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The Moana Fan Theory That'll Change How You Watch It Forever

Moana may have gone a lot farther than we even realized.

Disney's 2016 animated hit features, as you might imagine, Moana (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho), the daughter of a Polynesian village chief destined to become her island's new leader who dreams of voyaging out beyond the reef.

Since this is a story from Disney, a studio whose theme song is "When You Wish Upon A Star," Moana ultimately gets what she wants, but it comes at a cost. The young island princess has to leave her home to save her people. There's a disease spreading across the land wiping out sea life and vegetation, so Moana heads out on a journey to find salvation. She heads out on a boat with her trusty chicken, Heihei (Alan Tudyk) at her side, and starts her journey first by seeking out assistance from the legendary demigod of the wind and sea, Maui (Dwayne Johnson).

It all seems like it has a very happy, very Disney ending with Moana's people saved and Moana herself returned home to lead, but this one fan theory has us reevaluating everything we thought we knew. 

Theory: Moana is actually dead

Before Moana reaches Maui's island, she's struck by a storm, her boat capsized, and all hope seemingly lost. Conveniently, Moana washes up on Maui's island, however, and the two serendipitously meet. After a little subterfuge on Maui's part, he and Moana eventually go on their quest to return Te Fiti's heart and save the day. Sound familiar? It should. Moana's story is a twist on the classic hero's journey popularized by classicist and comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell. 

But what if Moana's hero's journey isn't exactly what it seems? What if her hero's journey actually ended much more tragically than the film would have us believe? Over on Reddit, user u/davemidrock hypothesizes that our heroine actually dies before she ever makes it to Maui's island.

"What if there's a barrier between the normal human world and the magical otherworld," he writes, "where are all the things from Polynesian mythology are? And the only way to get to the otherworld is to be a part of it? For instance, by being dead?"

The basic premise is that Moana dies in the shipwreck, and enters the world of the supernatural. Once she's completed her quest in this kind of Polynesian underworld, Te Fiti both fixes Moana's boat and brings her back to life.

Proof that Moana is actually dead

You might think this "Moana's actually dead the whole time" supposition is a little bit too Sixth Sense; consider this, though: Moana doesn't see any human person in her entire quest until after it's over. The only "people" she encounters are Maui, monsters, gods, and her grandmother — who is dead.

There are lots of other elements which give this theory weight. For example, Moana survives a huge drop from the top of a mountain where she then hangs out, for a very long time underwater. Humans can't do that. And there's a textual argument to be made, too. Did you know that in drafts of the Moana script, the Realm of Monsters was actually referred to as "the underworld?"

There's also a scene that never made it into the final film where Moana meets her ancestors. Much like her grandmother, none of those people are alive. If all that sounds outlandish, just remember how readily we all accepted the "young hero goes to the afterlife to set right what once went wrong" only a year later in 2017, in the Disney Pixar film Coco.

What do you think? Are you convinced that Moana was actually dead for most of her movie? 

Watch it again on Disney+ and see if you can poke any holes in this macabre theory.