After signing on to work at the bathhouse, Yubaba gives Chihiro a particularly unpleasant job to do, bathing a smelly, sludge-oozing guest who turns out to be the spirit of a river polluted by garbage.

Chihiro and the Stink Spirit

However, Chihiro is insightful enough to realise what the problem is and with the help of the rest of the staff she frees him from the pollution. In return, the river spirit gives her some medicine described as an "emetic dumpling". Its effect is to make anyone who eats it violently sick. Although she is later able to use the medicine to help No-Face and Haku, it seems an unusual gift.

Is there an in-universe explanation why the river spirit gave her the emetic dumpling, instead of a more ordinary reward? Chihiro seemed to think (with some justification) that feeding it to her parents might turn them back into humans, but it seems unlikely (apart from telepathy) that the river spirit would be able to know about her parents predicament.

  • 2
    Everyone who eats it is cured of their ills or improved as people. Think of it as a panacea.
    – Valorum
    Feb 22, 2020 at 11:42
  • 3
    It seems symbolic of how Chihiro helped the spirit. The dumpling performed the same function as Chihiro. In a wider sense true healing comes from purging all of the junk in our lives.
    – TGnat
    Feb 22, 2020 at 14:29
  • @TGnat: that makes sense. The dumpling is a reciprocation of what Chihiro did for the river spirit. You could make that an answer if you like. If so, it would have to be represent a very positive appraisal of Chihiro's character that she was able to appreciate a gift like that. The average bathhouse worker would expect a small tip, as the others obviously did (however they apparently weren't forgotten either).
    – Batperson
    Feb 22, 2020 at 19:21
  • @Valorum: It works the same way on everybody. It seems to be a specific medicine for a specific category of ailments (ingesting something harmful).
    – Batperson
    Feb 22, 2020 at 19:24


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