Goblin Slayer and the Root of Horror

The Halloween season has given me some impetus to think about the horror genre.  A while back, an academic named E. Michael Jones was on the Patrick Coffin show explaining how he thought about the horror genre.  He has written at least two works on this subject: Monsters from the Id: The Rise of Horror in Fiction and Film and Sex with Monsters.  Jones believes that the modern horror genre arose as a reaction to the free love movements of the 19th century and reached its full flowering following the Sexual Revolution.  Many persons were hurt by the myriad problems which inevitably arise from sexual licentiousness and enjoyed a cathartic reaction from a central message of many horror stories: sex can kill you.

School Days

You all know how this story ends.  Or, if you don’t, School Days should be on your list.

School Days might be the anime locus classicus for such a theme, but my dear readers know–know even a priori–that playing Don Juan for a length of time is going to lead one to embarrassing, painful, and even dangerous situations.  People don’t like being used as playthings, and the relatives of the playthings take an even dimmer view of such conduct.  The fact that one’s partner consents to the relationship does not take away from the feeling of being used.  The Sexual Revolution tried to paint promiscuity as a desirable thing, even promoting contraceptives and abortion so that women could participate in “consequence- free” sex.

MSDALIE FE029

Yet, lust is a vice.  Vices are all ugly and undesirable.  Some might appear as insignificant as a pesky fly, but this fly is on the same spectrum as cockroaches, sewer rats, and ultimately demonic beings too horrible to contemplate–like the alien in the famous horror flick AlienAlien itself, with all its sexual innuendos, is essentially a metaphor for the horror of lust in its full bloom.  Vice is a monster which can terrorize its victims to the grave and into hell.

Goblin 4

Well, that’s enough about lust.  Lust is not the monster in Goblin Slayer.  (Part of this post is supposed to be about Goblin Slayer, isn’t it?)  The metaphor in this anime is very easy to pick up, because our hero tells us outright.  When our party of heroes debates the origin of the goblins, the Goblin Slayer says that his sister told him that goblins descended onto earth from the green moon out of envy for how rich and fertile the earth was.  Consider this also: the last two commandments of the Ten Commandments directly command people not to envy their neighbor’s wife or their neighbor’s goods. What do the goblins in this anime primarily concern themselves with?  Rape and plunder.

Goblin A

You might be wondering now why the author of this fantasy horror decided to make envy the monster.  Along with lust, envy metastasized into a political movement during the 20th century.  With promises of equality, envy was advanced under the names of socialism and communism.  Curiously, many people color socialism with tones of charity, which is the opposite of envy.  Charity, however, rejoices in a neighbor’s good–even if the neighbor’s good is more than our own.  Envy wants all its neighbors to have nothing more than itself, i.e. envy wants equality at very least.

Goblin C

In recent times, the political dialogue about political systems and political philosophy suffers from a confusion of ideas.  People confuse the notion of a welfare system with socialism.  Socialist societies have systems of welfare, but not all systems of welfare belong to socialist societies.  Indeed, when people point to Scandinavian countries as positive examples of socialism at work, they are actually pointing to capitalist societies with welfare systems.  The government may take more than half of the average man’s earnings, but it permits free markets and free enterprise.  As in United States’ politics, a person may argue for welfare systems without adhering to socialism.

Goblin D

Remember that socialism is defined as a system where the state owns all the means of production, aka all the capital.  There is another system where one entity owns all the capital: slavery.  After all, slaves are not allowed to own goods or to order their own lives; yet, what a marvelous equality exists among people denied the fruits of their labor and the right to act in their self-interest!  If everyone lives in the same kind of house, is rationed the same kind of food, is given the same medical care, and works the same job, what little room is left for envy!  The socialist state and The Servile State are one in the same.  You may protest, “But, the socialist state is rule by the community, not rule by the one, as in a slave state.”  Yet, in practice, socialist states always have a select few with the power of life and death and full rights over the liberty and property of others.  After all, how can one ever have a direct democracy in a state with tens of millions, hundreds of millions, or over one billion people?

Goblin B

All the same, one cannot but marvel at how much people praise equality and socialism.  Human flourishing only requires one form of equality: equality before the law.  I recently came across a brilliant passage from C. S. Lewis.  In his short essay “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” we are shown a vision of demons banqueting on the damend in hell.  In part of the speech, Screwtape praises “the spirit of democracy,” which is envy.  Even though democracy has much to recommend it, this system can be brought down by its own instinct for leveling the citizens.  The following passage is very interesting and deserves to be quoted in full:

And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference of being a claim to superiority. No one must be different from himself in voice, clothes, manners, recreations, choice of food. ‘Here is someone who speaks English rather more clearly and euphoniously than I—it must be a vile, upstage, lah-di-dah affectation. Here’s a fellow who says he doesn’t like hot dogs—thinks himself too good for them no doubt. Here’s a man who hasn’t turned on the jukebox—he’s one of those goddam highbrows and is doing it to show off. If they were honest-to-God all right Joes they’d be like me. They’ve no business to be different. It’s undemocratic.’

Now this useful phenomenon is in itself by no means new. Under the name of Envy it has been known to the humans for thousands of years. But hitherto they always regarded it as the most odious, and also the most comical, of vices. Those who were aware of feeling it felt it with shame; those who were not gave it no quarter in others. The delightful novelty of the present situation is that you can sanction it—make it respectable and even laudable—by the incantatory use of the word democratic.

Lewis, C. S.. The World’s Last Night: And Other Essays (pp. 64-65).

 

Goblin H

Even as envy is the most odious and most comical of vices, a goblin is the most odious and comical of monsters.  If goblins did not cause so much harm to the world of Goblin Slayer, everyone would despise and mock such creatures.  The only way for the envious to gain even a modicum of respect is to indulge their wish for other people to suffer evil.  In the quest to crush all forms of superiority, the plain mar the beautiful, the poor rob the rich, the foolish mock the wise, the weak chain the strong, and the sinful crucify the saints.  Such is the monster of envy!

Goblin 8

Charity is a far different creature.  Charity concerns itself with giving rather than taking.  No one forces charity to offer its gifts, because it would not be charity if someone compelled it.  You see how charity operates in the relationship of the Goblin Slayer and his party of adventurers.  Indeed, most RPG-style parties are based on the principle of charity–even if it’s a charity required by the adventurers’ situation.  Since no member of the party suffices for the quest, each member provides their own particular set of skills for the good of the whole.  There is great inequality between all of the members: none has all of the skills and strength needed to fulfill the quest.  At the same time, each one freely offers what they have for the success of the party.  Inequality makes each individual a necessary and important gift to the community, and, at the same time, not able to flourish outside of that community.  The slogan of charity will always be: “All for one, and one for all!”

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18 comments on “Goblin Slayer and the Root of Horror

  1. I haven’t watched Goblin Slayer before, only knowing a certain favorite singer-songwriter named Soraru doing the ending theme. Well, that, and I first knew about it along with the controversy sparked by the disturbing level of violence depicted right off the bat. I don’t think I can say much about it yet, the only thing I can say being a guess that the added sexual violence is the main target of all that controversy in the first place, but I’d like to ask you what you think of all that, so yeah. And personally, I find it interesting that sexual violence is considered more worth censoring or more heinous than murder, as if sex is more cherished than life itself, but there’s also the perspective of “Murder is a quick end, rape is lasting suffering.” Still, I feel like it says something about today’s culture of death and hypersexuality…like, one can be let off for murder, but one should never ever be let off for sexual assault (and/or racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, ableism, body shaming, etc.)…and hey, perhaps we can tie that to talks about capital punishment and hate definitions as well? And while it’s probably not a new problem, there seems to be quite a collective self-loathing within us Christians today, too, thinking about it some more…

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    • Well, sex in itself is more worth censoring: sex is supposed to be a private affair. There was one director who said that he would never film a sex scene or a scene of a person at prayer. Private things should be left private, and showing such things can have the effect of making the thing vulgar–as has obviously happened with sex in the modern world.

      Sexual violence is more worth censoring than just about anything else. Rape has traditionally been called “a fate worse than death,” and, feel free to look this up, the Catholic Church goes so far as to say that suicide is not a mortal sin when one is under the threat of rape. St. Augustine talks about certain Roman martyrs whom he dubs “holy women” who are considered saints even though they committed suicide–precisely because some pagans threatened to rape them.

      In discussing whether violence or sex is more inaccrochable, one also needs to consider that history and human existence is fill with violence of all sorts–most of it public. First world countries in the modern era count as the only real exception to that rule. Even so, there has practically never been a time since the end of WWII when a war was not being waged somewhere.

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      • Oh yeah, you’re right…and now I’m embarrassed because I forgot something so basic yet so important. And that’s some interesting knowledge…reminds me of Saint Maria Goretti, who, while not exactly like those cases you mentioned, still pretty much put into practice rejecting rape even at the risk of getting killed for it. And violence in history has been quite public, indeed, thinking about it some more…I guess what matters now is that we don’t glorify it, then, no? Well, anyway, I thank you very much again for your very worthwhile thoughts, dear friend.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome! Don’t worry: I know that you’re an open-minded guy trying to understand what’s going on in present-day culture. So, I knew where your remarks came from. If you want to listen to an interesting Catholic layman on sexuality in the modern world, I recommend Christopher West’s short book: “The Eclipse of the Body.” He’s famed for trying to explain Pope St. JPII’s Theology of the Body. You can listen to The Patrick Coffin Show Episode 85 and see whether you want to check out more of his work.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks very much for the understanding, then! And hey, that sounds interesting! Not much of a podcast listener, though, but hey, I think I should take more time to check such out, especially considering how much I ramble, hahaha~

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      • Erm… actually, I think you’ll find that you have misread St. Augustine on this topic. Big time.

        In the pagan Roman tradition, it was laudable for women to kill themselves rather than be raped, and to kill themselves subsequent to having been raped. Thus the story of Virginia, daughter of Virginius, who incited the Romans to overthrow their Etruscan king.

        So yes, lists of early Roman-city martyrs included ladies who jumped into rivers and drowned rather than be raped, as St. Ambrose records in the book he wrote for his sister, “On Virgins.” And St. Ambrose, as a Roman of old family, is all for it.

        St. Augustine’s point in the early bits of The City of God is that St. Ambrose and these ladies were gravely mistaken (which is the only reason it didn’t count as a sin for them). He had to make this point strongly, because the Sack of Rome had just left a Christian population chock full of raped matrons, virgins, widows, and vowed virgins, many of whom wished to commit suicide as their pagan cultural traditions demanded.

        The City of God stands foursquare for not committing suicide before or after a rape, because suicide is a deadly sin whereas getting raped is being sinned against (and that God will avenge it on the rapist). He goes so far as to declare clearly that being raped does not hurt the chastity of the rape-ee, and that a raped virgin is still a virgin in God’s eyes, in every way.

        Since St. Ambrose was the guy who converted St. Augustine by his speeches and books, it’s particularly noteworthy that Augustine was willing and eager to argue against his own mentor’s teachings in such a strong way.

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      • You’re completely right. I just reread those passages, and St. Augustine is at pains to say that suicide is never permissible for any reason. Book I, Chapter 26 does begin with a paragraph saying that Augustine hesitates to condemn the holy women who committed suicide and whose tombs receive veneration from pilgrims, since these seem to have the approval of the Church in some way. But, he claims that this might have been done at the command of God, which would be the sole way to take away the sinfulness of the deed. (He writes that Samson killed himself and the Philistines without sinning for the same reason.) I myself hesitate to write “without sin” and preferred to write “without mortal sin,” since paragraph 2282 of the Catechism notes that the threat of certain sufferings or mental distress can detract from the gravity of suicide. Hence, it is permissible now to give suicides a Catholic burial.

        On the topic of early Roman martyrs, the Golden Legends tells the story of a young man who was tied down for a prostitute to have her way with him. When he felt himself giving in to sensuality, he bit off his tongue and spat it at the prostitute–causing him to expire from blood loss. Perhaps, such a deed must be looked at as courageous rather than cowardly considering the culture in which he was steeped.

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      • Anyhoo, I should probably clarify that St. Augustine’s teaching did become the teaching of the Church, although there is still a very strong cultural imperative in Latin-culture areas (among others). What generally happened is that the cultural imperative changed into the idea that women should ideally resist rape strongly, and call for help loudly.

        St. Maria Goretti’s story is much more interesting when one uses the primary sources. She was quite young, but she was also quite tall and strong, and she resisted her rapist fairly effectively. If anyone but her rapist had been anywhere near the house, or if she had managed to get hold of some better weapons, she probably could have held him off long enough to be saved. Her basic temperament (like that of many Italians!) was that of a fighter, so I certainly don’t fault her for taking her chance.

        Her sainthood was not about resisting rape. It was about heroically forgiving the creep while dying, and thus bringing about his eventual sincere conversion.

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      • I should probably point out that, aside from being a twelve year old, Maria Goretti would have made a great illustration of the “Irish Agricultural Girl” song. There are a surprising number of great saints who are always drawn as pale slim beauties, but were actually chunky with big housewife muscles.

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  2. Reblogged this on The Overlord Bear's Den and commented:
    My friend just increased my interest in Goblin Slayer. Whoop-dee-doo~

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  3. Gaheret says:

    For what you say, Goblin Slayer (ahem, and School Days) may not be my cup of tea, but you point to a lot of interesting issues here. Book of Wisedom, 17 has a very enlightening (and poetic) approach to guilt and idolatry as the ultimate root of horror.

    Fear is a rejection of future evil coming to us, and in a biological level is supposed to keep us safe. Horror or existential fear, I´d say, comes from the fact that, after the Fall, men live in a world where the “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” starts developing all its terrifying consequences, which are disorder, corruption, darkness, deformity and death of the self, the “dominion of the devil”, who is the “prince of this world” to the extent that we´re the kings, the gardeners of Eden, and we´re enslaved by sin (he being the biggest and most influential sinner under corruptio optimi pessima, even if he is a slave too). As the darkness of sin persists even if we try to fight it or hide it and its consequences are dreadful, we feel horror. Only those who are surrounded by strong signs of God (I´m thinking of little children near their loving parents) or those who fully deceive themselves, like the pharisees, are more or less free of it. But this fear becomes something of a preambula fidei, the “beginning of wisedom”, as we become able that we need to be saved. I´ve always thought that horror stories are thus very human, as hero tales (even if there is also the danger that we become fascinated with evil), as we always met this powerful, intimate monsters we sometimes can and must fight and we sometimes can´t.

    A world not ruled by love is a world in which every power is ultimately alien and threatening, in which we “cannot see God, for we would die”, in which every sign of love is either tragic or terrifying, and corruption and death become an existential threat. The idols we create by giving them the good and powerful atributes we can think of (such as the Communist State you mention, or the villain in Serial Experiments Lain) become monsters, because we project in them the darkness inside us an also because they distort themselves to substitute God. Lain itself, the two villains of Princess Tutu or the witches of Madoka are good anime portrayals of such things. But the world, which was created good, remains good, so there´s the light of the image of God, like a seal of the artist, and other signs of hope and grace who work as preambula fidei (present in anime, which is usually not yet Christian). The dominion of the devil is thus never complete, and the salvific action of God is always in motion (“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working”) as a secret war, with the potential of saving everyone and everything good in the world we know. Our Lord delivers us from fear. After we learn this, horror becomes less so (for example, reading Lovecraft I think for me a Cthullu is a practical threat, not so much an existential one).

    Horror remains because we remain in a broken world, we remain sinners and the devil still has a role in our lives, but hope is present too, so we know that it won´t have the last world and “the last enemy to be destroyed is death”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The idea of idolatry being the root of horror is rather interesting. Several pagan deities actually are monsters. So, there is a very direct connection between worshiping false gods and monsters. Ideologies can often exist on the same level. Maybe ideologues don’t worship monstrous idols, but they certainly make monsters out of men–e.g. Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot.

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  4. Gaheret says:

    Also, sex is a very interesting topic, more so under the theology of the body of St. John Paul II. As the body is intended for love, sex as an expression of love (and for the same reason, celibacy as an expression of love) becomes a powerful sign which affects the whole person in a lot of different dimensions. You´re absolutely right about the sexual revolution absolutely missing the point, as they believe that these effects can be separated or “domesticated”, so to speak, to put them at the service of lust without further consequences. This is so great a sign that in effect, St. Augustine can praise these holy women you speak of. I´d never heard this so plainly stated, but there´s no way around it: I suppose that, in order to be coherent with the rest of Christian ethics, this is an extreme mean to avoid the wronged sign it would result for the rapists and herself if she were raped, and not so much for avoiding the pain involved.

    About it being related with horror films, I don´t know. Of course, horror, no matter how existential, must be related to the body somehow to be in a film, but since there are too many Freudian thinkers where I live, I prefer to explain things in terms of signs of love and its absence than in terms of sex when possible. For example, Dracula preying in young, beautiful women implies that there is a sexual element in his predator nature (even if he doesn´t rape them), but I think that in Stoker he´s mainly an anti-lithurgical human being (the inverted relationship blood/life, the rejection of water, the “undead” element, he rejecting the Host and the Cross, the unconsecrated grave), the rest of his dehumanized traits being derived from this nature.

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    • As I just pointed out above, suicide is a worse sin than rape, just as murder is a worse sin than rape.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, technically this is true. If you murder someone, you take away their most precious possession: life. There still is something meaner, more odious, and more despicable about rape. For which reason, murderers rank higher on the totem pole in prisons, and all the other inmates enjoy abusing rapists. Not strictly logical, but very human all the same.

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      • Gaheret says:

        Thanks for the clarification! I was remembering a laudatory sermon by Saint John Chrysostom of St. Pelagia, who did this same thing, and it surprised me at the time. But he lived before Agustine, and I’ve never read something like that from a Churchmen of the medieval or modern era, so I guess that what you said remains true.

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  5. Anime, Alien, Augustine; this is my kind of discussion. Again, thank you.

    I kind of wonder, though: were I to watch Goblin Slayer, I imagine I’d see the same kinds of hints you did — but are they just hints? How much is in keeping with what the show is actually trying to do, and how much is you seeing these things because that’s how you think? I’d watch Goblin Slayer if it were seriously saying something about sin (that’s why I love the Alien franchise), but is it really doing that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that Goblin Slayer is actually trying to say something about sin. It delves into all the pain and horror wrought by the goblins, and the hero himself has clearly been harmed psychologically by them as well. Also, the hero’s main virtue appears to be humility. He does not don flashy armor, try to make goblin slaying look cool, or try to aggrandize his own reputation. In that way, he’s very different from all of the other adventurers at the guild.

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