Hols: Prince of the Sun

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Horus: Prince of the Sun
太陽の王子 ホルスの大冒険
Japanese theatrical poster
Directed by Isao Takahata
Produced by Hiroshi Okawa
Written by Kazuo Fukazawa
Music by Michio Mamiya
Cinematography Jiro Yoshimura
Distributed by Toei Company (Japan)
Release dates July 21, 1968 (1968-07-21)
Running time 82 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Horus: Prince of the Sun (太陽の王子 ホルスの大冒険 Taiyō no Ōji: Horusu no Daibōken?, lit. The Sun Prince - Hols' Great Adventure), also known as The Little Norse Prince or Little Norse Prince Valiant, is an anime film released in 1968. It was director Isao Takahata's feature film début. Hayao Miyazaki, Yasuo Ōtsuka, Yoichi Kotabe, and Yasuji Mori, among others, worked as animators in this movie, providing many designs, story ideas, and storyboards as well. It is available as an English-subtitled DVD (PAL and Region 2) under the title "The Little Norse Prince" from Optimum Releasing.


Set in Iron Age Scandinavia, the film opens with the young Hols (aka Horus[1]) (Hisako Ookata (Japanese)/Billie Lou Watt (English)) attempting to fight off a pack of "silver wolves," and accidentally waking up an ancient stone giant, named Mogue (or Rockoar in some editions of the film). Hols succeeds in pulling a "thorn" from the giant's shoulder, which transpires to be a rusty and ancient sword. The giant proclaims this to be the "Sword of the Sun," promising also that when the sword has been reforged, he will come to Hols, who will then be called "Prince of the Sun".

Hols' father, on his deathbed, reveals that the family came from a northern seaside village, which was devastated by the wicked sorcerer Grunwald, leaving them the only survivors. Before dying, Hols' father urges his son to return to the land of his birth and avenge the village.

On his journey, Hols and his companion, a bear named Coro, are soon confronted by Grunwald, who plunges the boy from a cliff when Hols refuses to serve him. Hols survives the fall and is rescued by the inhabitants of a nearby village. Hols soon becomes a heroic figure when he kills an enormous pike which had been threatening the lives and livelihoods of this fishing community.

The pike was a ploy of Grunwald's, who then sends the silver wolves to attack the village instead. In the battle that follows, Hols and Coro chase the wolves to a deserted village, where he meets a mysterious young girl named Hilda. Hols takes Hilda back to his village, where her beautiful singing is welcomed by the villagers, with the exception of the chief, who is increasingly resentful of Hols' popularity, and his deputy, Drago, who is a spy for Grunwald. Hilda, who is actually Grunwald's sister and under his evil influence, later collaborates with Drago and sends a swarm of rats to attack the village (in the original Japanese version, Grunwald wanted Hols to be his brother before he plunged Hols down the cliff; this ties in with Hols' first encounter with Hilda and her comment on how they both share the same fate that they're like twins). Drago frames Hols for his own failed attempt to assassinate the chief, and the villagers banish Hols.

Hols sets out in search of Grunwald, but is confronted by Hilda, and the owl who acts as messenger between Hilda and Grunwald. With her true identity revealed, Hilda reluctantly attack Hols, who falls into a chasm and becomes trapped in an enchanted wood, where he is haunted by visions of the villagers and his father. Grunwald then sends Hilda, against her wishes, to kill Hols, and makes his own attack on the village, together with his wolves and a giant ice mammoth.

Hols is able to escape from the enchanted forest when he realises that the sword must be reforged as a collective effort and that the villagers must unite in order to defeat Grunwald. After a brief fight with Hilda, who is thoroughly remorseful about her involvement in Grunwald's plan, Hols rejoins the villagers in their battle and uses the raging fires they ignited in their defence to reforge the sword. With the "Sword of the Sun" reforged, he is soon joined by the stone giant Mogue. Together they defeat and destroy Grunwald. Hilda, who had given her magical "Medal of Life" to aid Hols, finds that she is still alive without it, and rejoins Hols and the villagers.

Inspirations and themes[edit]

The story of Hols is based on the puppet play The Sun Above Chikisani (チキサニの太陽 Chikisani no Taiyō?), created by screenwriter Kazuo Fukazawa (ja), which in turn is a reinterpretation of an epic from Yukar, the oral tradition of the Ainu people, the indigenous people of the island of Hokkaido. The Japanese language title of the originally Ainu epic is オキクルミと悪魔の子 (Okikurumi to akuma no ko?). For Hols the setting was changed to Scandinavia because at the time it was frowned upon to set anime stories in Japan.[citation needed] The story was also inspired by the intention to address an adult audience, to reflect societal changes in contemporary Japan and to portray the socialist ideals in the portrayed village community, where the protagonists not only improve their own lot in a coming of age story but where their personal growth benefits society at large as well. The film shows a place where the people are able to shake off oppressive forces and derive pleasure from their communal efforts such as subsistence fishing.[2][3][4][5]


Production on Hols started in 1965 but, due to the perfectionism of the creators, lasted for 3 years at a time when other feature length animated films at Toei were made in approximately 8 months and focus at the company was shifting towards production of television animation. Director Takahata and animation director Ōtsuka approached the process in an egalitarian manner and innovatively invited input from the entire team for story board and planning meetings, a method which opened the door for Miyazaki to contribute significantly to the development of the story and animation.[6][7]


As quoted in the The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture by Mark Schilling, a reviewer for Hakubunkan's monthly magazine Taiyō (太陽?, lit. Sun) commented, in 1968, "In one corner of the world there now exists a commercial animation that has surpassed Disney and started to make rapid advances", after seeing Hols and The Jungle Book.[8]

Helen McCarthy, in her book Hayao Miyazaki; Master of Japanese Animation, notes that the film had only a brief theatrical release despite its critical and popular success. McCarthy notes that Mori's "clean and simple character design" for Hols "allowed for considerable emotional depth and flexibility" and she observed that this style remained a powerful influence on the works of Takahata and Miyazaki throughout their animation careers.[6]

In 2001, the Japanese magazine Animage elected Hols: Prince of the Sun the third best anime production of all time.[9]

In his Anime Explosion, Patrick Drazen mentions the film as a pivotal work in the evolution of animation and writes that the 10 day theatrical showing was either a sign that Toei studio executives were unable to recognise quality or a ploy to get back at Union organizers like Miyazaki and Takahata, who didn't direct for the company again. Drazen notes that the ending scenes in the film were thinly disguised rallying cries for the union and student movements of the time, by whom the film was well received. Drazen is among the analysts who makes note of the conflicted heroine Hilda, and writes that the character comes across as complex, working sometimes for good and sometimes for evil, and can be seen as the first in a long line of multidimensional heroines in the oeuvre of Takahata and Miyazaki.[7]

The influence on Japanese cel animation of Ōtsuka's approach for Hols has been singled out. Thomas LaMarre writes, in The Anime Machine, that understanding Ōtsuka's style is especially important for an understanding of Miyazaki's work. The sequence in which Hols fights the giant fish in particular has been referenced as a pivotal moment in the evolution of the medium and as a scene which had a profound impact on the animation works later produced at Studio Ghibli.[10][11]

Justin Sevakis, writing a retrospective review for Anime Network, in March 2014, noted that the film was a financial flop but almost immediately gained a following among young people. Sevakis states that despite its flaws Hols is one of the few animated stories from the period that can still be recommended to an adult audience.[3]


  1. ^ Notes upon the likely origin of the name on Nausicaa.net
  2. ^ Kanō, Seiji (July 16, 1995). Takeuchi, Masatoshi, ed. "宮崎駿・高畑勲作品解説" [Commentary on the works of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata]. Kinema Junpo (in Japanese) (Tokyo: Kinema Junpo) (1166): 111. Retrieved March 8, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Sevakis, Justin (March 4, 2014). "Pile of Shame - Adventures of Hols, Prince of the Sun". Anime News Network. Retrieved March 8, 2014. 
  4. ^ Grăjdian, Maria (June 8, 2010). Takahata Isao (in German). Peter Lang International Academic Publishers. pp. 8, 40ff. ISBN 9783631604076. Retrieved March 8, 2014. 
  5. ^ Penney, Matthew (August 5, 2013). "Miyazaki Hayao’s Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises)". The Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 11 (30 No. 2). Retrieved March 8, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b McCarthy, Helen (1999). Hayao Miyazaki Master of Japanese Animation (2002 ed.). Berkeley, Ca: Stone Bridge Press. pp. 33, 38, 231. ISBN 1880656418. Retrieved March 8, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Drazen, Patrick (January 1, 2002). Anime Explosion. Berkeley: Stonebridge Press. pp. 254ff. ISBN 9781611720136. Retrieved March 8, 2014. 
  8. ^ Schilling, Mark (May 1, 1997). The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. New York/Tokyo: Weatherhill. p. 140. ISBN 9780834803800. Retrieved March 8, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Animage Top-100 Anime Listing". Anime News Network. January 15, 2011. Retrieved March 10, 2013. 
  10. ^ LaMarre, Thomas (October 30, 2009). The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pp. 56ff. ISBN 9780816651559. Retrieved March 8, 2014. 
  11. ^ 「風の谷ナウシカ」(特典の内容) ジブリはこうして生まれた [Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Extras: The Birth Story Of Studio Ghibli] (DVD Featurette (Narrated, dramatised re-enactments)) (in Japanese). Tokyo: Buena Vista Home Entertainment Japan. November 19, 2003. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 

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