Thursday, December 3, 2009


Definition of the monster

As already wrote Voltaire in 1764 in his Philosophical Dictionary, "it's harder than you think to define monsters. »
Since prehistoric times and performances such as that of the Horned God as can be observed in Ariege in the cave known as the "Three Brothers", dating from the Paleolithic to the present day, human societies have incorporated into their structure the monstrous phenomenon. But what is a monster? It is, indeed, difficult to define the term "monster." Indeed, any person may, without great difficulty, to give an example to illustrate it. Who has not in mind the image of a dragon, a unicorn or a griffin at the mention of the term? But beyond the example, which can identify its essence?
It was Aristotle (384-322 BC), who in the Generation of Animals, gives a first approach to this definition: "The monster is a phenomenon that goes against the majority of cases but not in against nature considered in its entirety. "Therefore, the monster is an exception, a rare being who, in some respects, is placed outside the town fauna. It is unusual vision that is stored in memory and the one we watch and sets as indicated in its etymology as the term is derived from the Latin monstrare (that is to say, show). Jean Riolan son in his philosophical dissertation on the monster born in Paris in 1605, says the Siamese twin girls in which to pay the price showed them to their greatest advantage. The monster is in the order of things, which justifies its presence in the world and away from the idea that it comes from a supernatural world, which would lead to doubt its existence. Saint Augustine (354-430) in the City of God, confirm this definition by writing: "The monster is the one whose appearance is unusual us by the shape of his body, his color, his movements, his voice, and even functions, parts or qualities of his nature. "The monster thus leaves the world of dreams to become reality. It then becomes an object of study as part of cryptozoology and Teratology. Quid, then, legendary creatures? They actually represent a second branch of the monstrous concept fantasy creature.
Unlike the monster in his first nature, fantastic creature is a creation, conscious or not, of the human imagination. She then joined the idea that common sense is the monster, animal outsized both in its physical and its potential. Pliny the Elder had received this distinction between the monster and be fantastic. In his Natural History, he said: "The Pegasus, horse head winged animals, and griffins curved beak topped with ears for me fabulous beings [...]. I say the same of tragopan, many authors assert that it is larger than the eagle, he carries the temples curved horns, it is the color of rust, except the head is purple. I believe no more sirens [...] that believes in these tales can really admit that dragons gave Melampus the intelligence of birds language licking her ears. "While the monster is creation of nature and therefore subject to its laws, the fantastic creature knows no bounds or in the forms it can take in either the prowess it can achieve. In this, she lives in a world without laws, totally free to evolve dreams.

It is understood, the monster is a complex entity and curiosity but does it make it as long a subject of study? This is not so much what it is that he represents that places the center of a reflection. Rather than ask the question of what the monster it would be better to ask why it exists. Imaginary or real, what is its legitimacy?
In terms of teratogenicity, the monster is a biological reality, human or animal victims of physical defects, such as neurofibromatosis, which physically make it different from the norm. So there is a biological reason for the existence of the monster in the first sense, as there are several to explain the presence of fantastic creatures in the environment that have built men.
Pliny the Elder in Natural History, evoking the monsters can not help most of them to marvel at nature through various adjectives style turns. He marvels at the address of the dragon and is amazed at the power of léontophonon. With pride, we noted how the horns of an Indian ant placed Temple of Hercules in Eritrea the admiration of those who have glimpsed. This is the first feeling that the monster is born in the heart of men. It is enchanting vision. This attraction felt by the man against monsters sometimes becomes admiration and often envy.
Before the prowess of which the monster is capable or features that give it a certain charisma, we can only approve an admiring attitude. A certain humility before a powerful phenomenon, settled in the heart of the viewer. But frustration quickly scans this state of mind. Man is limited in his actions. Contrary to this, the monster has immense and extraordinary opportunities (high destructive power, for example) that man has and can not have. In this sense, the monster attracts the attention of all, everyone saw the potential that he would like to have. The monster continues to inspire wonder, not for what it is but for what it represents. It becomes an upper body which, if it is not to be revered, must be placed on a pedestal.
No one can better explain this veneration qu'Elien who sees in the Phoenix a proof of the excellence of nature, a proof of its superiority over humans. In his eyes, the bird deserves its place above the men, because only he can recognize periods of 500 years, which marks its life cycle without having learned to count, and more precisely than the priests. Better, he knows find itself the city of Heliopolis as he has no access to knowledge. So, it is "the son of the wise Nature. »

Thus, the monster is no longer just a resident of the world, he is the representative of nature. Moreover, in the second century, Celsus shows that the phoenix is ​​a proof of the excellence of nature and its superiority to man; Origen says that the phoenix is ​​not to be admired for itself but has to admire the one who created it. Finally, Claudian states that the phoenix is ​​"such a bird with the gods" and the "equal the stars."
In the words of F. Moreau: "Nature has fun: the monster is not a priori negation, or questioning of the order it has established, but evidence of its power. "A power that it intends to use to protect the man.

The fact is now recognized, the monster is a being rare in the unusual nature. The consequence that follows from this definition is simple: it is placed out of reach of any human design for the universe. He became, for them, a mystery. Like anything defy human understanding, it inspires distrust or fear.
The writings of Pliny truly capture that spirit. The deadlock of the dragon, the terrible jaw crocote the glare of Catoblepas and many other gifts even if they do not directly target man, are representative of the terrifying aspect or destructive capabilities whose extraordinary feature monsters. These features clearly express what they represent in the eyes of humanity unparalleled threat. This fear she relies on some basis?
The man managed to impose a certain extent, its domination over the world. His conception of life, his desire for conquest, population growth and economic needs led him to carry out various actions against nature (clearing, farming, hunting, for example). Circus, cemetery of the most diverse animals, is clear evidence of human megalomania. Nothing seems to stand in his way.
But nature, this entity placed by ancient writers above all, remains adamant, sure of her monstrous army. The monster is guarantor of the universal balance. Moreover, Celsus says the phoenix "wants to prove the excellence of the animal nature of man and dethrone his claim to universal dominion over nature. »
The monster rose ecstasy it generates and envy which he is the object, becomes a threat, an obstacle to human pretensions. It is dangerous where man ventures and wants to become the master, turning into a rival, a threat. Can we not say unconsciously, the mind of man perceives the monster as a safety signal to prevent imbalance in the ecosystem? The monster is not, then, an invention of our subconscious.

We are entering an area that may surprise. The monster is man's toy, which decides his fate. Its "birth" to the purpose for which it was created, the monster is nothing more than a deceptive mirage. A question arises, essential: Who benefits from the monster?
Some authors conducted a true reflection on the monster. Strabo is in favor of the study; it is those who have gone beyond the simple description of those who have conducted an analysis of the existence of monsters. Reflecting on these creatures, citing as an example the dragon, and various beliefs, it plunges into their origins. His speech is clear, it is outright creations. The monster loses its reality to join the world of myth, but beware, let us not be fooled, everything is nuance.

There is no mystery to Strabo, the monster is a "chimera" (the phrase takes on its full value). With this in mind, the author divides society, facing the monstrous phenomenon into two groups. On the one hand, the people, strong permeable any belief which considers the monster as an integral part of its environment, as irrefutable reality. On the other, the "founding states" and the ruling class, aware of the unreality of monsters, who adopted the "y seeing kinds of scarecrows for the use of simple souls." Thus the monster becomes a valuable political tool in the hands of heads of state.
Dismembered, the monster becomes a means to divert the individual or the community of what is prohibited. Besides, Strabo confirms the words of Aristotle, saying that the monster is used to "scare sensitive souls. "Thus, placing ants or gold griffins near places is a handy way to prevent men from approaching these rich countries, without incurring a costly guard.
Strabo, again, denying the existence of monsters and having written the book Geography is again perfect for guiding us in the explanation of this topic. What he says is very interesting: "Beyond the Hypanis, specific information about this country are absolutely lacking. To supplement their ignorance, historians, encouraged by the extreme remoteness of the place, have resorted to exaggeration and monstrous fictions witnessed what they say gold-digging ants, and these animals or of these men, with strange figures endowed with some extraordinary qualities. »
The monster becomes excuse.
Cartographers, geographers, historians lack data regarding the regions beyond the borders of the Empire. These gaps can be attributed to many causes: negligence, laziness, disinterest, external dangers, beliefs ... They then used various excuses to explain these shortcomings, among them the monster. This explains, in part, that all monsters exceptions, living outside the Roman world (mainly in India and Ethiopia.). The presence of Catoblepas the sources of the Nile or Nigris is it not an example of these monsters placed in some places as an excuse? No one has yet discovered the sources of these rivers. There is no risk for these "scientists", to place such excuses, so incredible they are, in remote locations. On the one hand because all believe in the existence of monsters and therefore no one would doubt their claims. On the other hand, that would verify these claims? The trip would be dangerous, non-guaranteed result and in case of conclusive findings, it would have been strongly criticized and its consequences were probably close to zero (as shown by the example of the circum-Africa trips made by the Phoenicians in Pharaoh Néchaos that was soon forgotten and considered fanciful, and Ophélas, a trip that was considered in ancient times as a fable).
The economy is not immune to the monstrous influence; here too, the monster makes its presence felt. Again, human intelligence, aided by perennial beliefs that permeate society, was able to use the monster with great talent. The cinnamolgue is an example of the monster created from scratch. The first evidence that this monster is pure invention is that no other author is able to describe the strange volatile or give it a final name at best do we know that the nest is made of and that cinnamone latter is much sought to extract the precious herb. Such a sprawling rumor, without body or soul, the bird houses in the mouths and minds which, while being sure of their words can not explain. To pierce the armor "identity" of this monster, then we must focus on its behalf. One pays, besides, this bird various names cinnamolgue, cinnamon, cinnamon and cinnamonus. Their common? They are all derived from the name of cinnamone (also called cinnamon). This name highlights, itself, the relationship between the herb and the bird. It becomes an invaluable clue to explain the genesis of the monster. Here is the secret of this fabulous bird. If there is a person who takes advantage of the existence of this monster, the dealer is ideal for this. Pliny is of this opinion, accusing the latter of increasing prices by this tale. The cinnamone is, in fact, in ancient times, a product of high cost. Traders to legitimize this cost had the idea of ​​creating a monster. This one, making it more difficult acquisition cinnamone justifies the price of the goods.

Sometimes the monster is not of particular interest in itself, it exists only through the symbol of which he is the holder. The monster loses its real dimension to become only the image of what it inspires.
The dragon was adopted by Trajan after his victories over the Dacians and sat, painted in red on the handle of the standards of the Roman cohorts. He then became a standard of significant legion. Why did you choose to join the dragon in military symbols? For a very simple reason: everything in the dragon made him an indisputable representation of destructive force. At the sight of the dragon, allies and enemies see emerging in their memory all that relates to him how easy it was to defeat the elephant whose physical power is proven, his blood thirst, facts and legends that make him a formidable opponent (A representative of that race did he not saved a child while fighting in a band of robbers? Another did not keep it not fiercely fabulous golden fleece I need regular.)
While the enemy is aghast by the visions that the standard instilled in him, those who wear the feel under its protection.

Why the ancient authors do they attempt to describe the wonderful side as monsters rather than attempt to discover a logical explanation for what they discover? Yes, they are personally attracted by the extraordinary, but that does not explain everything. Strabo says himself that the man can not help succumbing to the "love fables. "One of the simplest way to get his attention is to give him what he wants. Thus, the monster is a lure, a way to draw man to know. It is true that pure knowledge is quite daunting, which is why the monster comes in. It breaks the boredom and captivates the reader. The following quote from Strabo expresses this idea while making an explanation: "We always like the new, the unknown; it's even there making eager to learn, and when the novelty add the amazing and wonderful, pleasure is twofold. »
The monster fulfills this function perfectly, both mysterious "amazing and wonderful." How better than he charmed the crowds?
Is it a fantasy monster, the result of the degradation state of an animal or an unmistakable reality? No answer can not satisfy this question because the question does not arise for the men that were before the Enlightenment. The company accepts the monster as it is: a creation of nature. Creating a strange, sometimes disturbing and often disconcerting, but born of the same original point than any other creature. Stay on this observation is by far insufficient because the companies have more than accept the monster, they have built within them. Economic vector or magical amulet, the monster has invaded societies; so much so that they are no longer able to extirpate their bowels without dying. Yes, the monster has become essential for the "good works" of the company. Reality or be spooky, there is no area in which it has its place, irreplaceable so that some could not help but create their own monster to give credence to their claims.

To study this subject is therefore to take stock of one aspect of our society, our history. This is an exercise that pushes us to appeal to many disciplines of the exact sciences and humanities. This work, in the form of a dictionary, aims to enlighten the curious, amateurs or experts on key issues that characterize the monster and its ramifications.

Aristotle, Generation of Animals, IV, IV, 770b in Claude Kappler, Monsters, demon and wonders in the late Middle Ages, Paris, Payot, 1980, p. 212.
"[...] Nostris inusitatam sensibum gerat corporis formam seu colorem motum sive sive sive sonum qualibet vi qualibet parte qualibet qualitate, naturam" in Claude Kappler, Monsters, demon and wonders in the late Middle Ages, Paris, Payot, 1980, p. 212.
Pliny, Natural History, X, 136. Thus, on one side, are the monsters, and other mythical creatures. For Pliny, there is only one difference between them: the monster exists, the fabulous animal is a fantasy product.
Elien, Personality animals, VI, 58.
Claude Kappler, demons Monsters and marvels at the end of the Middle Ages, Paris, Payot, 1980, p. 21.
Pierre Brunel, Dictionary of Literary Myths, p. 1166.
Strabo, Geography, I, 2, 8.
Strabo, XV, 1, 37-44.
Including the fact that the world is surrounded by water.
Note that these two regions are sometimes confused, including Pliny, for example, in relation to the Indian oxen or mantichore it up in Ethiopia.
According to ancient writers, India is known for being the place of life of gigantic animals.
Cf. Pliny, VIII, 72 and 75.
Jehan Desanges, research on the activity of the Mediterranean to the borders of Africa, p 3-16.
Ie cinnamon; this valuable herb was used in the manufacture of medicines and perfumes, and even in the flavor of the wine.
Pliny, XII, 85-86.
HJ Cotte, fish and aquatic animals at the time of Pliny the Elder, Gap, Louis Jean, 1944, p. 76
Charles Gould, Mythical Monsters, London, WH Allen, p 164-167.
Pliny, VIII, 61.
Strabo, I, 2, 8.
Strabo, XV, 1, 37-44.

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