Speaking of monsters, as well as Frankenstein, I was thinking about how we define monsters in everyday life and popular narratives and how we give them meaning. I happened upon this story about a man with a peculiar deformity that makes his skin turn into tree bark and roots. The question is, is he perceived as monstrous? And what makes him appear monstrous? There were some comments that make him out to be horrible, repulsive, there were even people who decided not to read the article out of disgust. I didn’t think he was monstrous, though. I think his deformity has an interesting symbolism. It’s probably hard to live with it, but to me he carries the quintessential traits of a Green Man. Also, there are many mythological figures transformed into trees: Daphne, Acantha, Pitys, Myrrha, Cyparissus, Phyllis, Attis, Leucothoe, Philemon and Baucis. So actually people-trees have a long distinguished history in poetic, religious and popular imagination.
But I think that this living man-tree is not monstrous also for other symbolic reasons. Some time ago I was dealing with the issue of monstrosity in general and what makes a person/protagonist/entity monstrous. Why does a certain physical deformity result in a monstrous being while another one does not? Why is a mermaid not perceived to be a monster while other creatures are? It depends on the symbolic meaning implied in the deformity, which depends on the social/symbolic meaning of the body part that happens to be deformed. Since every body part has a meaning and reflects (in popular imagination) a specific aspect of human dignity, its deformation leads to a reevaluation of the “meaning” of the person. There are certain body parts that you can’t mess around with, such as the human face. It is the receptacle of identity and the essence of humanity. There are others that can be problematic, like feet, but are more flexible in the potential symbolic outcome if they happen to be deformed. The mermaid has a fishtail and that’s ok, but then Baba Yaga’s house has chicken legs and that’s monstrous. Others are safe and usually don’t alter the meaning of a person in a negative way, like hair (Pinocchio’s Blue Fairy) , a mark on someone’s skin (Harry Potter), etc. Probably the lower body is easier to manipulate with less negative consequences while the upper body is more important and any transformation would be more problematic; skin and other “wrapping” are safe. But it usually depends on the specific case and narrative circumstances. I am looking for other interesting examples!
- The village culture reports: hoarding
- The naming powers of housing builders
- Luxury food
- Ghosts, queens and the flow of everyday life
- The village culture reports: death
- The perfect gift for Christmas (and other holidays)
- Good causes, good will, good work. And volunteering
- Planning in a culture clash
- Codex Calixtinus, or the tourist guide for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela
- La Bella Lingua: the memoir vs. the manual
- A Museum of Odds and the concept of museums
- My clothes, my armor. And my mother-in-law
- Would you choose to live a war?
- Diamonds in My Pocket and the art of living cross-culturally
- The loss of mechanical machines
Panama - Wichub Wala… on Molas from San Blas Island… Angie Sherbondy on Blogs for Spanish teacher… Snurl.com on Women’s Day Wishes San Blas Panama on Molas from San Blas Island… Spanish Fluently on Blogs for Spanish teacher…