Princess Mononoke (synopsis - page 1)
Once this country was covered with deep forests, where the ancient gods presided.
Emishi's Hidden Village, Northeast Japan, during the Muromachi Era
One day, an Emishi village is endangered when a Tatari Gami (Curse God) is approaching it. A huge monster covered with black snakes/worms like feelers, the Tatari Gami scorches everything along its path.
Running on his loyal mount Yakkul, Ashitaka, the future leader of the village, tries to stop the monster. A village elder on the scene warns Ashitaka not to touch the Tatari Gami, or he will be cursed. Ashitaka tries to calm the Tatari Gami down, but it keeps advancing towards the village. When he sees three village girls being attacked by the Tatari Gami, he makes up his mind and shoots his arrow into its eye. Ashitaka's arm gets caught by the Tatari Gami's black feelers, but Ashitaka manages to shoot the monster through its forehead.
"You filthy humans. Know my pain and hatred."
With these last words, the Tatari Gami dies. The black snakes of the Tatari Gami disappear, and a huge boar appears underneath it. It then turns into a skeleton before Ashitaka's eyes.
The black feelers have left a mark/scar on Ashitaka's right arm. Hii-Sama, the village's old medium, tells him and the villagers that the mark is a curse from the Tatari Gami, and it will kill Ashitaka eventually.
Showing a huge lead bullet which she found in the Tatari Gami, she says that the pain and the poison from the bullet drove a noble Boar God insane and turned it into a Tatari Gami. According to her, the boar comes from the land of the West, something wrong is happening there. She says that if Ashitaka goes to the West and sees things through with his clear eyes, he might be able find a way to cure the curse.
Ashitaka cuts his hair, and leaves the village with Yakkul as his only companion. Although it is a taboo to see one leave the village, Kaya, one of the village girls, sees him off, and gives him her obsidian knife so that it will protect him.
Near a Mountain Village and a Town Market (Central Japan?)
Ashitaka continues his lonely journey. One day, he comes down from a mountain, and he sees a village attacked by a group of Samurais. When he sees a woman who is about to be slaughtered by a soldier, he shoots an arrow to stop him. In that instant, the mark on his right arm aches violently, as if the "snakes" are still on his arm. He shoots the arrow with such strength that it cutsthe arms of the soldier off. The incredible strength of his arrow seems to come from his right arm.
After the incident, Ashitaka realizes that the mark on his right arm has spread.
At a town market, Ashitaka meets a strange monk, Jiko Bou. He thanks Ashitaka for saving his life (he was part of the crowd that were chased by Samurais at the mountain village). When Ashitaka shows him the lead bullet from the Tatari Gami, Joko Bou tells him about the deep forest in the mountains of the West and the great god of the forest, Shishi Gami, who presides there.
The next morning, Ashitaka leaves for the West, alone again.
Mountains near Tatara Ba, Western Japan (Izumo?)
In the deep mountains of the West, Eboshi Gozen (Lady Eboshi) and her men have built their Tatara Ba (an iron forging encampment). They cut trees for charcoal, and dig the earth for iron sands. However, the mountains are protected by animal gods, most notably Moro the Wolf God, and Mononoke Hime, a human girl who was raised by Moro. They and Eboshi's camp are now engaged in a fierce battle for survival.
In the rain, Eboshi and her men are transporting food to Tatara Ba. A long train of cows carrying heavy burdens is slowly proceeding a narrow mountain road.
Suddenly, Moro, her two sons, and Mononoke Hime ambush the train and incur some damages, killing people and cows. However, Eboshi calmly leads her mercenaries, the Ishibiya Shuu (Fire Arms People), to fight back with their Ishibiya (hand cannons). A bullet which Eboshi fires hits Moro, and she falls into a deep ravine.
A River Near the Forest of Shishi Gami
Ashitaka is crossing a river in the bottom of the revine when he finds two wounded porters. Ashitaka rescues them, and attends to their wounds.
Ashitaka senses that someone else is nearby. Peering through the woods, he spots a huge white wolf and a girl on the other side of the river. The girl is attending to the wolf's wound by sucking out the blood. Ashitaka stands up, announces himself, and asks if they are the old gods from the forest where Shishi Gami resides. But the girl gives him back only a cold stare, and disappears into the forest.
In the Forest of Shishi Gami
Suddenly, Kouroku, one of the two men, screams. He was scared by a small white creature which suddenly appeared. Ashitaka tells him that it's just a Kodama, a tree spirit, and it won't do any harm. But Kouroku says that Kodamas call for Shishi Gami.
Ashitaka takes the two men back to Tatara Ba. Yakkul carries Kouroku, while Ashitaka carries the other man on his back. As they walk through the forest, many Kodamas appear in front of them as if they are leading them through the forest.
They take a rest at a pond in the forest. On the other side of the pond, Ashitaka sees a herd of deer. At the moment he sees a strange beast which looks like a buck with many antlers, his right arm starts shaking violently, causing great pain to Ashitaka. As the mysterious beast disappears into the forest, the pain recedes.
- The Emishi were "barbarians" who lived in the northeast region of Honshuu (the main island of Japan). Ashitaka is a descendant of the Emishi Royal family. The Emishi kept their independence from the Yamato regime (the Japanese Emperor's government) for a long time, but were finally defeated by the first Shogun at the end of the 8th century. Their culture did not survive, and very little is known about them today. By the Muromachi era, when "Mononoke Hime" takes place, they had long been assimilated into Japanese society. Miyazaki used his creative freedom and made a clan of Emishi survive in a village in the Northern land, where they hide from Yamatos.
- In Japan, cutting one's hair meant that the person is dead (or doesn't belong to this world any more). For the villagers, Ashitaka is a dead person. He no longer belongs to the community.
- The knife, called "Gyoku no Kodachi", is a symbol of one's eternal love for the girls of Ashitaka's village. Kaya calls Ashitaka "Anisama" (older brother), but according to Miyazaki, this is a honorific for an older male in the village. She is not his blood sister.