The story resumes in Tolas, the Torumekian capital. Kushana’s father, the Vai Emperor, sits listening to the daily report of failing crops, dying children, and decaying infrastructure. He knows that his kingdom is fading, much like most of the human world. He meets with his two remaining sons returning from the war front and is furious at the enormous casualties incurred during the campaign. Desiring now more than ever to secure the secrets residing in the Crypt of Shuwa, he exiles the two princes to the borderlands and heads off to mount a direct assault on the Dorok capital.
Back on the hill, the reawakened Nausicaä quickly befriends the wormhandlers. Unused to kindness from others, the band of devotees is overjoyed that their new deity cares for them as people. Upon being briefed on the state of affairs during her absence, Nausicaä flies off with Chikuku to save Charuka and stop the remaining Dorok survivors from retaliating against Torumekia. They arrive at the Dorok encampment to a grisly scene. Under Namulith’s new regime, members of old ruling council are being tortured, executed, and thrown into mass graves.
Nausicaä discovers Charuka still alive and chained to a rock. She frees him, then uses Chikuku’s telepathic powers to project a message of peace to the Dorok population, telling them that there is an alternative to the cycle of revenge and hatred that their new emperor is perpetuating. Seeing psychic visions of a purified future and trusting in Nausicaä as the white bird and the blue-clad one, the Dorok peasantry begins to revolt against Namulith’s guards.
The arrival of the God Warrior from Shuwa halts the fomenting rebellion, while Namulith unleashes his horde of heedra on Nausicaä. She flies away, calling for Mito and the gunship to destroy the ancient weapon from the Seven Days of Fire. Unfortunately, the God Warrior proves impervious to conventional weaponry; the attack only succeeds in destroying the protective cocoon that kept it in stasis. An old terror has been unleashed onto the world.
Chaos ensues. The Mani tribe, led by Asbel and Ketcha, helps Nausicaä fend off the heedra so she can go confront Namulith. Asbel tosses Nausicaä the God Warrior control stone from Pejitei. An unforgettable duel of words and swords ensues: Nausicaä pits her boundless compassion against Namulith and his piercing nihilism.
The Dorok Emperor is unlike any opponent Nausicaä has faced before. Namulith shows nothing but contempt for Nausicaä because he has heard her song and dance before. He reveals that Miralupa was once a compassionate philosopher king in his youth, desiring nothing but peace for the populace. But over the years, he grew to despise their stupidity and ignorance, eventually resorting to fear and might as forms of control. Namulith’s harsh truth stuns Nausicaä, and his host of heedra overwhelms her. Emerging from the shadows, Yupa attempts to intervene, but a greater power now protects Nausicaä. The newborn God Warrior awakens to imprint itself onto Nausicaä with the control stone, calling her “Mother.” It wipes out all the heedra and punches a hole clean through the bridge of the ship.
Gravely injured by the God Warrior’s assault, Namulith retreats below decks, only to discover that Kushana has commandeered his ship. He no longer cares. His body, artificially transformed like the heedra, has been irreparably damaged. In an incredible amount of pain, Namulith is tired of living. He says that no matter what he does, things always turn out as the Master of the Crypt says they will.
The Power and Limits of Empathy
Over the course of the saga, we have seen the power of Nausicaä’s empathy on others. In this volume, she quickly wins over the wormhandlers through gestures of kindness. She shows compassion for Miralupa and saves Charuka from certain death, guiding them to paths of redemption and inner peace. Through her role as the white bird and the blue-clad one, she spreads hope to a war-weary Dorok peasantry. She even seems to have sway over the God Warrior, accepting it as her child and her role as its mother. Nausicaä has grown into a formidable authority figure.
Tempered by her inner journey and tested by the world, Nausicaä’s courage and resolve arises from a understanding of who she is and what form of power is worth pursuing. Once again, I think a passage from The Farthest Shore is appropriate here (there’s a reason I keep quoting the book that I may get into later!) :
“You were born to power, Arren, as I was; power over men, over men’s souls; and what is that but power over life and death? You are young, you stand on the borders of possibility, on the shadowland, in the realm of dream, and you hear the voice saying Come. But I, who am old, who have done what I must do, who stand the daylight facing my own death, the end of all possibility, I know that there is only one power that is real and worth the having. And that is the power, not to take, but to accept.” (Ged, The Farthest Shore, p.181)
Like Ged, Nausicaä was born to power. Having learned of its responsibilities and having faced her own mortality, she accepts her role as a vital force in defense of nature and culture. This authenticity of soul, backed up by decisive action, enables her to connect with others from different walks of life.
Yet there are some even Nausicaä cannot reach, for powers rooted in empathy and compassion are only effective on those who regard one another as human beings. For individuals who lack the ability to relate to others – psychopaths, sociopaths, or people unable or unwilling to recognize that their actions have consequences on others – empathy cannot and will not work.
Nausicaä understands this. Towards Namulith, a completely selfish hedonist who shows no regard for anyone else, she resorts to taking up arms to limit his influence. Despite her compassion and constant desire for peace, Nausicaä is no pacifist. She understands that force is sometimes necessary to defend what she believes in. Yet she never revels in its use, and always considers it to be a regrettable exercise.
A Small but Necessary Diversion
There’s a brief sequence I didn’t include in the synopsis. It features a return to the Valley of the Wind where Tepa, a young windrider-in-training, spots a Dorok ship in distress at the borders. Having heard little from the war front, the people of the Valley debate whether they should render assistance. Many have reservations about helping refugees from another tribe who worship different gods, eat different foods, and have different customs. Yet when Tepa is asked of her opinion, she responds simply that the princess would already be on her way to help them. The matter is thus settled.
Following the path of their princess and chieftain, the people of the Valley send a messenger out to the crashed ship with an offer of bread in one hand and a sword in another. Even though the two tribes speak different tongues, the gesture is understood. In the end, both tribes choose to walk the path of peace.
This entire sequence is superfluous, having little to do with the main story arc. Yet Miyazaki’s brilliant sidebar serves to remind the reader that even in the midst of a brutal war and an apocalypse, happy exceptions of cooperation and friendship exist. Of course, the interlude is then contrasted with a statement that a new cycle of violence and destruction is about to start.
Good Intentions and The Road to Hell
“Go ahead and take them to the pure land, or wherever you damned well please… And while I’m at it, I’ll give you these rotten Dorok lands and the lousy peasants too. Crawl around with the whole bloody lot on your shoulders, and then see if you can save the world!” (Namulith, Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 300)
The confrontation between Nausicaä and Namulith is an absolute showstopper. Nausicaä is shaken by Namulith’s revelation that his brother Miralupa and his father were just like her: Kind, intelligent, compassionate souls with a sincere desire to save the world. But as they grew old, they realized they were unable to alter humanity’s fate. Frustration and resentment eventually turned them into tyrants who resorted to rule through might and fear. Namulith sees Nausicaä as just the latest to walk that road, a naïve soul who expects her good intentions are enough to lead to a different result. He cuts down her hope and idealism, calling her a pseudo-divine, wet-behind-the-ears little girl.
Having been observing world events in the shadows for over a century, Namulith harbours no hope that things will be any different. One can almost empathize with the twisted worldview he adopts after seeing his well-intentioned and intelligent father and brother become monsters. Why bother dreaming and shaping and thinking of others when humanity refuses to change? How does one overcome this sense of futility? Nausicaä’s response to these hard questions will come in the last volume as she heads to the Crypt of Shuwa.
Next Up: Nausicaä Volume 7 – The Garden
Le Guin, Ursula K (1972). The Farthest Shore. New York: Simon Pulse, 2001.
Miyazaki, Hayao. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind – Deluxe Edition 1 & 2. Translation by David Lewis and Toren Smith. Viz Media, LLC: San Fransisco, 2012.