Here are 5 Hidden Meanings you missed in The Boy and The Heron

Here are 5 Hidden Meanings you missed in The Boy and The Heron

The Boy and The Heron is a tale that transcends time, weaving together the innocence of childhood and the enchantment of the unknown. Set against the backdrop of 1943 during the Pacific War, this story takes us on a remarkable journey through the eyes of 12-year-old Mahito Maki. At first glance, it may seem like a simple narrative, but within its layers lies a tapestry of hidden meanings that deserve exploration.

Hidden Meanings you missed in The Boy and The Heron by Studio Ghibli

1) The Heron as a messenger of death

A still from The Boy and the Heron (Image via Studio Ghibli)

At the heart of the story lies the enigmatic heron, a bird that transcends the boundaries of the ordinary. In the context of the film, the heron can be seen as a messenger of death, a silent observer of human existence. Its initial presence, while subtle, hints at the looming specter of mortality that hovers over the protagonist’s life.

Mahito’s world is shattered when he loses his mother, Hisako, in a tragic fire. This loss symbolizes the destruction of innocence during times of conflict. The boy’s inability to save his mother and the swift remarriage of his father to his late mother’s sister compound his emotional turmoil. It is in this backdrop of suffering that the heron’s role begins to evolve.

Heron’s guidance

The mysterious grey heron that pesters Mahito serves as a mystical guide, much like the heralds of ancient myths. It taunts him, urging him to go on a quest to save his mother, who the heron claims is alive. The heron’s transformation into a speaking entity and its connection to Mahito’s great-uncle’s tower signify the blurring of boundaries between reality and the supernatural, reminding us that extraordinary events can happen in the most unexpected places.

2) The Fisherwoman as a maternal figure

A still from The Boy and the Heron
A still from The Boy and the Heron (Image via Studio Ghibli)

Amidst the boy’s journey, he encounters the mysterious fisherwoman, a character with a nurturing and maternal presence. She can be seen as a representation of a pre-mother figure, caring for souls yet to be born or those caught in the liminal space between life and death. Her role in the film underscores the theme of rebirth and renewal.

3) The Pelicans and the unborn

The pelicans in the story serve as messengers of death for the unborn. Their presence invokes themes related to abortion and miscarriage, addressing the delicate subject of life’s fragility and the choices that shape our existence. This aspect of the film is a poignant reminder of the complexities surrounding the beginning of life.

4) Fire girl

A still from The Boy and the Heron
A still from The Boy and the Heron (Image via Studio Ghibli)

Fire girl emerges as a symbol of the innate human will to live. She embodies the fiery spirit that urges us to persevere, even in the face of darkness and despair. Her unconventional act of rescuing the new mother from depression challenges the established norms and brings hope to a world plagued by uncertainty.

5) The Parakeets and violence

In a world ravaged by war, the parakeets symbolize the violence that plagues humanity. Their aggression and menacing behaviour mirror the brutality of conflict between humans. The parakeets’ dominance in the film signifies the power that violence can hold in times of turmoil.

The great uncle’s the balance of life

A still from The Boy and the Heron anime
A still from The Boy and the Heron anime (Image via Studio Ghibli)

The great uncle and his obsession with balancing blocks represent the difficult task of maintaining equilibrium in life. The 13 blocks he attempts to balance may signify the various facets of human existence, including violence, life, money, and family. The parakeet boss’s ill-fated attempt to seize control over this balance mirrors the catastrophic consequences of seeking power through violence.

The great-uncle presents him with a choice – to wield a powerful stone and maintain balance in the world. This choice symbolizes the responsibility we all bear in maintaining equilibrium in our lives. Mahito’s decision not to take on this burden, acknowledging his own inner turmoil due to his head wound, highlights the entanglement of choice and the importance of self-awareness in our decisions.


“The Boy and The Heron” is a cinematic masterpiece that invites viewers to explore the complexities of life, death, and rebirth. Its hidden meanings, woven into the fabric of its narrative, provide a thought-provoking journey through the human experience. As the film concludes with the boy’s acceptance of his new family and the world’s upheaval, it leaves us with a profound message by Hayao Miyazaki about the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring quest for balance in a chaotic world.

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