Back in December I posted some concept art from Miyazaki Hayao and Takahata’s Isao’s Pippi Långstrump (Pippi Longstocking) adaptation, which they were working on back in 1971 but which never came to fruition in the end. I mentioned back then that more so than an animated Pippi, I would have loved an animated Ronja – as in Ronja Røverdatter (Ronia the Robber’s Daughter), another character created by the same Swedish author, Astrid Lindgren. It seems now my wish has about to be fulfilled: the news is out that Miyazaki Goro will be directing a TV anime of Ronja.
「山賊のむすめローニャ」(Sanzoku no Musume Ronia) is scheduled to air in the autumn of 2014 on NHK and BS Premium and will be a collaboration between Polygon Pictures and Studio Ghibli. It’s Miyazaki’s first TV anime – he previously directed the films 「ゲド戦記」 (Gedo senki/Tales of Earthsea, Japan, 2006) and「コクリコ坂から」 (Kokuriko-zaka Kara/From up on Poppy Hill, Japan, 2011) – but it’s also atypical territory for Studio Ghibli, whose standard fare is animated films.
Ronia is a perfect fit for Ghibli: it features a strong, female heroine, Ronia, who lives in a castle in the middle of a wild forest with her father, Mattis, the chief of a robber’s clan, her mother Lovis and a whole bunch of rowdy robbers that compose the Mattis clan. As a young child she is unaware what her father does for a living, but is furious when she eventually discovers the truth. Given that she was expected to lead the clan – and the robbing that she finds so despicable – one day, this leads to a rift with her father, even more so when she meets Birk, the son of the rival Borka clan. Disillusioned about her father’s way of living and knowing that her friendship with the archenemy’s child is absolutely verboten, Ronia and Birk run off to live in the woods together.
It’s a story full of fabulous characters – the gutsy, stubborn Ronia in particular, but also her equally headstrong father and the rest of the unruly robbers – that deals with issues such as growing up, the parent-child relationship, friendship and even death. The tale is also littered with details that the Ghibli animators should revel in and will hopefully use to showcase their imagination: Ronia, for example, is born on a dark, stormy night, at the very moment that a lightning bolt strikes the castle and splits it in two. Although the exact story setting is never specified, we do know that Ronja takes place in a semi-fantastical world that includes all kinds of mythical creatures:
Cruel harpies (vildvittror, huge birds with human faces) roam the skies, terrorising anyone that comes into their sight. Rumphobs (rumpnissar), goblin folks (oknytt) and murk trolls (skumtroll) inhabit the vast expanses of forest beneath, some harmless, others not quite so: the unearthly ones (de underjordiska), for example, forever try to lure humans into their world with entrancing songs when fog descends on the woods.
Whether Sanzoku no Musume Ronia is the project that Miyazaki Goro was said to be working on back in June 2013 (scroll down to Bonus Bits of the linked post), I have no idea – to me that sounded more like there was a film-in-the-making, but with neither the word eiga (film) nor terebi anime (TV anime) having been mentioned at the time, it may well have been Ronia that they were talking about back then. In any case, I can’t wait till the autumn.
Screenshots from the 1984 film and illustrations from the book (German edition):