Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Further Adventures of the Bear's Son

As I have previously mentioned, PJ Keane, as a third son with bestial characteristics, is an excellent candidate for heroism: specifically, heroism of the half-human variety, as he takes on the role of the figure sometimes called the Bear's Son. This type of hero is often imbued with monstrous qualities that give him an affinity with the creatures he is born to destroy. Frequently, he will possess special knowledge that the fully human members of his community will fail to understand.*

In today's Family Circus, we see PJ demonstrating his inborn ability to see the truth behind mundane appearances. Where the oldest son,** (presumably) the middle son,*** and the daughter**** see a cute little puppy dog, PJ sees a ravening beast with a Marmaduke/Antichrist-like tendency to swallow small children whole. The older siblings think they are steering their baby brother gently away from his delusions, but they are actually disrupting his heroic focus. PJ needs to be able to see the hell-beast for what it is so that he can slay it, tear out its beating heart, and devour it in a fetishistic ritual designed to augment his wilderness power and increase his efficacy against the monsters he will fight during his later career.

The Bear's Son is not only a medieval figure. However, we can see the specifically medieval content here in the intertextual Antichrist reference; Bil and Jeff Keane clearly know their Marmaduke. Christian texts make use of the Bear's Son, generally turning him into a type of Christ. PJ's vision here foreshadows the End of Days and the coming of the Beast. His family would be wise to heed his warning.

Of course, the comic could simply be incredibly stupid, but then why would anybody ever publish it?

*He occasionally expresses such knowledge by smashing most of his family's belongings and attempting to rape a woman, but I'm not sure PJ is quite at that stage yet.
**Destined to insult a little old lady and be eaten by a giant.
***Destined to insult a little old man and be ground into powder by a large eagle.
****Destined to be abducted by a troll, sleep with him, turn on PJ, and attempt to have him boiled to death in a crystal cauldron at the heart of a mountain frequented by the Fiend.*****
*****I am not making any of this up. I may be embroidering the details, but the motifs in question are sound.


Unknown said...

Curious. I study ancient literature (mostly Greek and Roman), and this little episode reminds me of a convention of stories of Greek heroes, that they often have a near brush with death in infancy. Think of Perseus, who was put adrift at sea in a chest as a child, or Oedipus, who was exposed with his ankles nailed to a tree, or Heracles, who killed with his bare hands two snakes that attacked him in his cradle. I imagine that this is the point just before PJ rips the dog in half with his stubbly little hands, right?

Angry Kem said...

Anna: Yes, many heroes go through testing periods in infancy or childhood. The convention is present in classical stories; it also appears in numerous other tales from different cultures and periods. As you have discerned, PJ is clearly about to visit violent death upon the demon dog.