This bonus post is a follow-up to the Over the Garden Wall Symbolism post. Because it is a follow-up, this entry will not delve as deeply into explaining what symbolism is. If you missed the symbolism post and want to know more about this literary device, check it out here!
While discussing Over the Garden Wall, we took a look at a few specialized symbols from the show. I know that symbolism can take a few tries to understand, so I wrote this as a follow-up to explore a specialized symbol in another work. Let’s take a look at Rise of the Guardians (again, beware of spoilers).
I would argue that Jack’s staff could symbolize the power of belief in one’s self. The beginning of the film shows Jack discovering the staff in the woods. It lays inert, nothing more than a stick existing in its natural environment. Until he picks it up, that is. Once in his hands, the stick becomes the medium for Jack’s newfound frost powers. At this point in the movie, he has no reason not to believe in himself, and the powers come easily.
This staff serves him faithfully, but he loses it momentarily in the first real battle with Pitch. Jack flies after the villain, but is struck by a Nightmare and loses his grip on the staff. Separated, he and the staff plunge earthward. He falls until Bunny swoops in to rescue him, showing that even begrudging allies can help a person pick their confidence back up. The loss of Jack’s staff and subsequent free-fall is the setback that arguably leads to Sandy facing pitch alone and losing himself to the Nightmare sand.
Applying our symbolism, this battle shows the loss of self-confidence causing a significant setback that leads to a crushing blow. At the same time, we see the effort of companions, even begrudging ones like Bunny, in helping someone regain that confidence.
Much later in the movie, Pitch Black snaps Jack’s staff in half when Jack refuses to join him in making the world dark and frosty. This situation comes after Jack loses a lot of confidence in himself following his dismissal from the guardians for not saving Easter with them.
Jack manages to piece his broken staff back together after seeing a glimpse into his past, where his own confidence in himself allowed him to use the stick (again, a powerless item until taken in hand) to sweep his little sister off of the breaking ice. This memory rebuilds Jack’s self-confidence, allowing him to mend the staff and take up his quest once more.
One Final Note
There are often multiple ways to interpret a symbol. Just because I interpreted Jack’s staff as symbol for self-confidence does not mean that another person’s analysis of the movie’s symbols would say the same thing.