Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Always Knew the Titchy One Wasn't Human

I could probably come up with an unconvincing excuse for every single day I've missed abusing legacy strips this week,* but instead, I figure I'll just jump straight in and abuse a legacy strip. It is a very medieval legacy strip, mind. I am eminently pleased with its medievalness.***

Today, you see, we finally receive proof positive that PJ, the Littlest Keane, is destined to be a hero. He already meets at least one folkloric criterion: he is the youngest of three sons. As any ardent admirer of fairy tales will tell you, it's always the third son who gets the booty; the other two are generally rude to little old ladies in the forest and end up inadvertently chopping off their own limbs.**** As a third son, PJ is probably inclined to sit on top of the oven all day, eating his own lice and pretending to be an idiot.*****

However, Dolly, in pointing out that he possesses paws instead of feet, is also identifying him with a folkloric motif that was quite popular in the Middle Ages: that of the hero with only one human parent. PJ is clearly descended from some sort of beast or demon, and he has a half-bestial form. The little tyke may seem sweet when he squinches his eyes shut and beams a sunny smile at the world, but believe me: hidden beneath PJ's PJs are hairy, deformed feet and the beginnings of a tail. It is probably only a matter of time before the kid starts breaking magical swords, riding untamed man-eating horses, and storming the Holy Land for fun.****** Eventually, someone will betray him; the traitor will be hanged by the neck until he is almost dead, then forced to watch himself be disemboweled and castrated and his entrails and genitalia burned in front of his eyes before he is beheaded and carved into four pieces that will be displayed in public.******* It's not easy being a half-human hero; it's even less easy being the person who stabs him in the back.

This latest revelation should give us new insight into the Keane family. We really need to stop mocking PJ. He's going to have a hard enough life, poor thing.

*For instance, my unconvincing excuse for yesterday is that I spent the evening in pain because while I was returning from the grocery story with my dinner, I slipped on the new-fallen snow in the middle of an intersection and smashed my knees on the pavement so hard that I first nearly threw up and then nearly fainted. The excuse is a stupid one, since my knees are not connected to my brain,** but I foolishly stand by it.
**Except that they clearly kind of are, since there's no other reason sore knees should make me want to throw up and faint.

***Medievality? Medievalitude?
****I am absolutely not making any of this up. I like fairy tales, so I know.
*****I'm not making this up either.
******We are talking about the Keanes here. Richard the Lionheart has nothing on the Keanes.
*******This punishment for high treason was on the books in England until 1814. After 1814, the punishment remained the same, but the traitor was dead for most of it. Everything but the hanging was abolished by 1870. Incidentally, the punishment was for men only; women were burned at the stake. I Am Not Making This Up.


InsertMonikerHere said...

Have I mentioned just how much I love your footnotes? Especially the Not Making This Up ones?

(And I've heard the details about drawing & quarters - now why couldn't they have included the *interesting* bits in high school history class?)


john said...

Huh. I always figured Jeffy for the idiot son, and PJ was just nonverbal because would you talk to the Keanes unless you had to? But then, anything that ends with one of the Circus kids on a bloody rampage and two others meeting gruesome fates gets my seal of approval.

Squid Vicious said...

Where's the second footnote supposed to go? I'm tiny bit too lazy to try and figure out from close reading...

Squid Vicious said...

Never mind. Even in my advanced state of terminal lassitude, I was able to discern that it's a footnote within a footnote.

Squid Vicious said...

Per footnote *******, when was the last time someone was actually drawn and quartered in England, dead or alive?

And I promise, this will be my last inane comment for the day!

Angry Kem said...

Squid Vicious: I've done some rooting around on the Internet, and as far as I can tell, the last true hanging/drawing/quartering happened in 1798. See this page:

In the nineteenth century, though the punishment still existed, people convicted of High Treason tended to get out of the more gruesome aspects of it. They were hanged and beheaded, but that was generally all. The site I link has some interesting descriptions of the four nineteenth-century High Treason executions; in at least some of the cases, the executioners displayed the severed heads to the crowds and announced that they were the heads of traitors.

I'm very interested in treachery. I guess I'm just funny that way.

Michael said...

Let's not forget the supposed function of the ravens inhabiting the environs of the Tower of London. These carnivorous scavengers were supposed to remove the meat from executionees' heads put on display on the walls of the Tower.

Further legend has it that Charles II ordered the ravens' removal following complaints from John Flamsteed, the Astronomer Royal Astronomer. Supposedly the ravens interfered with Flamsteed's observations. However, the ravens were not removed because Charles was told of s legend that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the White Tower, the monarchy, and the entire kingdom would fall. Since this was after the English Civil War and Cromwell's protectorship, Charles was not prepared to take the chance. Instead he had Flamsteed's observatory moved to Greenwich.*

*The official history of the Royal Observatory Greenwich says nothing about Flamsteed having an observatory at the Tower of London. Considering that before his selection as the first Astronomer Royal, Flamsteed had an observatory in Greenwich, the story about him and the ravens is probably apocryphal.

Angry Kem said...

Another awesome treachery/dismemberment story, which you can also find summarised here if you're interested:

In the Post-Vulgate Arthur material, Arthur and Mordred have their usual final confrontation in which Arthur kills Mordred and Mordred wounds Arthur fatally. However, it doesn't stop there. Mordred's body gets tied to a horse's tail and dragged until it's been torn apart (the punishment for treachery often involves the symbolically appropriate motif of dismemberment). Then "Arthur commands that the Tower of the Dead be built and Mordred's head hung there as a warning against treachery; this is done and the head remains until Charlemagne visits with Ganelon, who is so distressed by the head that he cuts it down and hides it." Ganelon, of course, is the great traitor of the Charlemagne legend, and in The Song of Roland, his eventual fate is to be tied to four horses and torn to pieces.

Man, do I ever find treachery fascinating.

CrackerLilo said...

I've been surprised at just what the original fairy tales contained when I read them, so yes, I believe you and your footnotes!

I hope your knees get better soon. It's comforting to me to know that a Canadian can be undone by ice on the ground! I'm a transplanted Floridian in NYC, so I thought I simply couldn't cope!

I love all the lessons on English responses to treachery, incidentally.