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Old 06-03-2007, 08:53 PM   #1   [permalink]
John Faulkner
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Laputa - An argument for why the name fits the anime

According to an article linked to nausicaa.net (http://utd500.utdallas.edu/~hairston/laputaname.html), it is not known whether Miyazaki knew that laputa meant "the whore" in spanish when the name was chosen, and suggested that this knowledge might upset viewers. However, the author of this article states that he couldn't make sense of why Swift (author of Gulliver's Travels, in case you didn't know) used the name Laputa for the floating island in his book. However, I came across something which could explain why Laputa is actually very fitting for the anime.

PG106 of "Irrational Man - A study in existential philosophy" by William Barrett begins with a consideration of Laputa in Swift's novel. To quote (PG106):

"Laputa is an island that floats in the air .... When the shipwrecked Gulliver is rescued and brought up to this island, he finds the inhabitants the oddest-looking creatures he has ever seen. Their eyes do not focus on the person or object before them; instead one eye is turned upward as if in perpetual contemplation of the stars, and the other turned inward in empty and vacuous introversion."

PG107 describes how the Laputans are paradigms of the intellectual - so absorbed in abstract thought; so cerebral that a normal conversation is beyond them. The floating island is symbolic of the lofty ideals of such abstract thought which is cut off from hard reality (the earth). Thus, Barrett says:

"That vigorous coarseness of Swift's temperament, which expressed itself even in the name he chose for this place, la puta, suggests and may even have been inspired by Luther's equally vigorous and coarse exclamation, "The whore reason!""

Well OK, wiki-paedia zealots would find this Luther thing at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laputa (typically, a source is not given within the wiki entry), but the book goes into much greater detail.

And, so what?

This opens the way for the floating island in the anime, Laputa, to be seen as representing the pinnacle of the achievement of the human intellect, "rationality" as it were. Musca (that well known child-beating Old Testament reader) cleaves to the intellectual side: e.g. while Pazu and Sheeta grapple with fierce winds and really "feels" nature to reach Laputa, Musca sits there in a great big bloody airship dangling Sheeta's Levistone and letting the airship do all the hard work. Musca seeks Laputa for power and wants to rip apart the Earth (nature). Contrast this with Sheeta's song, recited to him:

"Put down roots in the Earth;
Let's live with the wind;
With seeds, make fat the winter;
With the birds, let's sing of spring."

... and soon afterwards:

"you can't live separated from the ground."

i.e. she alludes to the danger of losing our "roots" to Earth (Laputa is an uprooted giant tree, with a castle [architecture and patterned structure - mathematics and engineering - Greeks - reason] bolted on), that is, the danger of letting the intellect dictate every aspect of our lives, to the detriment of ignoring our "emotions" (to put it simply). That this song comes from the valley of Gondoa further indicates the contrast with the celestial Laputa. And perhaps to add to this dichotomy, Pazu comes from a mining village. Musca also says:

"Laputa flies because of a formerly impressive scientific power."

Again, this demonstrates Laputa as the culmination of some logical, rational process of sorts. Musca also blurts out:

"If you want to be a man, too, then listen to reason!!"

[p.s. if you're into psychoanalysis and mythology, "King" and "man" is often taken as symbolic for "reason"]

Sheeta's Grandma says that the spell of destruction for Laputa is realized with the words

"Light, be reborn."

If I was to go further in this train of thought, I would say that Light, in the Gnostic sense, is equated with that type of knowledge associated with revelation - that which is divorced from knowledge arrived at by logical thought. Thus, the spell is a call to arms - "Bring down this filthy [whore] intellect which threatens to overwhelm our whole being!" (or whatever). And while we're at it, the Levistone at the end is sacrificed by Sheeta - she rejects the power to soar above the Earth and lord over it - that is - she rejects the path which means a total desecration of our "emotions." In other words, she follows the path in which we are much more than the sum of rational thoughts. Right at the end of the film, Laputa now floats, but on its own and without the attachment to a "King" (like Musca). Man is no longer trapped inside the intellect (in Laputa); instead, the intellect is an independent entity, which still exists (Levistone in floating castle/tree), but does not dominate mankind (represented by Laputa being able to destroy it).

So after that (possibly badly structured) argument, Laputa is appropriate for the floating island in the anime as it shows the strong disgust which Sheeta, and perhaps Miyazaki through Sheeta [quote from Miyazaki press conference "The characters are born from repetition, from repeatedly thinking about them. I have their outline in my head. I become the character myself and as the character I visit the locations of the story many, many times. Only after that I start drawing the character, but again I do it many, many times, over and over. And I only finish just before the deadline."] has for that version of Laputa which can destroy the Earth (i.e. the one before the spell of destruction was enacted). The intellect that subsumes all is "the whore" which is the blight of human existence.

So contrary to the article author's insinuations, the spanish translation can fit in very well with the underlying message of the anime.

Last edited by John Faulkner; 06-03-2007 at 08:59 PM.
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Old 07-03-2007, 08:04 AM   #2   [permalink]
mrgazpacho
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Originally Posted by John Faulkner
According to an article linked to nausicaa.net (http://utd500.utdallas.edu/~hairston/laputaname.html) ... the author of this article states that he couldn't make sense of why Swift (author of Gulliver's Travels, in case you didn't know) used the name Laputa for the floating island in his book.
This was mentioned back in 1999 on the mailing list, and many people brought up the explicit satirical use of the name by Swift, especially with respect to the Anglo-Celtic politcis of his time.

Marc just never went back and edited the page, that's all.
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Old 07-03-2007, 11:55 AM   #3   [permalink]
John Faulkner
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Originally Posted by mrgazpacho
This was mentioned back in 1999 on the mailing list, and many people brought up the explicit satirical use of the name by Swift, especially with respect to the Anglo-Celtic politcis of his time.

Marc just never went back and edited the page, that's all.
Interesting - in which case, I take back the part where I said Marc didn't know why Swift used the name.

Did this mailing list go on to suggest why the name Laputa could fit in with the underlying message of the anime?
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Old 08-03-2007, 09:17 AM   #4   [permalink]
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No... although in retrospect it turned out to be a fortuitous connection.
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