water and salvation is fairly old...?
July 27, 2007 12:42 PM   Subscribe

I noticed some common imagery between Harry Potter and Princess Mononoke -- anyone know where it's coming from?

So I recently watched the third? fourth? Harry Potter movie in which Harry saves Sirius Black from the dementers by conjuring up a stag of light (http://www.encyclopedie-hp.org/images/films/patronus.jpg) across the water. This image reminded me of the Forest Spirit (http://web.pdx.edu/~jwhip/anime/forestspirit.gif) in Princess Mononoke who has a similar beast-who-saves-you-from-across-the-water scene when he heals Ashitaka. Did Monokoke pirate this from Harry Potter or vice-versa? Are there other images of this sort in myth and movie? I think it’s evocative, haunting, and powerful – is it as new as those films?

I don't exactly mean water and salvation, as those are anciently associated, but more specifically an animal-god that appears across a body of water in an act of healing or resurrection.

(As is probably obvious, I don’t remember much about either mononoke or potter. And sorry, I can't make it link properly).
posted by bluenausea to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The White Stag is a trope of UK mythology, and Shinto has long associated white deer with divinity. Whether there's a common ur-source, I couldn't tell you, but purity and healing (and also death) come up a lot with stags and mythology.
posted by klangklangston at 12:52 PM on July 27, 2007

Harry's white stag is called a "petronus", and different people have different ones. It just happens that Harry's is a white stag.

I think this is coincidence. Harry's petronus isn't at all like the Deer God in Mononoke Hime.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:58 PM on July 27, 2007

No, Princess Mononoke couldn't have taken the imagery from Harry Potter. The movie was released around the same time the first Harry Potter book was published (July 1997, after some sleuthing).
posted by Xere at 12:59 PM on July 27, 2007

Did Monokoke pirate this from Harry Potter or vice-versa?

Mononoke predates the third and fourth Potter books by a few years, so if there was inspiration between these two it was Miyazaki to Rowling.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:59 PM on July 27, 2007

Curse you, Xere.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:00 PM on July 27, 2007

Not if I can help it! Expelliarmus! tee hee.
posted by Xere at 1:02 PM on July 27, 2007 [4 favorites]

As mentioned, the white stag is a well known mythological figure sometimes appearing in a transition between worlds or in an unworldy place. There's also a white stag in Narnia. That one may be more inspired by the story of St. Eustace.
posted by vacapinta at 1:07 PM on July 27, 2007

Response by poster: I know white stags (ungulates in general, really) have been around for a while as divine images, but what about animal-gods and water? I'm really interested in the combination of those two elements.
posted by bluenausea at 1:15 PM on July 27, 2007

Walking on water as a sign of divinity or higher nature is present in both Western and Eastern myth. In the West, Christ does it. In the East, Buddha does it. Walking on water seems to be the sole province of good beings, whereas good, evil, or neutral supernatural creatures might fly. So it seems to me having something cross water - which some evil creatures can't do - is a sign that it is a benign or helpful creature/spirit/entity.
posted by cobaltnine at 1:40 PM on July 27, 2007

I think you may be overthinking the water aspect a little on the HP side of things.

In the movie and the book (it's the third story, The Prisoner of Azkaban), the encounter you're referring to happens by the side of a lake for two reasons - firstly, the icing of the water to signal the approach of the Dementors, and more importantly, to prevent Harry from seeing/getting to the person who casts the Patronus (I'll not spoil it here, in case anyon hasn't seen/read Prisoner of Azkaban).

The Stag Patronus pitches up repeatedly during the Harry Potter story, and this is the only occasion I can think of where water is involved.

The movie (necessarily) hacks away various pieces of information for narrative purposes - perhaps most importantly why the Patronus takes that particular shape. I'm not 100% certain, but I think the shape of a patronus, once a wizard/witch learns how to cast one, is at best only semi-consciously chosen, and sometimes apparently random. (cf Snape's or Dumbledore Patronuses (Patroni?), which were apparently selected, vs Harry's, vs just about anyone elses').
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 3:26 PM on July 27, 2007

I think in the Harry Potter world, the form a Patronus takes is related to either an animal that is important to the character, or one that has traits in common with the character (sort of, if you were an animal what would it be?). (possible spoilers coming up) Hence you get Mr. Weasley's weasel and Dumbeldore's phoenix, which are animals that are related to the characters, and well as Ron's terrier and Hermione's otter, which seem to be more the animal-embodiment type of patronus. Patroni (?) can also change; Tonk's changes to a wolf as she falls in love with Lupin and Snape's takes the form of a doe in relation to his love for Lily Potter (although his might have always been a doe, it's never mentioned).
posted by MadamM at 4:48 PM on July 27, 2007

And as an add to MadamM who spoiled an important 7th book detail (!), Harry's patronus takes the form of a stag because his father, James Potter, had the stag as a patronus. Plus, and I'm hazy on this particular detail, I think he managed to turn himself into an animagus (as sympathy to Lupin's werewolf transformations), and his form was the stag.
posted by santojulieta at 5:10 PM on July 27, 2007

what about animal-gods and water? I'm really interested in the combination of those two elements.

This stag always lead him on and eluded him, he never could catch him. Finally it lead him to a small lake where it jumped into it's center and disappeared.

When morning came, the White Stag stopped on the edge of a misty blue lake. As he stopped, our horses fell back exhausted. The White Stag pawed the ground three times, shook his antlers, and disappeared in the floating mist over the water.

One of the reasons why the original bears of the Bear Clan came walking on water is the symbolic import of water itself. Water, as a fluid element, represents chaos and disorder. The Bear Clan, as the clan of manâpe, "soldiers, police," represents the force of authority and order. Therefore, they stand above the element of disorder -- they have mastered it and are not swallowed up in it as are ordinary beings.

When the melt collected, the Waterspirit churned up from his body all the game that anyone could want. He fired green quills from his skin, and they became trees that stood in their thousands from one horizon to the other. Thus was created the Wisconsin Dells.

Waterspirits can assume the form of any animal [6], the snake being particularly common

I've also heard that the spirit bears have magical powers. They swim deep underwater (most black bears don't). And they can lead humans to magical places.

By and by [warning: large pdf] there rose up out of the lake at a distance, what seemed to be a brightly shining piece of ice. It came to the strand and rose from the water. It was a very tall and very handsome man, dressed in silver...

We have heard the music of the water-god. [but it was really just Fox pretending to be a water god.]

The water was poisoned and they could not drink from it, until a unicorn appeared. He simply dipped his horn in the pool and the water became fresh and clean again.
posted by sfenders at 6:15 PM on July 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's a nod to Mononoke, but I imagine that some people working on the film had seen Mononoke, and it may well have had a small (perhaps even unnoticed) influence.

But even then, even if it's directly inspired by Mononoke, there is likely no significance in that - a production environment isn't a cultural clean-room that designs from first principles, it's the opposite - people are constantly drawing on all sorts of cool experiences they've had and things they've seen in order to create new (and cool) things. That's just how stuff gets made. Cool goes into the machine, cool comes out of it. :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:41 PM on July 27, 2007

The clustering illusion is the natural human tendency to "see patterns where actually none exist."
posted by tjvis at 9:10 AM on July 30, 2007

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