Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Good Ol' Days, When Men Were Starving

The last time we visited the world of Crock, the central character (and, via him, the cartoonist) was busy lamenting the terrible ways in which the world had changed in the past century and longing for life without the Internet. Today's comic takes a different approach. Rather than mourn the lost and distant past, the strip creates a present that contains--as repeatedly mentioned in earlier comics--the Internet but apparently lacks airplanes, helicopters, jeeps, and other means by which to transport food quickly from one location to another. The legionnaires are, in fact, experiencing a distinctly medieval dilemma, ripped from the pages of chronicles of the First Crusade: is there enough seasoning in the camp to make their boots taste like chicken?

The joke here is incredibly stupid, but don't dismiss it out of hand. There are hints of darkness in this comic. At the First Crusade's siege of Marra, some of the Franks, starving and running out of horse meat, dined on the putrefying corpses of their enemies. In his Historia Hierosolymitana, Fulcher of Chartres observes that "itaque plus obsessores quam obsessi angebantur" [in this way the besiegers were harmed more than the besieged] (1.25.2); Raymond d'Aguilers, in Historia Francorum Qui Ceperunt Iherusalem, speaks of the horror of the enemy soldiers at this behaviour and the fear of the Franks it instilled in them (271).*

Today's Crock may discourse on the consumption of mere leather, but the spectre of cannibalism, which has been haunting the French since the eleventh century, looms ominously behind the inane chatter about "sandals" and "boots." The characters know what is coming. You can see it in their wide, frightened eyes. Soon, everyone will be barefoot...and looking with longing at those bare feet. After that, it will be only a matter of time.

The French never lived down the shame of their cannibalistic First Crusade. Even today, they relive it again and again in the funny pages.

*I knew I wrote that thesis for a reason. I did not know the reason was that I would one day need to look up details on cannibalistic Franks for a blog entry about Crock.

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