“Moana” and the Feminine Side of the Hero/Heroine

By Anne K. Kaler

Anne Kaler Head ShotA hero goes on an outward linear journey or quest to find his father and reconcile with his mother.

A heroine goes on an inward journey often by circling inward within a labyrinth to find her feminine power of creation.

Divided into two parts, the human brain uses the higher intellect, called the mind, to achieve a finished action. Some call it writing.

The recent Disney film Moana presents the tale of a young prepubescent girl, a Polynesian chief’s daughter who is chosen by the sea to rescue her island from slow starvation and death. Burdened by fearful traditions, no islander is allowed beyond the reef because none had ever returned from there. When Moana’s grandmother tells her the tale of the nature goddess whose heart was stolen by the demi-god Maui, the ocean calls to the girl to return her heart to the goddess.

This seems an impossible feat, given that tradition, family, and her own lack of sailing skills all seem to condemn the girl to failure. The feminine and funny ocean itself rescues her by providing her with an unwilling and ferocious male escort, the demi-god Maui, voiced by Dwayne Johnson. The duo battle piratical coconuts, search for Maui’s shapeshifting sea hook, battle a lava island, and eventually figure out how to restore the goddess’ heart to her. This scene is the loveliest of all with the green foliage-covered goddess who sprinkles islands for her people to populate. Peace is restored and Polynesian life continues to explore and populate new islands.

Now, what as this to do with writing? Let me touch on another heroine of a sort. The comic strip Baldo relates the American life of a Hispanic family with the widower father, his teenage son Baldo, young daughter Gracie, and their aunt Tia who runs the household. Gracie is a scholar in the making. She loves school, loves to read, dreams wildly, and puts her teenage brother to shame with her talents. In one recent strip, Gracie utters an explanation of how the brain/mind work and, in that explanation, I see an easily understood reason how to advise people to keep a journal for an easily accessed treasure box of memories. She says:

Keeping a journal makes you smarter. When you write, you transfer knowledge to the page, opening space in your brain for problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

To write anything that others will read means that the author must retrieve information from some source and rework it into new material. This takes time and effort to both retrieve and rework material and both parts of the brain/mind must combine efforts to put forth sensible work.

That means that both the hero aspect and the heroine aspect of our minds must work together. Imagine the aggressive and single-focused hero on his quest to seek out the truth by journeying outward and testing his skills against villainous odds. We expect the hero to encounter problems but we don’t expect the seemingly weaker feminine person to be as strong mentally as he is physically. That’s where the union of the two apparently opposite sides unite and conquer both their quests.

Imagine the nurturing and caring heroine using her strength of determination and dedication to guide the aggressiveness of the hero toward, not only his goal of reconciliation, but also toward satisfying his final acknowledgement that he too must share the nurturing side of the feminine. That final blend, when the heart is restored to the goddess, occurs when the heroine Moana recognizes that the symbol on the precious green heart is actually the chambered nautilis or labyrinth which is the design of the feminine search for inner knowledge of self which is the true “quest” of the feminine journeyer.

The mythic designs, some philosophers and critics believe, are so deep inside our human nature that we automatically recognize their symbolic values without effort.

On a personal note, that’s what happens when I see movies such as Moana. I do not consciously seek the images but later, when I am remembering the actions of the film or of the novel, I recall that I recognized something familiar. My brain retains images and my mind links them together into a familiar form. I can use those images and connections to write about them in a blog such as this.

So, be aware of your own process of writing. Incorporate both masculine and feminine strengths into your images. Let your mind wander (day dream if necessary) along your brain retrieval system to see if you recognize some hidden images or themes you haven’t thought of before. If you do this often enough and skillfully enough, you will become a better writer and a better self-editor.

A final bit of advice. Moana is a good film for anyone, any age.


One thought on ““Moana” and the Feminine Side of the Hero/Heroine

  1. Hi Ann, I just saw Moana last night and immediately reconized the labyrinth image. It certainly was shown often enough to create an imprint. Good! I also noticed many mythic themes in the movie: the angry goddess Pele, the goddess Demeter who scorched the earth when her daughter Persephone was abducted (like stealing her heart). The theme of an indigenous culture giving up “what they were – voyagers” out of fear, held a lesson for all of us as well. A voyager can be defined as one who goes on a journey, whether inwardly or outwardly. Courage in the face of fear may lead to severe challenges but also to rediscovering one’s essential self.


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