Astrid Lindgren’s tale comes to life through Ghibli in the anime studio’s first CG television series. The pilot episode almost had me running without a glance back, but I decided to give both the author and the studio the benefit of the doubt due to their other beloved works. And I am so glad I did, because Ronya turned into a treasure with its setting and characters. It’s almost impossible to discuss Sanzoku no Musume Ronya without both names of Ronya and Birk on the lips–what is her story is also his, as the two are linked from birth through childhood, and will likely remain so into adulthood. I tried to zero in on one scene of theirs that stood out to me the most, but picking just one proved to be difficult. Here’s a rundown of their most memorable moments:
It’s imperative to always remember Nature’s dangers and unpredictability, a fact that Ronya seems to have forgotten in her exploration of the woods and her own seeming immortality. With her father’s words in her ears and her familiarity of her surroundings guiding her path, she comes to think of the forest and everything in it as her possession. Birk warns her of the danger of this belief, but it isn’t until the two are caught by the evening fog when she realizes there are still many mysteries to an environment that will never wholly be hers. If not for Birk’s protective embrace, she may have been forever lost in her chase of the lights beckoning through the fog.
Both the author’s and the director’s admiration for the wilderness come through repeatedly in this work, and one of the most repeated lessons reminds us of its beautiful harshness. Though Ronya’s opinion of Birk improved greatly after the will-o’-wisp encounter, she still takes the outdoor elements much too lightly. When a skiing encounter goes wrong and she finds herself trapped in the snow and exposed to both the cold and harpies, life flashes before her eyes. Birk again comes to the rescue and teases her for the misstep. Their vow of sibling-ship reminds me that no matter how solitary we humans may sometimes feel, we are a species meant for fellowship. Far too many things in life are only surmountable with someone by your side.
Harping on the earlier scene between our two main characters, the winter proves a cruel season for Borka’s robbers. Holed up in their newly found home, they are completely unprepared provision-wise to last the many months snowed into their keep. Ronya’s concern for Birk is hands down the reason for the Borkas’ survival. Without her meager yet steady supply of grains and beans, they would have likely starved to death.
I absolutely loved Birk and Ronya’s summer spent in the bear cave away from adult supervision and guaranteed comforts. It reminded me a bit of some of the freedoms I had a child, running around the neighborhood and nearby woods without Mom or Dad hovering over me. They set up their own home, obtained their own food, and filled each day with necessary tasks and adventures. Their time together was all the more precious because of its impermanence–winter would bring a swift end to their too rudimentary lodging. Birk and Ronya lived together and fought frequently, and eventually realized that their families and lives were too important to leave behind.