Carried Heavy Coals
|List of Characters|
Sootballs (ススワタリ susuwatari, lit. travelling soot, soot sprites) are magically conjured creatures that work in the boiler room with Kamaji in the Japanese animated film Spirited Away. They are also present in other prominent Studio Ghibli films, most notably My Neighbor Totoro.
Sootballs (conjured from soot) are small, black fuzzy creatures with spherical bodies and white eyes with black pupils. Their usual mode of transportation is hovering, but it is revealed in the film that they can extend black wiry limbs (arms and legs) from their bodies to accomplish certain tasks (in this case moving coal into the furnace) and can lift objects many times their own weight. They also dissolve into soot if crushed, but quickly reform themselves shortly after.
Sootballs are not capable of speaking human languages and instead make certain squeaky murmuring sounds when they are excited, angry, annoyed or ecstatically happy. It is mentioned that, because the Sootballs in the film are magically conjured, they will turn back into soot without a job to do. While they are not capable of speaking the human language, they are shown to be able to understand it, and respond to orders given to them by Kamajii. They are also capable of exhibiting very human emotions such as anger and happiness. They are also capable of showing affection to an individual, as seen when they begin to respect and support Chihiro in small ways after she is accepted by workers of the bathhouse (mainly Kamajii and Lin). They carry Chihiro (or Sen)'s shoes and socks when she can't find them, showing that they care for Chihiro.
One can feed Sootballs like a farmer feeds chickens, throwing handfuls of Kompeitō (a hard Japanese candy) from a bucket onto the ground for them to pick up and eat. The sootballs are not seen eating anything else than kompeitō in the film.