Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Friday, September 13, 2013

Why Is the Goat Important (Spoilers)

Okay so I said I could write 10 pages on the symbolism of the stuffed toy goat in Last Exile. I don't have that much time but here is why it's important. To use a more literary metaphor the goat is similar to Holden's cap in Catcher in the Rhy.

Do to conservation of narrative and Chekov's gun any element in a story that's get as much time as that goat is there for a reason. My guess is that the goat is symbolic, but I'm not talking about that yet. I'm just say that the animators and writers wanted to draw the audience's attention to that goat. Even if we the audience don't have an answer it causes us to pose the question, "Why did they choose to spend the time and narritive energy to focus on this thing."

Relationship to Lavie
Okay back story time. The show has two protagonists. Claus and Lavie. Lavie is the most reluctant of the two to accept the call brought forth by Al.

Literature lesson: The call, i.e. the call to adventure is part of the hero's journey, the monomyth thinggy that most stories windup following even before we realized it existed. It is exactly what it sounds like, the point in the story where the heroes are driven from their normal lives to ...adventure. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Lavie realizes something it will take Claus most of the series to understand. War is not a child's plaything. But if they didn't in the end decide to go there would be no show.

All of this makes Lavie a little cold towards Al in the beginning. Al is unintentionally dragging the two off to war. As stated, Lavie gets the implications of that. Part of what makes her eventually accept the call is her growing relationship with Al. They spend time together and Lavie wants to protect her.

Al is the character who most associated with the goat but it did have a previous owner. Lavie. Every now and again there will be a shot of photo of a very young Lavie clutching the goat much the same way Al does. Hinting that despite herself Lavie sees a younger version of herself in Al, especially when she voluntarily let's Al have this stuffed animal which is still very dear to her.

A Proxy For Al and to a Lesser Extent Lavie
The goat is almost always seen with either Lavie or Al and so we the audience associate it with them. Whenever we see the goat we see those two and so when we see the goat alone it's a way to make us think about them without being obvious about it.

Also the goat can imply narrative information to the audience. For instance when it's on the floor on it's side it typically means that Lavie or Al are in turmoil or danger. Whenever sombody says they will make sure Al get's her goat back they aren' talking about the goat, they's saying they want to make sure Al lives through the events of the show.

For instance after getting Al to where they were contracted to get her Claus uses the pretext of returning the goat to insure they haven't handed her over to people who do not care about her well being.  The metephor of returning the goat is used repeatedly.

Fear, Security, and Emotional Attachment
These are big themes that run through the entire show. And the goat is one tool for communicating them. There are others for instance Mulin's survival medals, (They're basically the goat but more manly) and I'll get to Dio's whole deal in a minute, but I'm focusing on the goat.

This is an idea that needs more than a word so here it is. We can become emotionally attached to something that scares the hell out of us and become dependent on it.

You know what screw it let's talk about Mullin. Mullin is a soldier that the show makes clear has PTSD. His job basically amounts to Napoleonic infantryman aka the meat in the grinder. Each battle has a 30% survival rate for guys like him and he's lived though 19 of them. The math says he only has a 1.5 percent chance of existing in the state of life by this point. Through a lucky break he becomes an airship mechanic. Still dangerous but at least he's no longer expected to die.  "The Silvana is the safest place in the world." Guess what? Towards the end of the show he transfers back to the front because he became emotionally attached to being a musketeer. (Yeah, people argue the sanity of that decision but it fits with the rest of the series.)

That was just one example. One of the first times we chronologically see the goat is in a flash back with Lavie clutching it as she closes her eyes while flying in a plane with her father. Her chosen profession years later is as a courier navigator.

What does the goat have to do with this theme. Before the theme even becomes fully apparent we get a scene with just Al and the goat. And the goat freaks Al out at first. She touches it with a toe, it makes a noise and she hoists it under the blankets. Later through the series though she is hardly seen without it. Even though it scared her at first it later gives her comfort.

It's Mullin's medals on a smaller scale.

Dio and Foreshadowing
Keep everything I just said in your head. Dio is a very interesting character. He starts the show as a villian literally trying to kill the protagonist. But he spends most of his time as one of their party members. Hell you want to know the big thing the antagonist does to up the stakes in the third act. She lobotomizes him. And everybody realizes that even though they were somewhat nervous around the guy they became his friends. They became emotionally attached to a guy who scared them. Moreover Al's relationship in particular with him parallels her relationship with the goat. She originally doesn't like him. "You call Claus by a funny name"(Immelmann, a reference to his flight prowess.)And the scene where they first meet is kind of creepy as it is meant to be but they become friends. Later, Dio kind of knows the lobotomy coming and well.

Check out the goat there.

The Young Alex Rowe
When thinking about this I was under the impression that Lavie's dad gave her the goat but I re-watched the episode and realized something else. By this point in the show Lavie had faded in importance so the first time I watched the episode I was watching from Claus' perspective and it caused me to miss something. Alex Rowe the apathetic, single minded, kind of crazy captain of The Silvana gave Lavie the doll before he became the apathetic, singled minded, kind of crazy captain of The Silvana. His last moment in life is to move his tied up, tortured arm just enough to crush the throat of his enemy, by the way she's the one who lobotomized Dio.  That flashback episode is the only time we see Alex before the event that turns into the master of the "Kill 'em all! Silvana". It isn't until some time later that it is even revealed that that man was a younger Alex. His treatment of young Lavie in giving her the goat contrasts with his apathy for Al.

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