Weathering With You: The Ending Explained

As I will be explaining the ending of Weathering with You (天気の子, Tenki no ko)—the 2019 anime directed by Makoto Shinkai—there are SPOILERS EVERYWHERE.

The movie is a romantic fantasy about a runaway teenage boy, Hodaka , who meets a girl who has the power to control the weather. The girl, Hina, has a chosen-one role. She is meant to save Tokyo from a non-stop deluge of rain by using her powers and sacrificing herself, thereby restoring balance to the world. Hina chooses to accept this destiny, but after she disappears from our world, Hodaka finds her and brings her back, dooming Tokyo in the process. At the end of the movie, Hodaka and Hina meet up again after three years, but much of Tokyo is now beneath the sea and there is no end in sight to the freakish non-stop rain.

In many of the reviews I have read, the writers stated that they found the decisions of the characters to be selfish and even immoral. 

I disagree, and this article explains why

Though Weathering With You also has themes related to love and the environment, in this article, I focus on  ‘choice’. Towards the end of the movie, the three main characters Hodaka Morishima, Hina Amano and Keisuke Suga all face tough choices that end up not only altering their lives but also changing the world. In my opinion, the movie is mainly about the choices we make and how those choices affect us (and the people around us).

How does the Weather Maiden magic work in Weathering With You?

Weathering With You: The Sky Realm

The movie Weathering With You employs a soft-magic system (i.e., one with vague, non-defined rules). It is not clear how Hina’s sunshine-making powers work. However, it is evident that there are greater forces at work—a god, gods or beings with technology so advanced that to humans it appears to be magic.

Let’s call them the External Forces

There are quite a few clues about the nature of the magic system in Weathering With You.

  1. Weather maidens can change the weather in a limited area for a short period of time. Hina uses her power via prayer.
  2. Weather maidens appear when there are extreme imbalances in the weather, and their purpose is to restore balance by sacrificing themselves. 
  3. Due to the legends about weather maidens that are mentioned in the film, we can assume that weather-maiden interventions happen from time to time. However, since little is known about weather maidens, it appears that these interventions are rare.
  4. Weather maidens seem to acquire their weather-changing ability by visiting another realm (let’s call it the Sky Realm). Hina first enters this realm by stepping through a red torii gate on the rooftop shrine of an abandoned building. The torii acts as a kind of portal, but getting to the other realm seems to require faith and determination.
  5. It is not clear if weather maidens are GIFTED their abilities or if they have innate abilities that are ACTIVATED.
  6. The External Forces can manipulate the actions of people. Hina was drawn to the rooftop shrine (i.e., the portal) when clouds parted and a ray of sunlight illuminated the rooftop of a single derelict building—the building with the rooftop shrine—in the middle of Tokyo.  Even though her mother was dying, Hina appeared to be compelled to leave her mother’s bedside and track down the destination of the ray of light.
  7. This ray-of-light scene also shows that the External Forces have at least limited power to control the weather. It would have taken at least twenty minutes for Hina to walk to that building, yet the single ray of sunlight remained perfectly in place.
  8. Although the External Forces have some control over the weather, they are either unable or unwilling to fix extreme imbalances in the weather. A weather maiden is required for that.
  9. The psychic interviewed by Hodaka and Natsumi divides weather maidens into two categories: those that can bring sunshine and those that can bring rain. Hina has the power to control sunshine, but she is also shown to be able to summon lightning. I think we can assume she can control other types of weather phenomena. Therefore, the dichotomy (sunshine girls vs rain girls) mentioned by the psychic may be a false idea (as a single weather maiden probably wouldn’t have needed to deal with more than one kind of weather disaster). 
  10. Weather maidens are ill-fated. Through using their weather-changing ability, they will eventually be consumed by their power and will disappear into the Sky Realm, with the sacrifice of their physical body serving to ultimately restore balance to the weather. 
  11. The weather maiden’s sacrifice is not an appease-the-gods kind of blood sacrifice. Hina’s sacrifice is more of a transformation, and her spirit, essence or energy, which enters and then resides in the Sky Realm, magically restores balance.        
  12. As a weather maiden uses her power, her body slowly becomes translucent. This implies that the eventual sacrifice must be done willingly. The weather maiden, even after seeing the effect the magic use is having on her body, would need to still be willing to continue to use her powers in order for her to complete the transformation. It seems that weather maidens gradually come to an instinctual understanding of what is going to happen to them (and Hina also receives direct confirmation of her fate from Suga’s niece, Natsumi). This implies that the self-sacrifice must be done willingly AND knowingly
  13. When weather maidens finally disappear into the Sky Realm, this is shown to many people in their dreams, perhaps as a way of acknowledging the sacrifice made.
  14. When Hina follows Hodaka back to Earth, thus reneging on her ‘chosen one’ self-sacrifice, there is non-stop rain for three years with no end in sight but no further appearances of any ‘Sunshine Girls’. This implies that a weather maiden is a one-of-a-kind, one-at-a-time role.  
Weathering With You: The Rooftop Shrine

When did Hina get her powers?

Interestingly, Hina was given her gift (or had it activated) almost a full year before the weird non-stop rain really got out of hand. At various points in the anime, news broadcasts mention the exceptionally rainy weather of the summer when Hina and Hodaka meet, but the broadcasts don’t say anything about abnormal rainfall during the previous summer—when Hina gained her powers—or the fall, winter or spring leading up to the super-rainy summer. This implies that the External Forces somehow knew that a weather maiden would be needed in the near future and that it was time to find and prepare one.

Destiny vs. free will   

The role of the weather maiden involves destiny (in that a chosen one is selected to be sacrificed) AND free will (in that the chosen one needs to knowingly and willingly accept that role). 

What is causing the extreme weather?

Weathering With You: Rain

The cause of the extreme weather is never made clear. At times during the movie, the rain is completely unnatural, first appearing as a mass of water suspended in the air before suddenly crashing down to earth. Thus, there seems to be a supernatural cause (or co-cause).

One of the minor characters references global warming and climate change when she states how it is unfortunate that kids nowadays can no longer enjoy  a comfortable spring and summer in Tokyo. Therefore, global warming may be a contributing factor but is definitely not the only cause.

Is it possible that Hodaka is responsible for the weird weather? Even the scenes set on his home island feature rain, with the establishing shot of his hometown school near the end of the movie showing a flooded campus. Hodaka could be an ‘ameotoko’, a man cursed to have rain follow him around. However, during the three-years-of non-stop rain in Tokyo, he is back in his hometown. If he were an ameotoko, wouldn’t the epicenter of the rainstorm follow him back to his hometown? Thus, to me, the possibility that Hodaka is a ‘Rain Boy’ remains just that—a possibility.

The Tokyo weather is at its worst when Hodaka and Hina are most distressed—after Hodaka gets kicked out by Suga and after Hina and her brother face getting picked up by the Japanese equivalent of Child Protective Services. There are four possibilities here:

  1. It is pure coincidence. Snow with lightning in August, though? That seems to be too much of a coincidence. 
  2. The ‘emotions’ of the natural world are mirroring the emotions of the protagonists. This is an ‘it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night’ kind of literary device. This device is often used for dramatic effect in stories,  but the technique doesn’t suit a story in which one of the characters can actually control the weather.   
  3. The severity of the bad weather is directly caused by Hodaka and/or Hina’s emotional state. This is possible, but we don’t really see this cause-effect relationship in other scenes where the characters are distressed.
  4. The severity of the weather is influenced by the External Forces, who are seeking to raise the stakes and push Hina towards allowing herself to be sacrificed. 

I would argue that the fourth possibility is the most likely explanation. This is because we have already seen the External Forces manipulate the weather in order to draw Hina to the portal/torii. This possibility raises an important question (one that I will come back to later in this article): to what extent are the External Forces manipulating events and people?   

Hodaka’s Choices

Weathering With You: Hodaka

About Hodaka: Hodaka Morishima is a 16-year-old runway from a small island town. He never reveals exactly why he ran away other than he wants nothing more to do with his hometown or his family. When we first see him, he has three bandages on his face. At first, I thought that he may have been the victim of bullying, but the dislike and disregard he feels for his family suggest that the bruises may have been the result of child abuse. For the first part of the movie, Hodaka is mainly concerned with survival as he is forced to live in the streets. However, after he establishes a business and close friendship with Hina and her brother Nagi, the thing he wants most is to just maintain that. He prays to the gods that the three of them be allowed to keep what they have—nothing more, nothing less.

Weathering With You: Nagi, Hina an Hodaka

As a decision-maker, Hodaka is sometimes full of doubt and sometimes impulsive.

He can be very indecisive when it comes to little things. When he is trying to decide what to buy for Hina for her birthday, he asks for advice from Yahoo Help, Suga’s niece Natsumi and Nagi. Even after spending a few hours at a department store jewelry counter picking out a ring (following Nagi’s advice), he is still unsure if he made the right choice. 

However, he makes big, life-altering decisions without much thought about the possible consequences. It is only after he arrives in Tokyo as a runaway, for example,  that he asks (via Yahoo Help) where a 16-year-old runaway might be able to find work. 

Towards the climax of the movie, when Hodaka wakes up after Hina’s disappearance and realizes what has happened, he makes a world-altering decision to try to save her without considering:

  1. Whether it is even possible to change anything  
  2. Whether it would better to respect Hina’s decision to allow herself to be sacrificed
  3. Whether it would be better for the world if Hina be allowed to sacrifice herself to prevent a natural disaster

When he rushes off to save Hina, he is just acting on instinct and is not considering the consequences. It is only through his sheer determination (and disregard for his own safety) that he gains access to the Sky Realm and brings Hina back to Earth. 

He manages to save Hina, but heavy rain returns to Tokyo and never stops, leaving much of the city underwater after three years. During that time, millions of people would have lost their homes. It is not mentioned in the movie, but there would have been trillions of dollars of damages and there likely would have been deaths due to flash floods and landslides.  

Wouldn’t it have been better to sacrifice one girl to save a city of over 9 million people from disaster? Wasn’t his decision selfish? Is a teenage crush really that important?

However, if he had accepted Hina’s sacrifice, would he have been able to live with himself? When Nagi urges Hodaka to save Hina, he accuses Hodaka of being responsible for her disappearance. Nagi isn’t entirely wrong.

  • Hodaka was responsible for hastening Hina’s sacrifice/disappearance by starting the 100% Sunshine Girl business that made her frequently use her weather-changing ability.
  • When Natsumi brought Hodaka to the first interview with the psychic (before Hodaka and Hina had established their friendship), the psychic told them that weather maidens risked being consumed by their powers if they used their abilities too much. It is not clear whether Hodaka forgot about that warning or whether he played down the risk. In any case, he mostly ignored the warning. Although he was the one who eventually stopped the sunshine-bringing service, it was too late. 
  • The night she disappeared, Hina asked Hodaka if he wanted the rain to stop. Not fully understanding what Hina was asking, he replied that he did, an answer that only served to push Hina a little further toward accepting her sacrifice. 

In a best case scenario, if Hodaka had decided to let Hina go, he would have ended up like Suga (i.e., the version of Suga that was presented for much of the movie)— broken-down and barely functioning. There are a couple of times in the movie when Natsumi compares Hodaka to a younger Suga and says how similar they are. The broken-down version of Suga represents a potential future version of Hodaka   

In a worst case scenario, Hodaka literally wouldn’t have been able to live with himself. Tokyo would have survived unscathed, but he wouldn’t have.

In the drowned Tokyo at the end of the movie, Hodaka meets Suga, who, seemingly sensing Hodaka’s discomfort, tells him not to worry because the world has always been crazy.  Similarly an elderly woman tells him that much of what is underwater now was underwater two centuries earlier.

However, at the end of the movie, Hodaka finally understands that he instinctively made the right choice—not because the consequences weren’t severe— but because it was his choice to save Hina and in doing so, he kept to his wish for the three of them—himself, Hina and her brother—to keep what they had, nothing-more, nothing less. That was the only choice that would have allowed him to live with himself afterwards.  

Suga’s Choices

Weathering With You: Suga

About Keisuke Suga: Suga has a certain amount of rough charm that disguises the fact that his life is a mess. After the death of his wife, he not only lost custody of his daughter, but he has to beg just to be able to visit her on rare occasions. It appears that he doesn’t even have visitation rights. It is never revealed what happened to him, but the situation implies that he became such a wreck after his wife died in an automobile accident that he could not be trusted to take care of his daughter. He drinks heavily, his home-office is a mess and he barely works. The thing he wants most is to regain custody of his daughter. He is willing to make some changes to his life—such as giving up smoking (as keeping the habit would be harmful to his asthmatic daughter)—to accomplish this, but he is clearly struggling. 

Weathering With You: Hodaka, Suga and Hina

Suga helps Hodaka quite a lot, but when the police come to his home and tell him that they are trying to find Hodaka and that they may consider him a suspect in his kidnapping, he decides to cut ties with the teenager. He gives Hodaka a wad of cash and tells him to leave. This is incredibly bad timing, as at that moment everything is falling apart for Hodaka, Hina and Nagi. The police are closing in on Hodaka while Hina and Nagi are about to be taken in by the Japanese equivalent of Child Protective Services. Suga—the one person who might be able to help them—turns his back on them.     

Suga’s decision is reasonable. The thing he wants most in life is custody of his daughter. Harboring a sixteen-year-old runaway (who is also wanted on a firearms offence) would bury that dream.

He does what he thinks is best—cutting himself off from Hodaka—and then immediately tries to drown his regret in alcohol and he starts smoking again.   

The next morning, he is chastised by Natsumi, and when the police inform him of Hodaka’s escape and Hina’s disappearance (and he sees that sunshine has finally returned to Tokyo), he realizes the gravity of the situation and can’t hold back his tears. 

He changes his mind and decides to help Hodaka, intercepting him at the building with the rooftop shrine. His main concern here seems to be to get Hodaka to not attempt to save Hina, but instead to return to his parents.

However, after seeing Hodaka’s single-minded determination and then seeing the teenager getting manhandled by the police, Suga tackles the officers, allowing Hodaka to make his way to the rooftop. Suga will face a ton of trouble for doing that. This is a strange about-face as there is little chance of Hodaka being able to do anything that can change what has happened, while Suga himself is throwing away his chances of gaining custody of his daughter. 

So was it the wrong decision?

By standing by Hodaka, Suga is deciding that rather than focusing solely on trying to win custody of his daughter, he should focus instead on trying to be the kind of man deserving of winning back custody. 

At the film’s close, three years later, he is much more ‘together’. His business is doing well and he appears to have more access to his daughter (if not outright custody).

Had Suga stuck with the original plan—abandoning the three kids to their respective fates—would he have been able to live with that decision? Would he have gotten his life back together? 

He eventually made the only choice that would have allowed him to live with himself and that would help some of the people he cared about, though it took him some time to get there.      

Hina’s Choices

Weathering With You: Hina

About Hina Amano: When Hodaka meets Hina, she is a 15-year-old pretending to be 18. After the death of her mother a year earlier, and with her father not in the picture at all, Hina’s main goal is to take care of her younger brother—to keep what little is remaining of their family together.  She will do whatever it takes. She is fired from McDonald’s (possibly for lying about her age) and needs money to raise her brother, so when a sleazy man tries to recruit her to become a nightclub worker, she doesn’t resist very strongly. Without Hodaka’s intervention, who knows what would have happened? 

Hina initially chooses to accept her fate as a weather maiden—to disappear from the world in return for the weather to return to normal. 

After every prayer for sunshine, part of her body becomes translucent (something not fully revealed until quite late in the movie), yet she persists with her 100%-Sunshine-Girl job as she can see the happiness she brings to others. 

She keeps her deteriorating physical condition a secret from Hodaka and Nagi—likely to spare them from worry and to also ensure they wouldn’t interfere. She would have known they would have strongly opposed her and would have stopped their 100% Sunshine Girl service immediately if they had known about her condition. She also lies to Hodaka about her age—saying she is nearly eighteen—two years older than he is—when really she is only fifteen. This likely had the effect of making Hodaka less protective of her.

She seems to know instinctively that she will eventually disappear and she later gets confirmation of this from Natsumi. In her last conversation with Hodaka before she disappears, it is clear that she is resigned to fulfilling her destiny. She even asks Hodaka to take care of Nagi once she is gone. However, it is clear from her sadness that her self-sacrifice is something she is willing to do but is not something that she really wants to do. 

Her initial choice was not wrong. After all, she would have saved Tokyo. However, it would have come not only at the expense of her own life, but also would have deprived Nagi of her care and also of any good that would come from her own future life (and those of her potential descendants).

Sure, If the weather had returned to normal after months of non-stop rain, everyone in Tokyo would have been ecstatic…for a day or two. 

Sure, she could have prevented the flooding of Tokyo’s flooding problem, but Tokyo wouldn’t suddenly turn into a paradise of never-ending happiness.

At the end of the movie, the city is largely underwater, but life somehow still goes on for its residents. 

And it still goes on for Hina, who kept to what was her main goal all along—to raise her brother and keep whatever little was left of their family together.

Coincidence or Intervention?

Was it really Hina’s own choice to sacrifice herself or had she been manipulated by the External Forces into believing her sacrifice would solve everything? 

If I were a god and looking to recruit a weather maiden to help return balance to the world, she would be an ideal candidate for the job—naïve, relatively easy to influence, selfless, motivated to make others happy, willing to make sacrifices, secretive, soon to be without a parent or guardian to turn to for advice and emotionally fragile due to the impending death of her only parent. With the right incentives and a little push here and there, this is the kind of person who would be willing to make the sacrifice that I required.

In this movie, it is unclear what is coincidence and what is guided by the External Forces. However, a lot of events seem to lead directly to Hina choice to sacrifice herself:

  1. Hina seeing the shaft of light while she was at her mother’s deathbed–a light which seemed to draw her towards it.
  2. Her transformation into a weather maiden a year before a weather maiden was actually required.
  3. Hina finding someone—Hodaka—that knows about weather maidens and who might encourage her to use her powers and experience the happiness she could bring to others.
  4. Hina coming to understand and accept the tragic fate of weather maidens.
  5. Hina suddenly facing the prospect of losing Hodaka (who was thrown out of Suga’s home and was being hunted by police) AND losing her brother (about to be taken in by Child Protective Services) AND losing her freedom AND losing her home.       
  6. The sudden intensifying of the storm, making the self-sacrifice appear all the more urgent. 

It is almost as if the External Forces are saying “Here are your powers! Doesn’t it feel great to help others! You have the power to help everyone! Doesn’t that make you happy? Doesn’t that bring you satisfaction? Just let go. There isn’t anything left here for you anyway!  Your mother has passed away. Your brother will be taken away! Hodaka will be taken way! Your home is gone! Look how bad things are getting now! People are suffering! You have the power to help everyone! You can save them! Use your power! Save them!”

Spoilers for Donny Darko

The above situation is similar to what happens in the film Donnie Darko. In that movie, a teen is given powers that he must use to restore balance to the universe. However, it will require his sacrifice. Throughout the movie, external forces work to (1) encourage him to learn how to use those powers, (2) make him understand the need to make that sacrifice and (3) weaken his emotional ties to the world by doing things like having the girl he loves get killed.

End of spoilers for Donny Darko

In Weathering With You, there are lots of incredible coincidences: 

For example, Hodaka just happens to be saved from A SUDDEN EXTREME WEATHER event by Suga, who publishes OCCULT articles (despite having no belief in the supernatural) and who sends Hodaka and Natsumi (for his first job) to a psychic who informs the pair about WEATHER MAIDENS just before Hodaka finds out that Hina (the girl who gave him a Big Mac earlier and whom he recognizes when he SEES HER AGAIN, this time being dragged towards a nightclub by the SAME GUY who had pushed him out of a doorway, an act that led Hodaka to finding the revolver, which he then uses when rescuing Hina) is a WEATHER MAIDEN. 

You can interpret the events of the movie as a string of amazing coincidences. However, you can also view the events as at least partially the machinations of External Forces influencing things in order to come up with the required voluntary sacrifice of a weather maiden.

In this second interpretation, Hina’s initial choice to sacrifice herself is largely the result of manipulation. Her decision to return to Earth would reflect her true desire to live her own life, take care of her brother and be with people who care for her (her original goals)—a decision which the External Forces appear to respect by allowing her to return.

Thus, she makes the choice she feels is best for herself and the people around her and which is a choice that she can live with.

In this interpretation, Hodaka isn’t disrespecting Hina’s wishes; he is helping her rediscover her own true will. 

The Main Theme

Weathering With You: Hina and Hodaka

To sum up, when it comes to the main characters’ final choices in Weathering With You,  it is not a question of selfish desires versus the greater good. It is more about the individual characters making decisions:  

  • that help those around them, those they care about 
  • that they can live with in good conscience
  • that reflect their true goals.

I would argue that this is the best that we can expect of anyone and of ourselves. 

In Weathering With You:

  • Suga chooses to become a man worthy of regaining custody over his daughter
  • Hodaka chooses to make up for his mistakes and preserve the life of the one he loves 
  • Hina decides to live her life and continue to take care of her brother and keep what remains of their family together.

Thus, I would say one of the the main theme of Weathering with You is: 

If we can care about the people around us and act according to our conscience, the world will be a better place and we will be better people.  We might not fix this crazy world, but it will become a better place little by little.

And that is good enough.

Your Thoughts

What do you think about thoughts about their decisions? What are your thoughts on the film in general? Leave a comment below.

IMDB Page: www.imdb.com/title/tt9426210/

~ by longzijun

writing

Return to Writing

An Interpretation of Jimmy Liao’s ‘The Blue Stone’

blue-stone-cover

Jimmy Liao (廖福彬) is a well-known Taiwanese illustrator and writer. His illustrated books, written for adults and teens, are full of the whimsical, colourful drawings you would expect to find in a storybook for children, but his bittersweet stories tend to involve deeper themes like loneliness, longing, fate and hopefulness and are open to very different interpretations.

He goes by the pen name 幾米 a phonetic translation of his English name (Jimmy). He began his career in advertising but after a harsh three-year battle with leukemia, In an interview with Paper Tigers (papertigers.org/gallery/Jimmy_Liao/: offline), he speaks of how this battle helped to shape his artistic vision

“Looking back at that time, I’d say the leukemia did have a huge effect on my creativity. My painting started to show a different sense: slight sadness, a feeling of alienation, and a sense of helplessness revealed through the joyful pictures. Many people told me that I had made a great improvement. I didn’t quite believe it. But now I have gradually come to realize that, in fact, I was able to release some real emotion in each book I drew at that time, and that therefore part of my personal style was established through that experience”

Warning 1. Spoilers EVERYWHERE
Warning 2. I am working with the English translation of the book, which has been simplified. The translator was told by her publisher to “take these Taiwanese books for adults and turn them into English books for children.” (papertigers.org/personalViews/archiveViews/SThomson.html: offline)

1. Introduction

In the story The Blue Stone (藍石), the stone of the title exists peacefully in a forest for thousands of years. One day, however, it is split into two and one part is removed from its devastated forest home, brought into the human world and repeatedly carved to suit the whim of its human owners. In different guises—as a statue, a pendant, a simple rock—it witnesses a series of losses: a lost child, the death of an old woman, the disappearance of a husband at sea, a loss of freedom and the end of a first love. With each loss, with each reminder of the pain of existence, it recalls and longs to return to its own home in the forest. And with each reminder, the stone breaks a little until nothing is left but dust. The dust is then carried by the wind back to the forest where it can again find peace.

blue-stone-breaks

If the story is to be interpreted literally as simply the imagined life of an object, is there much meaning to be found? What would the themes be—objects don’t care much about people, objects desire to return to their natural state, things happen to people?

If the journey of the stone represents, as implied in the full title of the story “The Blue Stone: A Journey Though Life”, something about life, it is a very bleak journey indeed. We are born, pulled unwillingly into the world, experience a series of losses, confront the pain of existence, crumble bit by bit and then die, returning to wherever it is that we came from.

Is this really all there is to life’s journey—we are born, we suffer, we crumble, we die? For the longest time, I couldn’t really come up with a good interpretation of the story. Surely there must be more to life than this. After a conversation with a couple of my students, it finally dawned on me. The story of the blue stone is a cautionary tale. It doesn’t represent how life IS or how it SHOULD BE; it shows how life CAN BE if we obsess over trying to reclaim something we lost, if we obsess over trying to go back to an ideal time—a time of innocence, a time of wholeness, a time when everything was OK. The story shows what can happen if we let ourselves get lost in regret, sadness, longing and heartache and fail to appreciate the beauty around us.

2. The Guises of the Blue Stone and its Failure

The stone goes through several different guises. Each time it breaks a little and the main part is reshaped into something else.

  • It is a stone in a forest. This is its original, whole state.
  • It becomes a statue of an elephant, a symbol of strength, but it is fragile. Simply longing for its home causes it to break.
  • It becomes a statue of a bird, a symbol of flight and freedom, yet weighed down with longing, it is too heavy to fly. It cannot even move.
  • It becomes a statue of a fish, a symbol of abundance, yet whenever it is near an abundance of love, care or joy, it sees only emptiness and absence and feels only loneliness and longing.
  • It becomes a sculpture of the moon, a symbol of dreams and ambition, yet it only looks back, longing to return to its lost home.
  • It becomes a toy cat, a symbol of companionship and care. It was carved into something to be loved and to bring comfort, yet it seems unable to care.
  • It becomes a brick, a symbol of creation and building, but it exists in a wall in a jail that imprisons dreams.
  • It becomes a ball twirling through the air, a symbol of innocent joy, but it remains oblivious to the joy it brings others.
  • It becomes a heart, a symbol of love, but it only feels its own longing and loneliness.

The different guises of the blue stone can represent its potential—to be strong, to be free, to enjoy the abundant beauty of the world, to dream and move forward, to care for and be cared for, to build and create, to bring joy, to love and be loved. There is purpose to its existence. However, throughout its life journey, the blue stone ignores its potential and instead always focuses on what it has lost—its tranquil forest home and its other half. It exists in a state of longing for an irrecoverable past. Its potential remains unfulfilled.

3. The Journey of Life

Let’s look at the different stages in the stone’s journey.

3.1 The Stone in the Forest

We can take the blue stone as representing one’s soul or spirit. At the beginning of the story, the blue stone “lies peacefully in the heart of the forest” for thousands of years. It is discovered by people who split it into two and one half is transported to civilization. In a sense, this represents a kind of birth. At birth, one is unknowingly pulled into the world from the womb and the physical connection to one’s mother—the umbilical cord—is severed. The splitting of the stone can also represent a loss of innocence. When innocent, one’s spirit is pure, whole and natural like the stone resting in the tranquil forest. Both events, birth and loss of innocence can be taken as starting points in life’s journey.

As soon as the stone begins its journey, however, “It longs for its other half. It wants to go home.”

But where is the forest home it is longing for? In the picture showing the stone being split and pulled apart, it is clear that the entire forest had been decimated. The stone is longing for something—a home—that no longer exists.

And what is the other half it is longing for? Every time the stone breaks, it appears that its consciousness remains with the largest part. There is no indication that the other parts are alive in any sense. The stone is not longing for a partner or for something like itself. It is simply longing to be whole again.

When we are born, we cannot return to the womb. And innocence, once lost, cannot be reclaimed. There is no going back. It is sensible to forever long for a time of innocence, for a time when everything was pure and natural, for a time when we were whole?

3.2 The Elephant

After being taken away, the stone is carved by a sculptor into a statue of an elephant that delights all who see it. The stone, however, seems oblivious to the joy it brings. One night, a lost child wanders by and asks the statue, “Can you tell me the way home?” The stone, confronted with this lost child—a symbol of lost innocence—starts to think of its own loss. It recalls the forest and longs to return home—to a place that no longer exists and to a time that has passed. “Its heart breaks a little” and it begins to crumble.

This is a recurring process in the book. The stone in transformed into something with a purpose, usually something that delights others, yet the stone itself remains oblivious to its purpose, ignores what it is capable of and focuses solely on its own sense of loss. Lost in melancholic regret and longing, the stone breaks apart piece by piece.

3.3 The Bird

The remains of the statue are used to create another sculpture—that of a bird. This statue resides in the garden of an old lady who every day “hobbles out to smell the flowers” and talk to the statue. The statue provides her with a kind of companionship, but this relationship does not seem to be acknowledged by the stone.

blue-stone-bird

Years pass and the old lady no longer comes to the garden, presumably because she has passed away.

When we lose our innocence, we tend to lose it little by little. One step in a loss of innocence is when we are first confronted by the death of someone we know—quite often an elderly person like a grandparent. We begin to understand that life is temporary. We begin to understand our own mortality. Nothing lasts forever.

3.4 The Fish

When the statue is found by the old woman’s grandson, it is already broken. The grandson carves the remains of the blue stone into a statue of a fish. Every day in this guise, the stone watches a young man sail out to see and return, welcomed by his sweetheart. One stormy day, the man does not return. He is lost at sea. His girlfriend waits in vain at the dock while waves “smash against the reef and the cold wind blows”. This can represent another step in the loss of innocence. It is one thing to come to understand that all living things will one day grow old and die; it is another thing to understand that fate is capricious. One doesn’t have to be old to die. Death can come at any time.

And quite often there is nothing we can do about it. Though the stone is shaped in the form of the fish, it can’t swim. There is nothing it could have done to save the young man.

blue-stone-sea

Confronted with the girls’ loss of her sweetheart—another reminder of the pain of existence—the stone recalls its forest home and longs to return.

However, once innocence is lost, there is no going back; once you understand the temporary nature of life and its innate fragility of life, you can never undo that knowledge.

blue-stone-sea2

3.5 The Moon

The remnants of the statue of the fish are found by divers who fashion it into something new–a golden statue of the moon. The moon can be considered  a symbol of dreams and aspirations that are beautiful and enchanting, but perhaps just of of reach. In its guise as a statue of the moon, the blue stone warms the hearts of those who see it. It brings joy into the world (much as it did when it was a statue of an elephant), but remains oblivious to the happiness it brings. It senses only its own loss. The stone continues yearning for its former forest home and breaks again.

3.6 The Cat

It is found by a group of orphans who ask a man to carve it into something new, something they can love. It is turned into a statue of a cat and is used to decorate an orphanage. Another stage in the loss of innocence is the understanding that the world is not always fair. Why should one child have a warm and loving family and another have no family at all?

The children and the blue stone together gaze out of the window “longing for a home they cannot see.” The children will likely never be reunited with the birth families, so the home they are longing for is somewhere else, anywhere they can belong. The home the children cannot see belongs to the future, and they will likely find their home one day. The home the blue stone cannot see, in contrast, is one from the past, one that is already gone.

On the pages where everyone is “longing for a home”, eight children are shown in the windows. In the next two pages, the statue of the cat is show alone in a large empty room staring out of the window at the candlelight glowing from each house. It appears that most of the children have moved on to be with new families, but the blue stone remains.

The orphanage will never be empty of children. There will be other children who can gain some small solace from the lovely statue of the cat. The blue stone has a meaningful purpose, but does not seem aware of this. It remains oblivious to the small comfort it can bring and. longing for its lost home, it breaks again.

3.7 The Brick in the Wall

It is then found by prisoners who carry rocks to build their own jail and is used as a brick in the wall of a prison cell. This prison can represent another stage in the loss of innocence: the realization that we are not totally free to do whatever we want. At first, we must meet the demands of our parents, teachers and friends. Later on we need to meet the demands of our employers and families. There are responsibilities and obligations which, if we aren’t careful, can imprison us. In the drawings of the prison, no jailers are depicted and no one is shown telling the prisoners to build the jail. They seem to be doing that of their own free will. To a certain extent, we also give up our own freedoms and dreams willingly. We may put aside “unrealistic” dreams and study hard to get into university to take a suitable programme to get a degree to get a good job to have a good life. In essence, we may end up building the prison that restrains our own dreams.

In the prison, every day a young woman weeps , perhaps due to frustration and regret at losing her freedom. Her grey cell can represent the daily grind of study and work that can consume our dreams. Every night, when she has a little time to herself, her dreams come alive a little and she sings, bringing the walls of her prison alive with color.

The stone, now used as one of the rocks in the prison wall, once again is reminded of loss—this time the loss of freedom, the loss of dreams—and longs for its own lost home. It breaks once again The young woman dreams of “slipping through the bars and flying free on the wind,” but she remains in the prison which she built herself. She does however toss the fragment of the blue stone out of the window as a gesture of her desire to be free.

3.8 The Juggling Ball

The stone is picked up by a clown in travelling circus. Now quite small, the stone is carved into a juggling ball. It is used in a performance that amuses and delights people. Once again, it is able to bring people joy, but once again the stone remains oblivious to the happiness it helps to bring and just feels its own sense of loss. It breaks in mid-air during one performance.

The circus can represent another stage in the loss of innocence—the realization that a certain amount of performance is required to get through life. We cannot always show our true face; we cannot always say what we really think. We learn to entertain and amuse. We learn to dress up and put on a show. We learn to jump through hoops to please people so that we can get what we want. We learn to juggle a dozen tasks at once. We learn to walk the tightrope between who we really are and what everyone wants us to be. We learn to perform. Life is not a stage; it is a circus ring.

When the stone breaks, the clown “carelessly.tosses the broken stone away.” The use of the word ‘carelessly’ is important. Why should one be careful with a broken object? The use of the word carelessly here reveals that although the stone is now but a tiny fragment, it’s essence still exists within that small piece and therefore that fragment is still of value. At his point, it is still not too late for the stone to change.

3.9 The Heart Pendant

The remains of the heart pendant are found by a dog, which brings it to a young boy, who carves and polishes the stone into a heart pendant which he gives to a girl–his first love. “The lonely blue stone lies over a heart warm with love,” but the love the stone witnesses only serves to remind it of its own loneliness, and once again it breaks a little. This is more obvious in the original Chinese passage, which could be literally translated as “The world becomes a beautiful flowery room, and the spring blossoms carpet the whole valley. Blue stone lies close to the young girl’s bosom, like a truly blissful heart. She has everything, but it has nothing.”

blue-stone-love

“And since first love rarely lasts, the girl’s heart breaks as well.” She throws the pendant away and it falls onto the railway tracks, where it is eventually ground into dust by the passing trains,

Falling in love and then losing that love are also stages in the loss of innocence. With first love, often come words such as “I’ll love you forever” or “We be together forever”, but we soon find that ‘forever’ doesn’t last nearly as long as we thought it would. Like life itself, love is also impermanent and fragile.

The girl, heartbroken and focusing on her own loss rather than fondly remembering the love that once existed, throws the pendant onto the railway tracks. The stone remains there and each passing train—like the dull, soul-grinding routine of each passing day—splits the small stone until only a few grains of sand are left

3.10 The Return Home

Now reduced to dust, the stone is carried by the wind back to the forest. The picture of the forest at the end of the story mirrors that at the beginning, but there is one key difference–a blue glow can be seen in one area of the forest at the beginning. At the end, there is just green forest. The energy emanated by the stone is gone. Its journey is over. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

4. Conclusion

By losing itself in longing, sadness and regret, the stone ignores its own value and its own potential. The stone itself has a positive effect on almost all who come into contact with it.

It delights visitors and audience members in its guises as an elephant, star and ball.
It provides companionship for the old lady and the children in the orphanage and is loved by them.
It shares in the love between the boy and the girl and between the young lady and the fisherman.

Throughout its journey, the blue stone is surrounded by love, care, warmth and joy, but the stone remains oblivious to all these and gets lost in its own loneliness and longing.

And what about the love, care, warmth and joy that the stone experienced or witnessed? All things come to an end, so none of these experiences can last forever, but that is not the point. The point is that they did exist and the blue stone was a part of them. Yet, the stone only seems to recognize the loss of these things because those losses resonate with its own sense of loss. It experienced so much of life, but the blue stone was unable to truly share in and treasure those wonderful moments of love, care and joy that were all around it. Consequently, it crumbles, its spirit diminished piece by piece until there is nothing left but dust.

It is an easy trap to fall into. When a relationship breaks apart, when someone we love leaves us, when we lose our innocence, isn’t it easier to feel the sharp pangs of heartbreak and loss than it is to treasure the wonderful moments that did exist for that short time? To dwell on those sad moments and to forever long for things long past is to miss the abundance of joy we can find on our own journey of life. The story of the blue stone, therefore, is the story of a life that is rich in experience but which is emotionally unfulfilled and spiritually empty. It is a story of lost potential.

Can we fulfill the potential of our own life? Can we truly appreciate all that life offers us—all the pain and joy, all the loss and love. And can we appreciate all that our life can give to others? Can we truly live?

~by longzijun

January 2015

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