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[OPINION] ‘The Breadwinner’ and the Power of Storytelling

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*The following article contains spoilers for The Breadwinner.*

The Elephant King, with his long, lethal tusks and searing eyes, comes to life through Parvana’s words.

The girl tells of his red, raging reign over a frightened village. She enchants with descriptions of the villain’s mighty stature and power.

But she also tells of the boy who set out on a quest to save the village from the monstrous beast—of his bravery, compassion, and determination as he seeks three mystical items to end the terror.

Such a story would be yet another fable lost to time if not for Parvana, and Parvana would be yet another face lost to tragedy if not for animated storytelling.

Tales like Parvana’s have the power to transgress borders and penetrate the hearts of all people, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. We as human beings hold stories so dear to our hearts because we ourselves are stories, and our narrative threads are woven together to create the grand tapestry that is life—that is history. The power of storytelling is a prevalent theme of The Breadwinner, as through this art, Parvana aids in lessening the pain of her and her family’s struggle. Her tale about the Elephant King serves as a distraction to her mother, older sister, and younger brother, especially, from their heartache over the imprisonment of Parvana’s father. Parvana’s father is actually the one who would tell his family stories, but upon his capture, Parvana fills the role, even though she had previously declared she was too old for stories.

Each day, the tale of the boy who set out to stop the Elephant King is a sliver of light in the darkness of Parvana’s and her family’s lives. She even goes on to share the story with her friend, who is also disguised as a boy, when they find themselves in a frightening situation. Regardless of the audience, Parvana’s tale, like many popular stories from Cinderella to Star Wars, provides an escape from the real world as it crumbles around her.

The Breadwinner itself, not just Parvana’s tale about the Elephant King, serves as a testament to the power of storytelling. In bringing to life Deborah Ellis’ novel, the film made the ever important message of women’s empowerment accessible to an even wider audience, for films are one of the the most wide-reaching forms of media. The Breadwinner is a pinnacle of modern storytelling, as it has the ability to spread topics of significance in an engaging way while staying true to subject matter. It is also brave for taking place in present day and remaining unflinching to the rawness of it all, for many animated movies don’t dare to enter the realm of reality.

Storytelling has the power to open the eyes and hearts of people across the globe, and The Breadwinner and Parvana’s tale are no exceptions to this standard. Both the film and the fable are a tribute to the impact of stories in the lives of all people—and in the world.

Do you believe in the power of storytelling?

Edited by: Kelly Conley

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About Hannah Ortega

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Hannah found Star Wars, Disney, and Marvel, and a fangirl force was awakened inside her. Hannah’s favorite animated movies are Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, and Aladdin. Movies such as these inspire her writing, which is her biggest passion. Hannah is an aspiring author and journalist, as well as a Christian, a horseback rider, and a cross country runner.