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Nearing the end of Spirited Away, Zeniba weaves and gifts Chihiro a hair tie and claims that it will protect her.

A screenshot of Zeniba giving Chihiro a hair tie

Is there any indication that this (presumably magical) hair tie played any useful role during the rest of the movie?

6

There is a scene towards the end where Haku warns Chihiro to never look back until she reaches the outer end of the tunnel. When she's about to enter the tunnel, she stopped for a while and started turning his head around but stopped at the very last moment. At the same time the hair tie sparkled. Its a very subtle scene.

turn head gif

Now Haku did not tell her the reason why. But if you are familiar with Asian cultures, looking back would have trapped Chihiro in the spirit world forever.

Yes, the hair tie did save her. At least in my interpretation.

3

Some people speculate that

it helps her identify her parents later in the movie. It does sparkle at the end of the movie, this only shows that her adventure happened.

It's never stated least not in the movie itself beyond "It will protect you." from Zeniba herself. So no, it serves no useful role (it is possible it was going to, but the showing of it could have been scrapped). Well maybe beyond a "oh my hair tie? I got it from some friends.." type thing...

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I guess that it will help chihiro in the future, for an Instance chihiro will untie her hair and then she will remember that it is from zeniba and she will remember that she was once trapped from the spirit world

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