Today’s thought bending contribution comes from Randal. Inspired by Jasminka’s “Warriors of Light” he takes his brain twisting knowledge of literature (as well as occupational hazard) and has come up with a rather inspired analysis of texts and their role in Supernatural. You’ll never look at a book the same way again! I’m still in awe over the creative minds this site attracts. Enjoy!
Remember What The Dormouse Said
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us — if at all — not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
– T. S. Eliot
On that violence thing, Henriksen, Masters and Reznick might beg to differ. But I digress, and probably will often. Like each and every one of us, the Winchester brothers started out as wee hollow rugrats and needed the straw in their collective craw to not simply lie there like lazy bums chowing down bags of Funyuns with a carbonated soda chaser, but actually learn something useful, make something of itself.
Go west, young scarecrow, and watch out for monsters.
Life/death, good/evil, human/demon, heaven/hell, sacred/profane, constructive/destructive, rational/mystic, consciousness/unconsciousness, anima/animus, introvert/extrovert, emotion/intellect, Supernatural has a little piece of each. Before I make Jung’s ghost cringe even further, a criminally overlooked aspect of the show in my occasionally-humble opinion is that last facet. Granted, â€˜tis not as radiant or ratings-grabbing as bloodthirsty monsters, diabolically deceptive demon babes, squealing tires and pass-the-Kleenex moments, but without intellect and its judicious application fueling the brothers’ saving of the damsel, the dude, or the world in distress, what good is beautiful emotion, and that’s coming from a moody sap. Think I’m bloviating? Ask Bobby.
So, where does one locate this most vital tool of the trade? Books!
Texts, actually, and thanks must go out to an innocuous comment by Jasminka (the next roundâ€™s on me) who helped nudge my addled noodle from a short essay constituting a mere library of livres to a long-winded attempt at something more profound *the audience scoffs*, the primacy of texts, their interpretation and their commentary in and of the Supernatural universe. In other words, if this comes across as nothing but rambling, caffeine-saturated bullshit pulled out of thin, 3 a.m. air, as much of it was, blame her.
Anyway, in this high-tech day and age, knowledge is no longer imprisoned in musty folios and gilded leather bindings, but as weâ€™ve seen, thatâ€™s where a lot of the stuff lies and weâ€™ll get to that in good time. So, crack open that creaky dust jacket (or fire up that laptop) and feed your head.
Just donâ€™t be surprised if things get curiouser and curiouser.
Paper or plastic?
Sam and Dean Winchester save people. Thatâ€™s their raison dâ€™Ãªtre. So, how exactly do they find out whom to save? By reading the newspaper, of course. (Other common tropes exist; phone calls and Sam’s better-than-Ovaltine visions, yet the majority of their missions remain rooted in ‘printed’ language, at least until this here apocalypse gig. Trust me, I counted.) Whether from smudgy newsprint or websites peekabooing behind bustyasianbeauties.com, the acrid stench of strange doings is the first step to any successful rescue.
This in and of itself isnâ€™t going to save a soul. I can read the same articles and obituaries and likely come to an entirely different conclusion: crazy happens, but whatcha gonna do. Me? Iâ€™m not doing anything but reaching for the sports section, but theyâ€™re busting down the door with a *proper* interpretation of the text. That sound you heard was a million poststructuralists falling off their fancy office chairs with the padded arm rest.
Many episodes begin nearly in media res (not quite The Iliad, but thereâ€™s certainly a bit of Achilles and Odysseus in these gents), the case already having been chosen offscreen, and I believe itâ€™s safe to say that there was a mental and/or verbal weeding out process leading to their decision. Some poor fool dying in an unorthodox way doesnâ€™t necessarily scream â€˜vengeful spirit!â€™ Lucky for the near-stiff, they know how to separate the wheat from the inky chaff. At last, after Sam and Dean have applied their specialized knowledge of unearthly symbolism, it’s time to kick some ass. Donâ€™t forget the rock salt.
“This is dad’s single most valuable possession. Everything that he knows about every evil thing is in here, and he’s passed it on to us.”
From episode one, when that rich, tan cover slams with a sharp thud on the police station table, the centrality of the text is illuminated. In Supernatural, words matter, the written (or typed) word. This two-decade worth accumulation of information, this collection of factoids and recurring patterns that will appear in their investigations are transferred from John to his sons so that they will have the knowledge to successfully navigate the dangerous, shifting waters of the (super)natural order.
“We were raised like warriors.”
Warriors need weapons, and I don’t mean a Colt 1911. From the description, behavior and habitat of the Wendigo to the page detailing the Roosevelt asylum, the murderous pattern of that ugly ass painting of the Merchant family to the list of known appearances of the yellow-eyed demon, the journal is nothing less than Sam and Dean’s bible. And since we’re speaking of religion metaphorically, why not go whole hog and mention the various exorcism rituals read in Phantom Traveler, Devil’s Trap and Crossroad Blues and, thanks to Sam paying attention in Latin class, recited (and played back) in Jus In Bello.
“What he taught us, that’s his legacy.”
If it isn’t in dad’s journal – and not everything can be, witness that thick packet passed on to Ash – then it’s time for the next step, the construction of the ornate buildings upon the foundation laid by John Winchester nearly a quarter of a century ago.
Guess Iâ€™m (not) Done With The Book Learning
“You’re like a walking encyclopedia of weirdness.”
Research is the building block of any successful hunt, or, grumble, term paper; I’m just not sure which is more dangerous long-term to the psyche. Sam and Dean spend an inordinate amount of hours in the library, a few more thumbing through town or county records, not to mention surfing the web, scouring victims’ diaries, passenger manifests, doctorsâ€™ files, danashulps, brochures from the motel lobby and leafing through highbrow tome after highbrow tome whose purple prose would make Edward Bulwer-Lytton blush, all in search of that one, vital clue that might expand the margin for error.
A few of the most obvious sources are found where else but The Bobby Singer Lending Library (thanks, Faellie). We first meet that grand poobah of all things weird and spooky in Devil’s Trap where Bobby presents to Sam a magical grimoire, the fabled Key of Solomon, and we later see Meg trapped by one of its images painted on the ceiling, a poetically-licensed figure 29, the fifth pentacle of Mars: “Write thou this pentacle upon virgin parchment or paper, because it is terrible unto the demons, and at its sight and aspect they will obey thee, for they cannot resist its presence.” Iâ€™d say thatâ€™s about right.
The Lemegeton, the unmentioned Lesser Key of Solomon, is most famous for its first section, the Goetia, a catalogue of demons and devils similar to the Binsfieldâ€™s classification that Bobby reads from in The Magnificent Seven. “Whatâ€™s in the box?” The Pentagonall ffigure of Solomon, that’s what, seemingly the source of at least four further variations of this trap, three if the glyph in John’s Black Rock storage facility is merely for shielding demons from ever stealing those land mines or soccer trophies.
Dean should be grateful that he’s a fictional character for, according to Elizabeth M. Butler in her history of Western occult traditions, Ritual Magic, the would-be magician must experience “a preliminary period of nine days during which strict chastity and increasingly severe abstinence must be observed.” Not to mention that merely spray-painting such imagery is far from adequate. I realize that Iâ€™m burgeoning on intertextuality and semiotics, entirely different articles, but that was comical. Not sure if Dean would agree, but he’s busy with his little exorcism book from Sin City. Enjoy it now, dude, for it’s going to be ripped apart page by page in a surly, demonic vortex.
What Is and What Should Never Be gives us a chance to go meta if so inclined, Samâ€™s law books, as false as the djinn-birthed reality, representing order contra the encroaching primordial chaos. Lawyers and happy domiciles truly are a million light years from home. Back on demon-haunted planet earth, part two of All Hell Breaks Loose sees everyone rummaging through their favorite bibliothÃ¨que, Dean discovering just what Samuel Colt’s eighth wonder devil’s trap is concealing. Staying until closing time, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester has Bobby and the boys researching not just the nature of angels, browsing Pseudo-Dionysius and who knows what else, but the end of all things. I knew that angry spirit rampage would come in handy.
Prophecies aren’t always ancient, and The Monster at the End of This Book permits us to go ultrameta ok. “I’m sitting in a Laundromat, reading about myself sitting in a Laundromat reading about myself. My head hurts.” Mine, too. Must be all those texts, but Chuckâ€™s oeuvre isnâ€™t a bad blueprint for the future congregation of the Universal Church of Hunters. I wonder if there will be tithing. Oh, and writers, think you might want to have Sam and Dean question Carver Edlundâ€™s free form, linguistic jazz once or twice more?