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Chihiro is expecting to meet Haku and he doesn't show up. Then he does in dragon form, but he's not looking well at all. He's being attacked by small paper darts and he's obviously badly injured.

Haku in Chihiro's dormitory

It turns out he's stolen a precious object (a seal) from Yubaba's twin sister Zeniba. We know it has extraordinarily powerful magic because Kamaji says of it "that's as powerful as it gets".

We're given good reason to believe that Yubaba made him do it because:

  • He's Yubaba's servant
  • He disappears from time to time, rumoured to be doing "dirty work"
  • Stealing names (it's a personal seal with the owner's name) is something Yubaba does
  • He's a good guy

But Haku might have his own motivation for stealing it:

  • He's under Yubaba's control and wants to get free
  • He is desperate: he's "tried everything" to remember his own name, which would enable him to get free
  • It's powerful: maybe he can use the magic to break Yubaba's control
  • Alternatively: maybe if he steals Zeniba's name in place of his own he can break Yubaba's spell.

Also:

  • Yubaba is harsh and cruel but not dishonourable: she's bound by the promise she made to give a job to anyone who asks and keeps the terms of the work contracts she signs. But stealing from her sister would be dishonourable.

So, did Yubaba make him do it or did he steal it for himself?

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  • Are you certain about the last point regarding Yubaba being honorable? It was my understanding that she was obligated, perhaps magically so, to offer anyone a job, and not that she did so out of a sense of honor. – Tashus Mar 5 '20 at 18:05
  • @Tashus: throughout, she does seem to stick to the letter of her word: she can't do anything arbitrarily to Chihiro after she signs the contract, and after agreeing to let Chihiro go if she passes her final test she does so. – Batperson Mar 5 '20 at 20:38
  • On the other hand, "dirty work" can mean dishonourable work. Maybe Yubaba only does high-handed wicked deeds and leaves the really down-low dirty stuff to Haku. – Batperson Mar 5 '20 at 20:49
  • @Tashus: from memory Yubaba was obligated to give anyone a job precisely because at some point she had vowed to do so. So it would be a sense of honour which compels her to follow through on that, even if she doesn't want to. Vows and honour are a bit magical in that sense, so it wouldn't be surprising if in the spirit world they manifest as real magic (e.g. Yubaba agrees to rip up Chihiro's contract if she passes the test, then when she does it spontaneously combusts). – Batperson Mar 5 '20 at 20:59

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