What is Totoro?

He has been called many things from “a giant furry thing” to “a rabbit-like spirit”. Basically, he is a spirit of the forest. Totoro is not a traditional Japanese character: he came completely from Miyazaki’s imagination.

The name “Totoro” comes from Mei mispronouncing (she has a tendency to do so, though it wasn’t clear in the dub) the word “tororu”, which is the Japanese word for “troll”. When Satsuki asks her “Totoro? You mean, the Troll in our book?” she is referring to their book “Three Mountain Goats” (The Three Billy Goats Gruff). In the closing credits you can see their mother reading the book to them. Although it’s hard to see it on the tape, in the picture book for the movie you can see the picture on the cover shows a goat running over a bridge while a Totoro-like troll looks up from underneath the bridge.

 What type of creature is a Totoro?

He does obviously looks like a mixture of several animals: tanukis (the Japanese version of raccoons), cats (the pointed ears and the facial expressions), and owls (the chevron markings on their chests and the “ooo”-ing sound they make with their ocarinas at night). Others have also said that Totoro are mythical Japanese critters. However, there are no strong proof that Totoros are either a  specific type of animal or critters. They are just fictional creatures created by Hayao Miyazaki.

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Are the little ones also Totoros?

There are three Totoros in the movie. They are:

  • Big Totoro (gray) Oh-Totoro
  • Medium Totoro (blue) Chuu-Totoro
  • Little Totoro (white) Chibi-Totoro

“Oh” means “large” in Japanese, but Oh-Totoro has been translated as “King Totoro” in the U.S. “Chuu” and “Chibi” mean “medium” and “small”, respectively. However, when people say “Totoro”, they are usually referring to Oh-Totoro.

 

Are there more Totoros? Maybe?

Some watercolor pictures that Miyazaki painted show a whole Catbus-load of Totoros showing up at the bus stop where Mei and Satsuki waited for their father to arrive.

What is a Catbus?

catbus

Literally, a bus which looks like a cat (or a cat who works as a bus).  In Japan, cats are believed to have magical shape-changing powers if they get old enough. They are called “Bake Neko” (which is also Moon’s nickname in “Mimi”). The Catbus is a Bake Neko who saw a bus, became

intrigued by it, and changed itself into a bus. He’s Miyazaki’s original design, but some wonder if he was inspired by the Cheshire Cat in “Alice in Wonderland”. Mei following chibi-Totoro and falling into a hole in a tree is also reminiscent of “Alice”.

 

How can a cat be a bus?

There’s a Japanese legend that says that when cats reach a certain old age, they can shape-shift into something else. These shape-shifting cats are called “Baka Neko”. This cat apparently decided to become a bus. (As a side note, my favorite song on the Japanese soundtrack I have is “Baka Neko, Neko Basu” (“Crazy Cat, Cat Bus”).

What does the destination sign on the Catbus say?

In the scene where Satsuki and Mei saw the Catbus at the bus stop for the first time, it said “Tsukamori”. Tsukamori is the name of the forest where Totoro lives. In the scene where Satsuki tried to find Mei, Catbus came to her with “Tsukamori” displayed, changed it between several names such as “Nagasawa” or “Ushinuma”, then to “Mei”. When they found Mei, it changed to “Shichikokuyama Byouin (Shichikokuyama Hospital)”. Interestingly, the kanji for “in” was upside down. It seems that the Catbus wasn’t good at kanji.

What are the black critters in the house?

soot

The black pom-poms critters are dust- or soot-sprites. Grandmother tells the girls that they are “Susuwatari” (“Traveling Soot”). They are what settle in unused places. (You can see another incarnation of the dust-sprites in Spirited Away.)

Are there any sequels to the movie?

No, there are no sequels to the movie nor are there any announced plans to continue the story. In fact, Miyazaki has mentioned in interviews that he has no intention to release anything else related to Tonari no Totoro.

However, there is a short movie about Mei and the Baby Catbus.

Is Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro) available on DVD/VHS?

Most stores that sell movies should have copies. If you would like a copy, contact us and we can help you to find one!

 

 

Continue to READ –  Totoro FAQ Part 2 – HERE

(Information Source: totoro.org , totoro society, over the internet)


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