Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! It’s the usual heroes-embarking-on-their-journey scene, 19:31-22:41 on the Blu-ray.
We begin somewhere in the woods, where a bunch of Nelwyn are walking along, many of them carrying large packs, and others solemnly waving, as if to say goodbye. These little details might not be noticeable upon first viewing, but they inform the audience that this is the beginning of the big trip. The High Aldwin walks alongside Willow, asking Willow what’s troubling him. Here’s where we get the payoff for the “pick a finger” scene during the festival. After a little prodding Willow admits that his first instinct was to pick his own finger. The High Aldwin says that was the correct answer. He then says Willow lacks faith in himself, and more than anyone in the village, Willow has the potential to be a great sorcerer.
Some thoughts on this: Does Willow truly lack faith in himself? He’s a good father and husband who’s running a successful farm, and he had the confidence to get up on the High Aldwin’s stage at the festival. On the other hand, he lets Burglekutt boss him around and he was afraid the presence of the Daikini baby would give the superstitious villagers an excuse to run him out of town. I guess this one’s up to the interpretation of each viewer.
The High Aldwin has more advice. “When you’re out there, listen to your own heart.” We’ll see quite a few times when he does that, reminding his future traveling companions what’s important when things get really crazy. The High Aldwin then hands Willow some small objects, saying “These will protect you.” They are acorns, and Willow is unimpressed. The High Aldwin says they’re magic, explaining “Anything you throw them at turns to stone.” Willow doesn’t say anything, but pockets the acorns.
Because this is coming right after the “the bones tell me nothing” scene, these acorns become quite a ticking clock throughout the movie, as viewers aren’t sure if they’re genuinely supernatural, or total B.S. The movie makes you wait (or does it?) for the answer. The actors’ hands are at the bottom of the screen, so there’s no way to tell just how many acorns there are. The Willow graphic novel adaptation adds a few extra lines of dialogue, where Willow asks if he can throw an acorn at Burglekutt, and the High Aldwin answers, “Use sorcery for evil, and you will become an evil sorcerer.” That’s some Polonius-from-Hamlet logic right there.
In the movie, the High Aldwin says “You have much to learn, young Ufgood,” and then concludes the conversation with a series of hand motions. First he clasps his hands together as if in prayer, next he locks his fingers together tightly, then places one hand over his heart, and finally makes a flying away motion with that same hand. Willow pats the High Aldwin’s shoulder, as if to say he understands. I suspect the audience at home is not meant to know the specific meaning of this.
There’s a shot of the Nelwyn milling around some flat stone sculptures, somewhat reminiscent of the ancient stone circles that can be found in remote areas of the U.K. Then we cut back to Willow, talking with his kids, Ranon and Mims. Mims asks if he’s scared and he says no. The kids then rattle off a list of dangers of the outside world, making for some nice foreshadowing. First Ranon asks about fairies of the forest, putting travelers to sleep for 100 years. He also asks about Brownies, and Mims asks about dragons. Willow says these don’t bother him. Then Ranon asks about trolls, specifically, “Trolls that’ll skin you alive and take your face off?” Willow chides Ranon, saying “You know I hate trolls.” Does this mean trolls have attacked the village before, or at least live nearby? Are trolls why the village has a spear-carrying security force? The movie doesn’t say. What’s important here is that all the things the kids mention are more or less things that Willow is going to run into — fairies, Brownies, trolls, and, yes a dragon. (Multiple dragons, if you count the Shadow War tie-in novels.)
The kids offer to join Willow on his journey to give him some help. He doesn’t actually say no, but instead says what a lucky father he is. He gives the kids a hug and tells them to go play. Mims says “Goodbye Dada” here, but it’s hard to hear unless you’ve got the volume way up. Kaiya then helps Willow with the large backpack he uses to carry the baby. She says “We’ve never been apart.” I think we can assume she means for an extended period of time, because we already saw her stay home while he went to the festival. The tie-in books offer no background information about Kaiya. How did she meet Willow? What was her life like beforehand? We may never know.
Kaiya says “I miss you already.” He says he’ll be fine and he’ll be back before she knows it. Her next line is hard to understand. According to the Blu-ray’s subtitles, she’s saying “Remember to keep her warm.” She then hands Willow a braid of her hair, he compares it to a tuft of hair coming from under the headscarf thing she’s wearing, and realizes she’d just cut it off. “This will bring you luck,” she says. They hug, and kiss. The braid isn’t going to have as many appearances throughout the movie as the acorns, but when we do see it again, it serves as a reminder of how far Willow has traveled.
The background music shifts from romantic to heroic, as the High Aldwin addresses the crowd. “Good brave people,” he says. “The outer world is no place for a Nelwyn. Give the baby to the first Daikini you see, then hurry home.” This raises a lot of questions. First, just how much do the Nelwyn know about the outside world? They know the location of the Daikini crossroads, and they kinda/sorta know who the Daikini are. Second, just how good is this advice, of giving the baby to the first person they see? Does the High Aldwin have some sense of the future, knowing who Willow and co. will run into, or is he merely desperate to protect the village from another attack by killer dogs? Hard to say.
The High Aldwin reaches down, picks up a rock, says three magic words, and throws it into the air. In a nifty special effect, the rock transforms into a bird in midair. People react with smiles and wonder, and the High Aldwin says to go in the direction the bird is flying. Burglekutt then points out that the bird is going back to the village. The High Aldwin appears to be surprised by this, but covers for it, dismissively saying, “Ignore the bird, follow the river.”
For all the talk about magic so far in the movie, this is the first time we see it in action. But even after casting a spell successfully, the High Aldwin is still in “the bones tell me nothing” mode. This once again casts doubt over the acorns, and what will or won’t happen once Willow tries to use them. The camera pulls back to reveal the whole group. Vohnkar is all business, ordering a gruff “Move out!” With that, everyone is on their way.
Next: What are all these Jedi and Wookiees doing here?
Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.