Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! Let us commune with the spirits of the forest and all that, 39:48-42:51 on the Blu-ray.
Picking up where we left off, a mysterious light and heavenly voice speaks to our heroes from high above the trees. “Welcome to my kingdom,” the voice says. Fairies — yes, actual fantasy fairies — fly down and buzz around Willow and Meegosh, glowing with light. One even flies up to Willow and kisses him on the nose, for a nifty special effect. The tie-in books keep the fairies and their ways mysterious. The books state the Nelwyn and the Daikinis believe the fairies to be monstrous, putting curses on livestock. This scene reveals them to be more kind and playful.
While the fairies continue flying around, the light forms a human shape, and says “I am so happy to meet you, Willow Ufgood.” This is Cherlindrea, although we don’t learn her name in this scene. Willow asks how she knows his name, and she answers, “Elora Danan told me.” She then calls to Elora and says “Willow’s here.” A light shines on the baby, who is safely nearby. This lets the audience know the baby’s name for the first time.
So, who is Cherlindrea, exactly? The tie-in fiction doesn’t have much information about her, which is surprising, considering how much fantasy fans love this deep lore-type stuff. She is described as an “elemental,” except that other tie-in books say the elementals are invisible earth spirit types who act only on instinct and who do not communicate with humans. This contradiction gets hand-waved away by saying some scholars merely think she’s an elemental. Cherlindrea is the ruler of this forest, with the Brownies and the fairies as her subjects. Get this: Cherlindrea is married! Her hubby is the Stag Lord, who commands the animals of the forest.
Willow, who seems to be taking all this in stride, says “But she’s just a baby.” Cherlindrea responds, “She is very special. My Brownies have been searching for her ever since we heard she was born.” The camera cuts to the Brownies as she says this, letting the viewer know that these are the Brownies. Cherlindrea says, “Elora Danan has chosen you to be her guardian.” As she says this, the baby levitates into the air, and into Willow’s arms. “Me?” Willow says. Cherlindrea smiles and says, “Yes, she likes you.” There’s a close up of the baby, followed by the only close up we get of the fairies. As many viewers have pointed out over the years, yes they do look nude.
In addition to learning the baby’s name, we also learn that Elora Danan is somehow intelligent, or at least has some sort of awareness where she is and what’s happening. She is also apparently communicating telepathically with Cherlindrea. In previous scenes, I’ve speculated how maybe Willow has been doing magic without realizing it. Upcoming scenes have events that stretch credulity, even for a swashbuckling fantasy adventure, so perhaps that is Elora Danan knowingly or unknowingly using magic as well. The Willow graphic novel adds an additional line of dialogue, where Cherlindrea says, “Elora is the daughter of sun and moon, and the empress of all kingdoms.” These kingdoms refer not just to the ones from the movie, but the thirteen realms described in the Shadow War tie-in novels.
Cherlindrea says Elora knows Willow has the courage to help her. Cherlindrea then drops a ton of plot: “Take my wand to the sorceress Fin Raziel. She will guide you and Elora Danan to the kingdom of Tir Asleen, where a good king and queen will look after her.” As she says this, she holds out the wand, made out of curvy piece of wood. (I’ll discuss the wand in more detail in upcoming scenes.) “You need a warrior for a job like this,” Willow says. “I’m a nobody.” Again taking all this in stride, Willow addresses the baby, saying, “Elora, you don’t want me. Tell her.” Then there’s a bit of humor where he adds, “I’m short, even for Nelwyn.” Many viewers over the years have wondered why Cherlindrea doesn’t go on this quest herself. The answer is simply that she is unable to leave her forest. This is confirmed in the graphic novel when she says, “I would help you, but my powers are limited to these woods.”
Then there’s an odd bit where Cherlindrea just up and vanishes, leaving Willow, Meegosh, and the Brownies alone. Willow calls, “Hello?” but there’s no answer. There’s a shot of the Brownies looking around worriedly, as if someone or something is about to attack. There’s a gust of wind, and Cherlindrea reappears, now seeming gigantic, moving forward until her face and glowing robes fill the entire screen. She goes full King Lear and proclaims, “Elora Danan must survive. She must fulfil her destiny and bring about the downfall of Queen Bavmorda, whose powers are growing like an evil plague. Unless she is stopped, Bavmorda will control the lives of your village, your children, everyone.”
Cherlindrea starts floating upwards, and in a gentler tone of voice she says, “All creatures of good heart need your help Willow.” Her white robes flow behind her, looking like angel’s wings, to really hammer the point home. She adds, “The choice is yours.” She vanishes, and there is a sound of thunder. The rest of the fairies fly off, as the scene transitions from magical, heavenly lighting, to more naturalistic nighttime lighting.
We don’t get to see the conversation that immediately follows this, because the movie cuts to the next morning, where Meegosh is asleep at a makeshift camp site, and Willow is awake, walking around with the wand in his hand. The idea is that he’s been up all night pondering what he’s seen. Willow wakes Meegosh up and says it’s time to go home. Meegosh seems happy about this, and begins gathering his things. Willow says, “Listen, Meegosh, tell Kaia I love her and I think of her every day.” Meegosh gives Willow a what-are-you-talking-about look but just asks “Willow?” Willow continues, saying “Tell her I’m not going to let anything happen to the baby.” As Willow says this, we can see he’s putting the wand into his pack, reinforcing that he’s made up his mind. Meegosh asks Willow if he’s sure about this. Willow says “I hope so.” He hand Meegosh a pack — not the one he put the wand in, which is in his other hand — and the two friends hug. Meegosh tells Willow to be careful.
What’s interesting about this exchange is that Willow never actually says he’s decided to take Elora Danan to Fin Raziel. It’s merely understood that he’s made this choice, based on how the characters talk around it and how the actors play the scene with total seriousness. The Willow graphic novel adds a bit to their goodbye, by having the two of them repeat their rhyming greeting they did earlier in the comic. Meegosh: “Round the bend.” Willow: “Fat rear end.” Meegosh: “He’s a donkey.” Willow: “I’m your friend.”
Next: Cribbing from Kurosawa.
Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.