when Haku steals the seal Hana has been told to protect. During this moment she is injured and scared by Haku’s dragon form. From this point onwards, Zeniba begins to tell her of how she came to the spirit world, who brought her here, and why she must stay here. This is her transformation period as she begins to understand who she is now and how her life has changed. The atonement between Hana and Haku marks the ends of the unknown period of the hero’s journey.
Hana’s return is not the tradition return to the known like Chihiro’s. With Hana’s new understanding of who she is, her return is more a figurative one to normality instead of literal return to the human world. Hana learns to accept who she is now and to settle into her new norm of life.
With how I have written the fanfiction, it begins at the threshold of the unknown. Through the rest of the journey the beginning of her journey, the call to adventure, supernatural aid and threshold guardian is discovered. I found that writing it this way kept up suspense and made for a more interesting plotline and relationship line development. I found that with anime the endings are not spectacular and happy ever afters like with western stories and so I aimed to replicate a more eastern story ending with the return to normality in the world of Kami than the return to the world of humans.
Overall, I believe I have utilised several, if not all, of Gomez’s plot points from the Hero’s journey circle and have developed a believable character with a well-structured story line into the pre-existing world of Spirited Away.