Wednesday, October 15, 2008

There's Clearly Something Going on with Spoons This Week

This cannot be a coincidence.

Yesterday, we had little Jeffy Keane indulging in a philosophical lament on the loss of his spoon.* Today, we have little Trixie Flagston meditating on the comparative worth of a fork and a spoon...and ultimately choosing the spoon. The Walker and Browne descendants who keep this strip dragging along apparently belong to the same school as thought as Jeff and Bil Keane. They are not, however, so optimistic about the eventual spiritual destination of their young character.

Whereas Jeffy learns to let his spoon go and will probably be able to pull back from the void in time, Trixie yearns for the spoon. She is attracted by the neat tricks Ditto can do with his spoon and the attention it gains him from other members of the family. Trixie is, in fact, in the process of being tempted by Satan. The spoon is luring her from virtue (a pure and spoonless existence) to vice (a reliance on spoons for entertainment and apparent spiritual guidance). Her soul is in mortal danger.

The irony of the scene lies in the fact that Trixie's apparent choice is no choice at all. Both the spoon and the fork (an icon of the pitchfork-carrying devil) lead to temptation, materialism, and ultimate doom. Lois Flagston has unwittingly allowed her infant daughter physical access to these perilous implements.** The Walkers see Trixie's path littered with dangers, and they pessimistically imply that she will not be able to negotiate them.

As with yesterday's Family Circus panel, the medieval context redeems the comic, turning it from trite stupidity into complex theology. If only more people understood that today's cartoonists choose to access the cultural landscape of the fourteenth century instead of the less rewarding one of the twenty-first, we would hear fewer complaints about the funny pages.

*I.e., the material possessions that bound him to his earthly body and had the potential to drag his soul into eternal perdition. And stuff.
**If the medieval context were not so obvious, I would say something here about the idiocy of portraying a very small child holding such an extremely pointy fork.


john said...

When, exactly, did the pitchfork become a part of the popular conception of Satan? Was it one of those Catholic holdovers from native folklore when northern Europe was being converted?

Angry Kem said...

Good question. The pitchfork was certainly around as an implement of the devil in the Middle Ages...but the "devil" in question was not necessarily "Satan." I'm not going to pretend I can answer your question with much accuracy. I'm pretty sure, though, that the pitchfork is indeed a holdover from native folklore, appropriated when certain folkloric creatures were labelled "devils" and "demons" by the Christian bigwigs. I'm just not sure WHICH beastie originally held the pitchfork.

Jan said...

I think you meant to write "sykerly" in the last thought balloon, not "skyerly"? (I don't think I've even caught an ME typo before -- or printo? calligrapho? -- but I did once correct a bad hyphenation of "Aelswith" in galley proofs. Peak proofreading moment!)

Angry Kem said...

Oops! Thank you. I'll fix that. I should be marking, so it is nice to have even a flimsy excuse to do something else.

I usually catch my Middle English typos. Silly Angry Kem.