At the conclusion of “Savages, Part I”, the English settlers and the warriors led by Powhatan were preparing for battle (with the latter planning to execute John Smith first thing in the morning). Meanwhile, Pocahontas has fled to Grandmother Willow, upset and depressed that everything is falling apart and the man she’s so recently fallen in love with is going to be executed and there’s nothing she can do to stop it.
Grandmother Willow tries to give some advice, reminding Pocahontas of her dream, but she isn’t in the mood to hear it. Meeko, however, is inspired to dig inside his hole in the tree for something.
This “something” turns out to be John Smith’s compass, which contains a large arrow shaped needle inside (Meeko had swiped it during an earlier meeting and Smith had let the raccoon keep it). Pocahontas watches the compass and realizes that as she turns it in her hands, the arrow/needle spins, just like the arrow in her dream!!
From the moment Pocahontas picked the compass up, the music has begun to pick up in intensity (clearly signalling that something big is about to happen). When she makes the connection between the compass needle and her dream, it picks up a little more. At the peak, there is a short, instrumental refrain of “Listen With Your Heart” as several things happen at once: the sun rises (it’s time for the execution) and the compass needle comes to a stop pointing directly east. The meaning is clear: Pocahontas needs to stop the execution.
With this decision made, the song resumes with an abrupt cut to Ratcliffe literally walking out of the sunrise, cutting a villainous figure in his black armor. At the same time, Powhatan and his warriors begin the march to the execution site (with Smith in tow) while, in a THIRD musical thread, Pocahontas begins her run to stop an all-out war!
And, according to the song, Pocahontas truthfully doesn’t know if she can stop this war from happening, but with the power of the spirits (which she invokes along the way), she’s certainly going to try. This semi-hopeful verse is sharply contrasted with the two warring sides who are basically singing the same words (so I’m copying the verse in full):
(Them:)This will be the day/This will be the morning/We will see them dying in the dust
(Pocahontas): I don’t know what I can do/still I know I have to try
(Them):Now we make them pay!
(Pocahontas): Eagle help my feet fly!/(Them): Now without a warning
(Pocahontas): Mountain help my heart be great/(Them): Now we leave ’em blood and bone and dust
(Pocahontas):Spirits of the Earth and Sky/(Them): It’s them, or us
(Pocahontas): Please don’t let it be too late!!/Them: They’re just a bunch of filthy, stinking…
(Them): Savages, savages/demons, devils (kill them!)/savages, savages, what are we waiting for? Destroy their evil race, until there’s no a trace left!
(Pocahontas): How loud are the drums of war!!/Them: Now we see what comes, of trying to be chums/ Pocahontas: Is this the death of all I love, carried in the drumming of…
Towards the end, all three groups converge at a cliff where the tribe has assembled to execute Smith as revenge for Kocuom’s death. While the approaching settlers watch in horror, Powhatan prepares to crush Smith’s skull with a war hammer (a club with a large stone set in it). At the last moment, Pocahontas darts forward and throws herself over Smith before the hammer can fall.
Saved!!! For now anyway. Pocahontas has an ultimatum: if Powhatan wants to kill John Smith, he has to kill her too, and also she loves him (to the surprise of her father). All of this, Pocahontas says, is the result of walking a path of anger. She, meanwhile, will choose love.
Moved by what his daughter has said, and seeing the slaughter that will come if they continue, Powhatan swears that if there will be any more killing “it will not start with me” and he orders Smith to be released. Everyone begins to lower their weapons, and war seems to have been averted…which is great…right?
Ratcliffe doesn’t think so. This was his big chance to take the Indians out and now the battle isn’t happening at all!. He tries to take advantage by shouting for his men to fire, but the settlers aren’t having it. The whole point of attacking was to rescue Smith, but the tribe has let him go so clearly they don’t want to fight (and therefore neither should they). Seeing his control slip away, Ratcliffe decides to force the issue, grabbing a musket and taking aim at Powhatan. Smith sees this and shoves the chief out of the way just as Ratcliffe fires, taking the bullet instead. Instead of sparking a new conflict, this backfires horribly and Ratcliffe finds him at the receiving end of the settlers’ wrath (a great comeuppance for Ratcliffe by the way, since he ends up being hog-tied by the end).
So on the one hand, the day is saved, but on the other, John is badly injured. This is one Disney film that won’t have the typical ending. How do I mean? Well, you’ll have to check out the finale to find out 🙂
It nearly goes without saying that “Savages, Parts I and II” are one of my favorite Disney songs and I hope you enjoyed reading about it and listening to it.
For more Pocahontas, see also:
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