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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The dog is a domesticated form of the Gray Wolf

Seems like I bungled my post on the Jaycee Dugard kidnapping.... unable to see the forest for the trees, so focused on synchromystic jibba-jabba that I neglected to note the obvious.

When I spent so much time on the name Dugard--"from the garden"--and thinking only of Jesus' night of anguish in the garden of Gethsemane, how could I have missed the Garden of Eden? Probably because I'm currently involved in a dispute with neighbors which has in fact left me sleepless and anguished. Although it is a matter of beams and nails, my crucifixion doesn't seem to be imminent.

If I could see beyond my own nose I might have noticed that Dugard's story can be seen in the terms of the Eden myth. Sexuality and the loss of innocence. It was the Gid who pointed this out to me so I leave it there, as a challenge to the Gid to lay it all out for us. Let the preacher's kid untangle it!

The second (at least!) point of neglect is the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood. I warbled on about St. Thérèse and Anne Frank and forgot to go into this gem of a tale. Worst of all, I'd thought of it and then decided, nah, fuggit. Then this morning I awoke to read a story about Canadian folk singer Taylor Mitchell, a young woman of 19 who was killed by coyotes while walking in the woods and then after thinking "holy shit that's horrible," I remembered the tale.

So, here goes. Apparently the tale was told in the 14th c. by peasants in both France and Italy and may have roots in Eastern or "Oriental" tales with similar themes. There are many versions; sometimes the girl is eaten and sometimes she escapes; sometimes involuntary cannibalism occurs. Sometimes the wolf is a werewolf or an ogre. Sexual overtones abound.

The first written version was published by Frenchman Charles Perrault in 1697. In his version the girl is eaten and there the story ends. A moral tacked onto the end explains that the story is a warning to "good girls" to resist the sexual advances of men.

Since Perrault, many variations have appeared but most know the version as told by the Brothers Grimm.

The Grimm version is almost certainly a re-telling of Perault's except in the end, where a hunter after the wolf's skin saves the girl and her grandmother. In this version the grandmother and the girl are swallowed whole by the wolf, but emerge unharmed after the hunstman cuts the beast open. This ending sees to have been taken from yet another tale. The Grimms also wrote a sequel in which grandmother and the girl trap and kill another wolf with a cunning ruse: they drown him after luring him with a pot of water which had been used to cook sausages.

Many interpretations have been made of the fairy tale, only a few of which I'll mention here. Obviously, wolf attacks were a serious problem in the Middle Ages, so it may have simply began as a cautionary tale to young kids, much like stories of La Llorona are thought to have begun as a way to scare kids away from dangerous waterways.

Alan Dundes has analyzed the tale and interpreted it as the story of a girl who leaves home and in various actions crosses a threshold; she emerges from the belly of the beast as a woman. In another Freudian analysis, Bruno Bettelheim sees it as a rebirth; the child is reborn coming from the wolf, her emotions liberated.

Yet another interpretation sees the story as a warning against falling into the trap of prostitution; supporters of this theory note that the red cloak was a common symbol of hookers in 17th c. France. Less pernicious perhaps is the idea that the story represents sexual awakening. "In this interpretation, the red cloak symbolizes the blood of the menstrual cycle, braving the "dark forest" of womanhood. Or the cloak could symbolize the hymen....In this case, the wolf threatens the girl's virginity. The anthropomorphic wolf symbolizes a man, who could be a lover, seducer or sexual predator...."

We would argue that the pedophile and the kid-snatcher has replaced the Big Bad Wolf as the ultimate danger of our time, lurking in the forest after the sun goes down, ready to pounce; the former is the metaphor for the latter. Indeed the wolf has always had a connotation of sexual aggressiveness. The leering wolf-whistle as the statuesque blond walks past the construction site, Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf (I'm on the hunt I'm after you....) All of these sexual wolf metaphors may derive from this very tale or others like it; the wolf and sexual danger have become intrinsically linked. Wikipedia offers a brief summary of modern adaptations, such as popular songs, cartoons and fiction in which the sexuality of the tale is explored.

Blatant eroticism has been a trope of the vampire tale since Bram Stoker. Less so perhaps for the werewolf but nonetheless, there is clearly a brute sexuality to the lycanthrope. A normal man goes about his everyday business until the full moon appears. In the maiden-mother-crone cycle of pagan moon-lore, the full moon represents the point when the woman is most fertile, full, bountiful. "Mother" may be the appellation but the implication is fertility and thus sexuality. An in the presence of the full woman our mild-mannered lycanthrope turns into an uncontrollable beast with an immense hunger for flesh. While not universally true, the werewolf in European cultures is usually a man.

According to NASA, however, neither June 10, 1991 (Dugard kidnapping) nor November 22, 1976 (Callaway kidnapping) were full moons; though certainly a beast, we can rule out lycanthropy in Garrido's case!

Wikipedia again makes the point that certain modern interpretations of the tale resemble "animal bridegroom" stories such as The Frog Prince and Beauty and the Beast. This latter is perhaps even more telling than the tale of Riding Hood. In the popular Disney film, the Beast first holds young Belle's father as a prisoner but agrees to free him if Belle agrees to take his place. Although coarse and full of anger, the Beast treats Belle kindly, slowly revealing a more sensitive side. Given her freedom, Belle returns of her own volition to save the Beast from his tormentors. She has fallen in love with the Beast, and her tears transforms him back into a handsome young Prince. Cue the dancing candelabra; they live happily ever after.

One might reasonably construe this as a glorification of the Stockholm syndrome. Given the prevalence of the fairy tale in our culture, it shouldn't be so surprising that Dugard never seemed to try and escape her captor. We speak of her as being imprisoned, but it seems she had some degree of freedom, working in Garrido's printshop, interacting with the public. Her children have been described as fairly well-adjusted and clever. Not exactly feral kids locked in a cage for years. Disney's celebrated version of the film was released on November 13, 1991. A week and a day before the Dugard kidnapping!

In both Little Red Riding Hood and the Beauty and the Beast, there is an explicit danger in the forest. Folklorists tell us that this is a trope dating back to the Middle Ages where the forest--place of darkness and danger--is juxtaposed against the village as a place of safety. Put in other words, between the wild and the domesticated, the savage and the tame. In French we can speak of the dusk, or at times the dawn, as "entre chien et loup," literally "between dog and wolf." The night and all its attendant dangers versus the safety of the light of day. These liminal periods put in stark contrast the nature of the wild and the domesticated; they are transitions between states of being. The Wolf in Riding Hood you will recall, dresses itself in Grandma's nightdress and bonnet in order to fool Little Red. And what is the Beast but a lycanthrope stuck in his animal state?

Hunter Thompson brought the following quote by Samuel Johnson to many peoples' attention: "He who makes a beast of himself avoids the pain of being a man." I always thought Thompson was explaining, even advocating, his particular kind of behavior. Now I'm not sure that it isn't merely scorn, or an impersonal observation. Men are dogs, they say. And they are right.

9 comments:

  1. Nice post, you sly dog, you, tho' I woulda pegged you for a wolf among sheep.

    Did'ja read this?

    http://copycateffect.blogspot.com/2009/09/enigmas-of-ansbach.html

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  2. great post. i don't like freudian interpretations. towards the end I think you get to it, the wolf and the woods representing the danger of the wild versus the the village. Wolves were actual real predators. Humans only want to protect wolves once they're dead and gone.
    The werewolf or wolfman is a tragic, romantic figure. at least in film, it is always a sympathetic figure who is made into a beast against his will. the vampire was not a tragic figure until recently, with the rash of 'good vampire' stories. Angel on Buffy is a tragic figure, even Spike is. There's nothing tragic about Dracula. The wolf in these wolf stories is like dracula, his friendliness isn't genuine and the it is the gullibility of the virgin that allows the beast in. with the werewolf his goodness is genuine. the snake in the garden seduces eve by lying to her. she is innocent and believes him. as nietszche points out, that snake in the garden only has one eye.ah shit, but now we're back to freud.

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  3. Gid...I'm a sheep, or rather a lamb, amongst the wolves...perhaps my crucifixion is imminent after all! I did read that post briefly, but more of a gloss than anything else. I skim a lot of that guy's stuff. I find him less interesting for his insights than how he has some pretty neat correspondences with our own material---the moon thing, his animal attack post, etc.

    Jon, thanks for the comments. I really wish you'd write-up some of this stuff in more detail. You're correct of course that the werewolf is a more tragic figure than the vampire, who seems to relish what he does in way the werewolf doesn't. I suppose the tragic vampire had its beginning with Anne Rice?

    I think you could really shed some insight on this topic. Did you notice the first victim's name, btw? Kathleen Callaway! A sign, by God!

    Also, did Nietzsche really point out that the snake was one-eyed? Is that in fact true, I mean, that the Bible says the snake has one eye? Dear Lord, if true, why didn't I know that?!?

    Willy the one-eyed wonder worm. No Freudian interpretation needed there I daresay!

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  4. I forget where N. sneers about the one eye. certainly he knew his bible, but i haven't noticed in my reading the number of eyes possessed by the Old Guy. i suspect N. was merely insulting religion.
    and I forgot that what really got me going in this post was the passing reference to the Canadian folk singer eaten by coyotes! i wouldn't be a folk singer for anything. and now feet are washing up on the shores of vancouver. canada is a dangerous place.

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  5. This case of the Canadian singer is certainly horrible. I should add a sentence saying this was what started me off this post as well. The girl and the coyotes, the girl and the wolf. Horrible way to go. Reminds me off a case in California where a woman was killed by a pair of pitt bulls.

    Do you have any thoughts on the foot thing? Read some of the previous posts on the subject for a fuller picture. The running shoes are the key. They're what keep the feet afloat and thus, washed up. But why here? Are we to conclude that Canadians are more avid joggers than the rest of the world? Or at least more prone to wear running shoes? Why here and in such concentration?

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  6. I can only guess that there's a nut out there murdering runners and tossing their feet in the ocean. Certainly there aren't large numbers of accidental corpses flung into the ocean? Unless there are sociopathic captains of fishing fleets murdering insubordinate fishermen.

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  7. I'm not sure, Jon....the Mounties and their forensics people say there seems to be no sign the feet were violently detached....I suppose the bones would have saw or ax marks? Maybe they're suicides or murder victims or accident. I think that the running shoes show up not cuz all the victims were runners but cuz the running shoes float, whereas a leather shoe would sink ... ? Which would mean there are other feet all over the ocean in other kinds of shoes. Which still begs the question why sneakers aren't turning up elsewhere? Currents?

    Which may lead back to your theory of a foot-removing killer. The reason there are no feet elsewhere is cuz there ain't some dude running about attacking joggers and removing their feet.

    And what about that Sowell guy in Cleveland (Cleave land?)....have you read about that? People had complained about the smell for months...even to the point that a local sausage factory changed their grease traps...but nothing came of it. Even after a few incidents of domestic violence. Apparently crack-whores (allegedly--an excuse for inaction?) don't rate high on the list of police priorities. Strange smells, bloodied women. It only stops with ten bodies, so far all black and all strangled to death.

    Creepy shit!

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  8. well, the other explanation is, they run mopre on the west coast. i just didn't realize so many bodies ended up in the ocean.
    it is amazing that a person who wants to quietly start murdering marginal people can go a long time before anyone notices or cares. it relates to much in politics. i saw a long interview with a journalist whose name escapes me now, a major washington post bureau chief, who wrote a book on health care around the world. he said the main distinction between the american approach and every other industrialized nation in the world, is that american policy makers, at least those who oppose national health, do not believe that people have an equal right to health care. in every other country it is believed that people have an equal right to medical care without regard to income. implicitly many here believe that if you're poor, you do not have the same rights as a person who is rich. behind this is the belief that poor people are to blame for their poverty and therefore must suffer the consequences, or else they will have no motive for self improvement. maybe that sounds good to some people, but in the real world it translates into: crack whores who are slaughtered by sociopaths are not worth the time.
    but that doesn't explain those shoes.

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  9. I think the "poor people are to blame for their poverty" is a direct result of Calvinist, or at least Puritan theology--the Community of the Elect--the Protestant Work Ethic. It's had terrible consequences for the nation, where in thought and deed the poor are routinely diddled and scorned by the middle class and the rich. Thing is, now the middle class is going under they too are bearing the brunt of this way of thinking. Saving money and investing didn't really turn out the way it was planned.

    Also turns out the first victim identified was a crack addict who in the past disappeared for long periods. Probably prostituted herself. So I imagine some people truly don't think that profile is worth the trouble. Her behavior, she got what she had coming. She was a mother and a daughter, you know. Unfortunately her race and class trump that. Just another poor, dead black crack-whore.

    Also, like Garrido, the killer here was a parolee improperly supervised. I've already read articles linking the two. So, instead of people--if Republicans actually are in fact human (haha)--thinking, hmm, maybe we could free up the parole officers' time by re-directing law enforcement priorities, they'll probably start yelling not for better but tougher enforcement, tougher penalties, more laws etc. The Big Bad Wolf is out ta getcha!

    Still, this is a startling lapse on the part of the police. This guy had a naked lady fall from the window of his house; another time a neighbor saw him standing over a bloody naked woman in the bushes. The place smelt of rotting flesh. No parole officers thought to enter the house?

    And yeah, those shoes....

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