Episode three of Ronja the Robber’s Daughter, titled The Forest, the Stars and the Dwarfs, reveals that our roving heroine is ten-years-old. She is thriving in her new woodsy environs, befriending tiny chipmunks as woodpeckers and geese complement the soundtrack. Ronja is a literal treehugger, mistress of all she surveys, revelling in the sheer beauty that surrounds her. She shimmies up trees, tosses pine cones into a lotus-filled lake, and shouts happily into the abyss before settling down for a solo picnic. Miyazake masterfully pulls us into the calming milieu, with a lullaby of breezes, cicadas, and bees lulling Ronja to sleep, and almost taking me down with her.
The unexpected nap leads to Ronja blowing her curfew and, back at the fort, Mattis paces nervously while normally unflappable Lovis looks pensive. Meanwhile, Ronja wakes up, realizes that she’s slept past sundown and bolts for home. Noticing that she has forgotten her treat satchel, she doubles back where she’s momentarily gobsmacked by the expanse of stars above her, murmuring “there’s more to this world than I thought…so much more.”
She’s quickly shaken from her reverie by a band of chirping, percussive lumps with glowing red eyes. They’re hissing and sighing barely discernible words and, I won’t lie, they’re pretty adorable. Vaguely birdlike with chunky, owlish bodies set on thin, three-pronged feet and long, penguin-esque wings, they amble towards her shaking bones and sticks, tormenting her with a constant beat.
Ronja goes fetal, curling to the ground, cowering in fear. Before she could say “I live here now,” a blood-curdling scream cuts through the din. Mattis shouts “BE GONE GREY DWARVES,” swinging a lit torch, forcing the fuzzy little bullies to scatter.
Post-scrum, Mattis tells a shaken Ronja that the dwarves sense and feed on fear. Rather than ban Ronja from further forest jaunts, he encourages her to find the edges of her fear and overcome them, radical exposure therapy from a loving, rough-and-tumble father. The episode closes with a renewed Ronja leaping over river rocks, steeling herself with mantras of bravery.