The Whale Rider film focuses on a modern fairly-tale which aimes at celebrating people’s bonds with their natural environment and especially with the ocean and quasi-mythic creatures inhabiting the ocean (the whales). The “Whale Rider” film is based on the Maori legend, the story told in the film transcends time and space, and it stirs up concerns about relationship of humanity with the natural world and the role of women in the spiritual tradition shown through the charackted of Pai, the main character of the film (Caro).
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From the beginning, the audience gets involved in the Pai’s world, her childlike sphere, active intuition, and the perpetual wisdom that seems to correspond to the call of ancient whales that ultimately draws Pai to realize her destiny. Pai’s mother and her brother died, and her father belonging to the Maori tribe leader named her after Paikea, a legendary ancestor who first got to the New Zealand while riding a whale (Caro). This fact shows that the bond that humans have with the animals is expressed through astounding benefits that provide humans with protection, companionship, and guidance (Waldau and Patton 8). Beyond this assistance that whales gave to the Maori ancestors, animals provide humanity with a world of meaning and wonder, as well as, the beauty of imagination as evidenced in the film.
The help that wales provide to the humanity is also showen in the film when the animals were called up by Pai to assist her grandfather and her Moari tribe in the time of the need. The “Whole Rider” film portrays a beautiful scene, which depicts a wise woman adjacent to a girl seated gazing at the ocean lit by the full moon radiance. She recalls the spirituality that reflects on the unique bond between women and the ocean, and its mythic creatures. (Caro).
Waldau and Patton argue that animals can share significant emotional intimacy with individuals, which cannot come from any other source (8). They maintain that animals can help people both physically and spiritually which is what they unable to do for themselves. Such assistance includes valuable gifts they provide to humanity via their presence and their inherent responsiveness to the individuals’ inner needs (Waldau and Patton 8). This form of significance of the whales in the film appears through the transformation of Pai into a whale rider. Pai’s body unites with the whales’, an ancient sacred creature of her tribe. Further, Pai’s soul communicates with the whales’ awareness. In addition, Pai after having awaken a dying whale, rides on its back and guides whales herd back into the deep ocean (Caro). She gave her destiny to the ocean as she was not afraid of meeting her death in its endless depth.
The whales capture the Maori spiritual imagination by symbolizing the fusion of spirit and nature. For example, the film shows that the stringency of a male-dominated tradition is responsible for severing the tribe apart. This causes harm to the whales that Pako is incapable of saving. The entire society moans these revered creatures, which formed the Moari tribe mythic lifeline, and no individual dares to envision that will transpire in the future. In the “Whale Rider” film, the ocean is depicted as an animated being which is showed through the rich colors of its waters that reflect the sunlight and the night sky. This acts as a mediating body, which connects individuals with their spiritual genesis. Both the ocean and whale appear to symbolize the fusion of spirit and nature. Therefore, in the “Whale Rider” film when a herd of whales gets washed to the ocean shore their fate is symbolically connected with the tribe’s survival.
This treatment of whales in the Whale Rider film is in tandem with the ideas projected by editors and Thomas Berry about religious tradition of treating others ethically, both humans and non-humans (Waldau and Patton 14). Further, it is apparent that seamless interaction between whales and humans in the film supports the rationale of “The world as a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects” (Waldau and Patton 14). However, to some extent, the Moari communities objectified whales by using them for sailing as it is apparent through Pai grandfather using whale to sail up to New Zealand. Waldau and Patton argue that in the book it is evident that humans have objectified animals in some ethics, religion, and science (13). For example, the film shows that the harshness of a male-dominated institution is accountable for severing the tribe apart. This leads to the objectification of the whales, eventually causing destruction to the whales. The entire society morns these revered creatures, and no individual dares to envision that will happen in the future.
However, people possess ethical caring capacity to take care for other spicies by taking action, which is shown through careful consideration of the animals in religious doctrines, such as caring for other living things. Further, they argue that whatever religion says about non-human animals, most of the ancient and enduring social, cultural, and the transcendental systems drive most of all human actions. The main character entrusts her destiny to the ocean and is guided by the whales. It is shown in the way she communicates with them and rides one of them leading the whole herd to the deep waters of the ocean. Pai communicates with the whales and she awakens a dying whale, rides on its back. Both, the ocean and the mythic creatures respond to her and bring her back to the ocean shore (Paco). Religion is the main source of the answers regarding why all living things including animals matter to individuals and entire communities.
In sum, it is apparent that whales in “The Whale Rider” film reflect many importances of the animals to humans. First, it is evident that the relationship that humans developed with the animals are expressed through amazing benefit whales provide humans with, such as protection, companionship, and guidance. The ocean and whale appear to denote the union of spirit and nature. Therefore, in the “Whale Rider” film when a herd of whales gets washed to the ocean their fate is symbolically connected with the tribe’s survival. Lastly, humans possess a caring capacity through their careful consideration of the animals through religious doctrines.
Caro, Niki, dir. Whale Rider. South Pacific Pictures Ltd, 2002. Film.
Waldau, Paul and Kimberly Patton A communion of subjects: Animals in Religion, science, and ethics. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. Print.