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21 Jul 2017

HIGH FANTASY RULES - Willow (1988)

Film genres have formulas and rules, but how well do High Fantasy films follow their formula?




Willow (1988) is the a family-friendly high fantasy film about Willow, the member of a race of little people who tries to get the baby, Elora Danan, to someone to look after her, little knowing she is prophecised to bring about the death of the evil Queen Bavmorda.



The following analysis may contain spoilers for

WILLOW (1988)




RULE #1 - The Secondary World.
"Willow, this is serious business.  Don't waste any time, the outer world is no place for a Nelwyn."  ~ High Aldwin Junn.

1a.  Type:  Seems to be unconnected to the real world.
1b.  Faux-medieval - Yes.
1c.  Panoramic landscapes - Yes, actually filmed in England, Wales and New Zealand (as well as the US).  Around Bavmorda's castle is stark and barren, places like the Nelwyn village are green and lush.
1d.  Impossible buildings and landmarks - A couple of castles, but mostly with the realms of possibility.
1e.  Archaic spelling/strange names - Yes.
1f.  Hyper-real - Ragged but clean and not too raged clothing.  Baby born fairly clean, and survives well without her mother (one has to presume that the older mid-wife who takes her is also a wet-nurse).


RULE #2 - There may be sex and nudity.

"Your power has enchanted me.  I stand helpless against it.  Come to me, now.  Tonight, let me worship you in my arms." ~ Madmartigan.


Being child friendly, not really.

2a.  Nudity
i.  Female Nudity - When Fin Raziel is returned to human form, she is naked.  Nothing is shown (except a naked back).  Raziel is an older female, rather then young like most female film nudity.
ii.  Male Nudity - Madmartigan appears at one point in a loincloth made from a dress.
2b.  Sex
i.  Death - Only for Elora Danan's mother, but that's stretching the definition.  It's unclear what the husband of the woman Madmartigan was with ended up doing to her after he fled.
ii.  Random Sex - Madmartigan may have had some or been about to have some with a married woman at one point, but it wasn't shown.
ii. Relationship Sex - Before the film for Willow and Kiaya, after all they do have 2 children.  Madmartigan and Sorsha seem to have become a couple at the end of the film.  None of it shown.
iii.  Rape - No rape or attempt rape occurs in the film.


RULE #3 - Characters.

"He's a worthless thief." ~ Airk.
"I'm not a thief, Airk." ~ Madmartigan.
"He's not a thief.  Are you?" ~ Willow Ulfgood.

3a.  The Hero - Willow Ufgood.
3b.  The Hero's Parents - Do not appear.

3c - 3i.  The Party of Adventurers - The Nelwyn send a small group, but later a group slowly forms around Willow (the hero):  Madmartigan (a warrior/thief), Rool and Franjean (thieves), Sorsha (the heroine/a warrior woman) and Fin Raziel (a user of magic/the hag), they protect the baby Elora Danan.
3c.  The Mentor - Junn, the High Aldwin.  Old, long white bearded wizard.  Does not travel with Willow and company or die.  He shows little magic (and when he does it goes wrong) but mainly relies on tricks and wisdom.
3d.  The Heroine - Sorsha, as the main female character, she vaguely fits here.  However, she also fits (and probably more-so) in 3f, 3li & 3liii.  She fits the heroine in that she's spunky/feisty, she the queen's daughter (although an evil queen, not a good one).  The secondary hero Madmartigan likes her the moment he sees her with her helmet off (then again he is a womaniser), however, he doesn't fall for her until he's under the influence of a magic powder.  She seems to fall for his poetic lines and is annoyed when he doesn't continue to act in love.  She is a queen's daughter, and presumably a king's daughter.
3e.  A Warrior - Madmartigan calls himself "the greatest swordsman that ever lived" and is a mercenary, drinker and womaniser.   Arik is the more noble version.  Vohnkar is the Nelwyn village's best warrior.
3f.  A Warrior Woman - Sorsha, although she dresses in armour and leads a group of soldiers she doesn't appear very masculine (and looks tiny in scenes with soldiers.)  She wears armour similar to her soldiers, so not the sexy armour stereotype, although there is a small concession to her having breasts.  After the poetry incident, she was repeatedly shown having respect for his bravery and prowess in battle, leading her to grab and kill him.
3g.  A User of Magic - Fin Razeil.  Joins the group late.
3h.  A Thief - Madmartigan is accused of being a worthless thief and shows that he can pick locks.  The brownies fill some of this role.  Surprisingly, Willow himself does not.
3i.  A pet or other animal - I'm putting the baby Elora Danan here.  Fin Raziel has been turned into a bunch of animals, too.

3j.  King - There is a king at the end, but his details no not appear in the film (even the fact he's a king remains unmentioned).
3k.  The Hag - Fin Raziel is this, but actually joins the group.  Cherlindrea also appears as a beautiful elf version of this role.

3l.  The Dark Lord - Queen Bavmorda, evil magic using female.  Cruelty show when she treats her own daughter roughly and orders the death of the prophecised child's mother.  She is, as female Dark Lords are, old but still has a harsh beauty, until the end where she becomes ugly while using her powers.
3m.  An evil female
i. Female Henchman - Sorsha, works as her mother's henchman.   Her mother treats her like she isn't competent, however her men and their Death Dogs tracked and killed the midwife, and found the Nelwyn village that the baby was found by. but is loyal (due to being her the Dark Lord's daughter).  She fights her feeling for Madmartigan for a while before betraying her mother to join him.
ii. Member of Harem - Bavmorda doesn't have one.  That we're made aware of.
iii.  Dark Lord's Daughter - Sorsha, is literally this, although, as noted above also acts like a henchman rather than just the villain's child.
3n.  Male Henchmen - General Kael, large strong, ugly, skull helmet.
3o.  Minions - A couple of druid advisers.  Various soldiers.  

3o - 3q.  An Evil Person.
3o.  Grand Vizier - The main druid advisor is close (but works directly for the dark lord.)
3p.  Evil relative - None appear.
3q.  The Priest - The main druid advisor is close (but works directly for the dark lord.)


RULE #4 - Races & Cultures.

"Don't call me a peck." ~ Willow Ulfgood.
"Oh. I'm sorry... peck. Peck, peck, peck, peck." ~ Madmartigan.

4a.  Homogeneous Races - Js.

i.  Good/Evil - Nelwyn are good or neutral with some selfishness, etc, showing.
ii.   Magic - Both Daikini and Nelwyn seem to be generally non-magical with magical individuals.
iii.   Habitat - Humans have some variety.  We only see one valley of Nelwyn.
4b.  Races.
i.  Humans - Daikini (Tall Folk).  Default race.
ii.  Elves - None.
iii.  Dwarfs - None.
iii.  Halflings - Nelwyn (or insultingly, Pecks). Fit the definition almost perfect, although Willow doesn't act as the group's thief in any way.
iv.  Fairies - Brownies, a couple of inches tall but not magical pranksters.  They follow the fairy queen, Cerhlindrea.  Fairies, tiny glowing dots, although Cerhlindrea herself is an ethereal image.
v.  Centaurs/part animals - Briefly during their transformation,  the good soldiers are pig men.
vi.  Giants - The Nelwyn call the Daikini giants, but no actual giants appear.
vii.  Trolls - There are trolls that appear in the film, but they're more primitive looking furry creatures than traditional trolls.
viii.  Orcs, Goblins, Hobgoblins - None.
4d.  Societies - Just the main faux-medieval society.  (There is also a fairyland culture, not fully explored).
4e.  Homogeneous Culture - Yes.
4f.  Rival cultures - No racial divides beyond Nelwyn being wary of Daikini and Daikini using insulting terms for Nelwyn.


RULE #5 - Magic & Monsters

"Now, the power to control the world... is in which finger?" ~ High Aldwin Junn.


5a.  Magical Past - No indications.
5b.  Low Magic Present - Mostly.  Bavmorda and Raziel are the only Daikini to appear to have major powers, the Nelwyn Junn and Willow have some minor/unreliable magic abilities.  The fairly queen and possibly the fairies themselves seem to be very magical.
5c.  Magical laws - No clear laws.
5d.  Good vs Evil - Seemingly with Bavmorda and Raziel.
5e.  Gendered - No stated, but Bavmorda and Raziel are both female and Junn and Willow are both male.
5f.  Hereditary - Not stated.  Sorsha does not seem to have inherited any powers from her mother.
5g.  Spells & Powers
i.  Healing - No.
ii.  Remote Viewing - No.
iii.  Obfuscation - No, that was done by simple stage magic.
iv.  Shape changing - Yes, it was done to Raziel, both before and during the film.  It also occured with the Trolls becoming a monster and the entire army of good guys becoming pigs.
v.  Necromancy - Didn't happen.
5k.  Items of Magic - Acorns and a wand.
5l.  Artifacts of Great Power - No.
5m.  Religion - No.  There are druids and a High Aldwin which may suggest religion but it isn't gone into.
5n.  Mythical creatures 
i.  Dragon - No, but the nameless beast below was close.
ii.  Unicorns - None.
iii.  Griffins, Rocs, Sphinx - None.
iv.  Giant Things - None.
v.  Supernatural Creatures -  None.
vi.  Raised creatures - None.
vii.  Nameless Beast - A multi-headed thing created by magic.  Although not by a dark mage, but accidentally transformed from a troll by Willow.

The were Death Dogs, hideous dog-creatures.


RULE #6 - The Quest

"Seers have foretold the birth of a child who will bring about the downfall of the powerful Queen  Bavmorda." ~ Opening text.


6a.  The Artifact - No artifact, just a baby that they have to protect.  The dark lord does get it at the end.
6b.  Destroy the Dark Lord - Which the baby is set to achieve.
6c.  Save the Heroine - Doesn't really come up.
6d.  Unite the races/Raise an army - Madmartigan sort of has this plot with Aricks forces, getting them to join him after they've already given up.
6e.  Prophecy - The opening text mentions a prophecy which set the events of the film in motion.  
6f.  Other events:
i.  Win a Contest - No contest.
ii.  Stop an Execution - Only the destruction of the baby.
iii.  Stop a Wedding - No.
6g.  The Hero's Journey - See below.


RULE #7 - The Hero's Journey: Departure

"Who has the courage to protect our brave fellow on his journey?" ~ High Aldwin Junn.

7a.  Secret Origin
i.  The Chosen One - Not the hero, but the baby at the center of the film is part of a prophecy. 
ii.  Orphaned - Death of mother (of the prophecised child) ordered.
iii.  Revenge - It's still a baby, it doesn't really seem to do things for revenge.
7b.  Ordinary World
i.  From Earth - No.
ii.  Peaceful Lands - The home of the Nelwyn seems like a peaceful farming area.
7c.  Initial Tests - Willow's test include his failure at stage magic, his failure to pass High Aldwin Junn's test, 
7d.  The Call to Adventure - The attack by the Death Dogs.  The High Aldwin says someone must take the baby to the world of the Daikini.
7e.  Refusal of the Call - Before any of the tests wanting to let the baby float away.
7f.  Supernatural Aid
i.  Meeting with the Mentor - Junn, the local High Aldwin, who he has met previously, but gets to know better before leaving on his journey.
ii.  A supernatural guide - A.
iii.  May be given a magic item or artifact - Before they leave Junn gives Willow magic acorns.  Later given a magic wand.
iv.  The Party will begin to form - Soon at the threshold he meets Madmortigan (who joins later) and soon after a pair of brownies, Franjean and Rool.
7g.  Crossing the Threshold - The crossroads across the river is the threshold.  It is the point where the Nelwyn journey is supposed to end (and does for most of the Nelwyn party.)
7h.  Belly of the Whale - Yes.


RULE #8 - The Hero's Journey: Initiation

"You need a warrior for a job like this. I'm a nobody.  Elora, you don't want me.  Tell her.  I'm short, even for a Nelwyn." ~ Willow Ulfgood.

8a.  The Road of Trials - After crossing the threshold Willow is attacked by Brownies.
8b.  The Vision Quest - No real vision quest occurs.
8c.  The Meeting with the Goddess - After being attacked by Brownies Willow meets Cherlindrea.
8d.  Lure away from Journey - Mostly occurs earlier of Willow.  Certainly happens for Madmartigan.
8e.  A Greater Power - They arrive at the dark lord's castle.
8f.  The Ordeal - Apotheosis/Death - Doesn't happen to Willow.  Raziel seems dead briefly.
8g.  The Ordeal - Descent into the underworld - Does not happen.
8h.  The Ultimate Boon - With the Queen and evil defeated, and the land free.  Williow is given a book of spells.



RULE #9 - The Hero's Journey: Return.

"Willow Ufgood receive this book of magic.  You are on your way to becoming a great sorcerer." ~ Fin Raziel.

9a.  Refusal of the Return - Maybe a moment when holding the child, but .
9b.  The Magic Flight Not really, but a straight cut.
9c.  Rescue from Without - None.
9d.  The Crossing of the Return Threshold - Willow arrives back in the village.
9e.  Master of Two Worlds - Willow has gains some magic ability.
9f.  Freedom to Live - Happily ever after.



RULE #10 - Sequels/Remakes/Adaptations

"Willow's back!" ~ Villager.

10a.  Adaptation - Not an adaptation.
10b.  Sequels - A trilogy of novels only, although there are rumours.
10c.  Remakes - None at this time.

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