Princess Kaguya's Wish for an Ordinary Life

The Tale of Princess Kaguya is an anime movie that was released by Studio Ghibli in 2013. It is based on the Japanese folktale "The Bamboo-Cutter and the Moon-Child." The themes of the story pertain closely to my recent analysis of vanity in princess movies. Just like every other fairy tale princess, Kaguya has a legendary striking beauty that is renowned for miles, bringing her many suitors who are willing to do the most difficult of tasks for the chance to gaze upon her. However, she assigns them these tasks not because she thinks that they need to prove themselves worthy of beauty, but because she has little interest in being seen as a valuable treasure.

Kaguya's wish to be treated like an ordinary girl in spite of her privilege is nothing new. Most Disney Princesses who are born into royalty resent the life they were given and wish to live a normal one. Aurora flings herself onto a bed and cries when the three good fairies tell her that she is a princess because she thinks it means that she can't be with Phillip. Jasmine disguises herself as a peasant in an attempt to see the world beyond the palace walls that she feels trapped within. It's the constant struggle of the grass always being greener on the other side. We see a princess and wish we could have her life for the balls and the gowns and the romance and the jewels, but in order for her to seem like a real person, she must also have a secret desire to be like us.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a fascinating take on the human condition. Like many princesses, she was raised as a peasant, but the conditions of her birth were unique. She appeared by magic within a stalk of bamboo that her adoptive father cut open. The magical child was no bigger than his thumb, like Thumbelina. Within a matter of months, though, Kaguya became a fully grown young lady. Her family from the moon kingdom that brought her to the bamboo cutter also brought gold and riches to him and his wife until they no longer needed to live as paupers. What they failed to notice was that Kaguya was happy with the life they already had and did not wish for anything more.

With their new-found riches, Kaguya's parents bought her fine clothes and moved her into a castle where her beauty was kept hidden from the eyes of the unworthy. This was the beginning of the end for her. She was given the life that most girls would dream of, so her parents never even took a moment to consider that it might not be what she wanted. Kaguya resented every suitor who asked for her hand, and so she gave them the impossible tasks. All of them tried to fool her into thinking that they had completed their tasks, but to her great relief, she saw through each trick and rejected them one by one. When a powerful emperor came to see her without permission and insisted on taking her into his court where she would have anything her heart desired, she resented him most of all. That was when she subconsciously sent a message to her family from the moon kingdom to take her back home.

I found the ending of the movie very sad because Princess Kaguya truly loved her Earth parents and wanted to stay with them, but she told them that the happiness they wanted for her was difficult. She was happy to live an ordinary simple life. "This would have been enough," she said. Though she had no interest in any of her royal suitors, Kaguya could have lived a happy life with Sutemaru, her peasant friend from the village. The complications go beyond the way her Earth parents chose to raise her, though. Her birth parents in the moon kingdom sent gold and jewels to them in an attempt to make sure that she would live the life of a princess during her time on Earth. Just like the rest of us, Princess Kaguya had no control over the life she was born into. We may wish to be princesses, but like Kaguya, all we can do is make the best of the life we are given.


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