Terrible Monsters: Loch Ness, Banshee, Chupacabra

March 24, 2014

Judge a society not by its heroes, but its monsters. A culture’s heroes speak to the best of its ambition, but it is the monster that teaches their children the hard lessons of caution, temperance, and tolerance that a parent might be too tired or drunk to articulate at the end of a long day. So why not have a monster teach it? I still can’t piss outside, such is my fear of “Sinjin The Cruel Moth what snatches up rude boy’s peepees”.

It is thus that we begin our series examining the history, menace, and broader cultural connotations of each nation’s monsters. Let us begin.

Loch Ness Monster

 Hoaxed_photo_of_the_Loch_Ness_monster

(Originally posted at SAM THE TURTLE)

Overview

 A pile of old rags strewn across a log, or, a dirty Scottish plesiosaur too stupid to find the ocean? In the darkest of legends, if they can be believed, a guy was once down by the lake and saw it kind of swimming around…and then it left, only to be seen by another guy a few years later. Each time it was seen it did a little less, until those who were drawn by its antediluvian malice were condemned to stand by the shore, with not much going on, until they got bored and bought an over-priced souvenir.

Country of origin: Scotland

 Is it scary:

  If being dangly and feeling social anxiety were enough to inspire terror math clubs worldwide would be places of unspeakable horror. Under the best of circumstances all the monster does is glide about in the water. It’s essentially a big swan, except swans attack people all of the time.

 Ironically a pile of old rags and stray logs would be more threatening, as you could at least tangle your prop on the rags and maybe drag a log ashore to dry and then carve into something intimidating. Like a swan.

 

What does this say about Scotland

 Allow me to reiterate, a driftwood swan is scarier than the Lochness Monster. Its tale is really one of victimhood and dislocation more than anything. When even the monsters of your culture are lost and afraid it doesn’t speak well to the health of the national psyche. Joseph Campbell would have them on mythological suicide watch.

What is the lesson: Don’t bother leaving the house, there is nothing going on anywhere, and even if it was it would just be depressing. Bad job, Scotland.

***

Banshee

Image

Overview

The Banshee, or Bean  Sídhe if you’re proper Irish, is a lady of the Fae that wails in mourning of those about to die. They don’t kill them, per se, but they blight the last moments of the soon to be departed’s life with the bleak certitude of death…which is kind of a dick move. And just try to get insurance.

Country of origin: Ireland

Is it scary:

   On the surface they are no worse than a doctor holding an X-ray that you’d rather not see. Peel back the myth a little, though, and the true face of Banshee makes itself known. And that’s the end of the Banshee discussion, Have a fine evening one and all. Oh, and could the lads hang back a sec, I think I grabbed the wrong shoes and want to sort it out before I leave

***

Of course we all understand that the Banshee was a cautionary allegory used to warn young Irish men, in code, of the horrors of a relentless nagging housewife. An excerpt from the secret history of Irish.

“One night Seamus stayed late at the pub, as the boys were in fine form, and you could hear a wail across the moors…”you’ve got three boys and a job at the docks…you can’t be out all hours like a Tom-what-have-you.” And Seamus lit out like the Devil had his heels, and when next he was seen he was dead eyed…and carrying a box of hats, children hanging like lice from every limb, and none spoke of him or to him again.”

Terrifying, to be true, but no more so than a dry keg or an honest days work. Still, a creature that eats your freedom and leaves your flesh is enough to test the sternest man’s stew.

What does it say about Us [1]

God give us the depth of our charm to hide the breadth of our faults, and a love for freedom that would make a Frenchman fight in the face of mild opposition. The Banshee brings certain death, but it is the certainty that terrifies, not the death. So we drink.

What is the lesson

Irish men shouldn’t men marry, and Irish women should move.

***

[1] While I’m not Irish of birth, I’m Irish of blood and spirit enough to use the we instead of they and the us instead of them.

***

Chupacabra

Overview

 Image

  Spring legged, spine backed, befanged sucker of goats the Chupacabra’s origin and appearance vary on the telling. Some see it as an undiscovered animal driven into farm lands by urban sprawl. Others, mostly Mexicans, believe it a particularly unambitious demon from hell, delivering the kind of low rent carnage one would expect from a cartoon fox.

Also, there are some white dudes, vigilant despite their active social lives, who’ve identified the Chupacabra as members /minions of an alien race who sucked as hard as they could at home and so crossed interstellar distances to suck elsewhere.

Country of origin: Mexico

Is it scary

I suppose If I had a goat I’d prefer not to lose it, but it’s on par with someone stealing my bike. And the sucking thing? Pfft, I’ll suck a goat right now. I’ll suck two goats at once in front of their parents. These are not things I want to do, but they are within my power. Despite these capabilities the Latin world is oddly sanguine about my continued existence. Though three local petting zoos have declared me persona non grata.

Assuming the extraterrestrial version? Admittedly petty, but fairly benign as alien incursions go.

What it says about them

This is why the Mexicans don’t make cars

If I asked you to close your eyes and describe the most dangerous creature you could imagine, and you came back with “It’s something so dangerous that it can kill a goat…by sucking it” you would lose the right to play the “Close your eyes and imagine things” game. How can a people that came up with so many bean recipes be this uncreative?

Still, I can’t blame a man for valuing his livestock.

 What is the lesson

Just, keep an eye on your fucking goats. It’s too hot today.

***

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