Thursday, March 30, 2006

Hellboy: An African Myth about a Frog

Mike Mignola's Hellboy is a fantastic idea for a comic book and a world fantastically designed: a heady mix of Lovecraft, Alex Toth, Jack Kirby and world mythology. One chapter of Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, a chapter about frogs and frog-men monsters, opens up with An African Myth about a Frog, one that knocked me out when I read it (I include Mignola's image from the page):
On a day when little water was to be found Man spent awhile in thought and realized that he might one day die, never to rise again. Man sent Dog to God to ask that he might come back to live again, like the flowering plant, after death.

Dog went off and followed his nose toward God. He was soon distracted by the smell of soup, and followed his hunger toward the source. Leaning close to watch it boil, Dog was content and forgot his mission.

Seeing that Dog was lost, Frog took it upon himself to go to God and tell him that Man did not want to live again. If Man were to be reborn, thought Frog, he would soon muddy the rivers and destroy the birthplaces of frogs.

Dog finally arrived to tell God Man's message. Leaning low, he crooned Man's need for rebirth in the song of his howl. God was touched by the devotion of Dog for Man.

But God granted the frog's wish, because he got there first.
This story is similar to James Tate's Goodtime Jesus, about which I have already posted. It imagines, where we would expect a necessary origin, an arbitrary, accidental one. On a cosmic scale the idea of "well that's just how it happened, it could have happened another way," the idea that the dog is just stupidly late, and that this effects all of creation, is terrifying. Mignola uses it to establish that frogs are evil, are man's enemies, but it also must speak to the creator of the world of Hellboy, in which world mythology collides with the absurd figure of a hulking red daemon with a trench coat, an old fashioned pistol, and a badly functioning jet pack. The arbitrary is a form of freedom as well as doom.


Katie said...

This is unrelated to your post, I thought you'd be interested to see that the New School likes John Ashbery as much as you do and is having a festival this week:

Geoff Klock said...

I saw that myself, when I was researching places I should work when I get to New York. John Ashbery is the man. I wish I could be there: anyone in New York should go.

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