March 27, 2017, 8:49 pm
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The march of monsters

GREETINGS from Skull Island (or is it Benham Rise?)!

We are here at 12°S 78°E where the Skullcrawlers had been competing for dominance against giant cephalopods, Deathrunners, the human Tagatu super-race, and, of course, the simian Kong. This is a crazy but extremely dangerous place that has become a refuge for all sorts of creatures from science fiction, folklore and history. If we have enough bullets and guts, then we may explore this world and find:

(1) Besides the winged serpents in Ethiopia that Aristotle had reported and winged serpents in India mentioned by Megasthenes, as well as La Gargouille that ravaged the Seine and was, thus, destroyed by Saint Romain of Rouen, there is Ying Lung of China – “a country in which the belief in the existence of the dragon is thoroughly woven into the life of the whole nation.” [Charles Gould. Mythical Monsters. London: W. H. Allen & Co., 1886]

(2) A Carnivorous Dinosaur. “It is not very difficult to imagine a Megalosaur lying in wait for his prey (perhaps a slender, harmless little mammal of the ant-eater type) with his hind limbs bent under his body, so as to bring the heels to the ground, and then with one terrific bound from those long legs springing on to the prey, and holding the mammal tight in its clawed fore limbs, as a cat might hold a mouse. Then the sabre-like teeth would be brought into action by the powerful jaws, and soon the flesh and bones of the victim would be gone!” [Rev. H.N. Hutchinson. Extinct Monsters: A Popular Account of Some of the Larger Forms of Ancient Animal Life. London: Chapman & Hall, Ld., 1897]

(3) Not a cow. “There is an animal in Paeonia a called Monops, and it is the size of a shaggy bull. Now when this creature is pursued, in its agitation it voids a fiery and acrid dung, so I am told; and should this happen to fall on any of the hunters, it kills him.” [Aelian. On The Characteristics Of Animals. With An English Translation By A. F. Scholfield. London: William Heinemann, 1959]

(4) Nemesis of mining. “We do know that these tragic animals live underground in mines and desire nothing more than to reach the light of day. They have the power of speech and implore the miners to help them to the surface. At first, a Celestial Stag attempts to bribe the workmen with the promise of revealing hidden veins of silver and gold; when this gambit fails, the beast becomes troublesome and the miners are forced to overpower it and wall it up in one of the mine galleries. It is also rumoured that miners outnumbered by the Stags have been tortured to death.” [Jorge Luis Borges. The Book of Imaginary Beings. London: Penguin Books, 1974, p. 36]

(5) Menace from the Orient. “In 1935 the mighty genius of Moyen gripped the Eastern world like a hand of steel. In a matter of months he had welded the Orient into an unbeatable war-machine. He had, through the sheer magnetism of a strange personality, carried the Eastern world with him on his march to conquest of the earth.” [Arthur J. Burks, “Monsters of Moyen,” Astounding Stories of Super-Science, April 1930]

How about the giant simian? His origin?

Kong (Megaprimatus kong) was the star of American filmmaker Merian C. Cooper’s “Giant terror gorilla picture,” a fantasy version of real-life expeditions to jungles in Africa and Asia. The original “King Kong” movie was first shown on March 2, 1933 in New York City and premiered for the world 21 days later at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. It was a monster hit (an all-time attendance record for an indoor event during its first four-day run).

The birth of the King Kong franchise coincided with the ascendancy of a party of monsters. On March 5, 1933, Sunday, 89 percent of able German voters chose their representatives to the parliament, with 288 seats (out of 647) going to the Nazis.

When the votes were cast, the Reichstag Fire Decree was in effect, suspending civil liberties and legitimizing the arrest of thousands of KPD leaders and members. In addition, the Prussian Interior Ministry issued a Schießerlass, or “shooting decree,” to suppress political opponents, and deputized the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party (Sturmabteilung) as Hilfspolizei who “monitored” the electoral process. No wonder the National Socialist German Workers Party garnered 17 million votes.
By March 23, 1933, the Chancellor led the passage of the Ermächtigungsgesetz, which gave him dictatorial powers. That day, Hitler’s NSDAP began its rule. As explained by Research Section WD 1 of the Administration of the German Bundestag: “The adoption of the Act on 23 March 1933 enabled Adolf Hitler’s government to enact laws without the consent of the Reichstag, which continued to exist, or of the Reichsrat and without the countersignature of the President of the Reich. These extensive powers also applied, almost without restriction, to constitutional amendments and to treaties with other states. The Act thus marked the final eclipse of the democratic state based on the rule of law and the abolition of parliamentary democracy.”

“All the legislation of the National Socialist state was based on the Enabling Act. It served to centralise the public administration, the judiciary, the security apparatus and the armed forces in accordance with the ‘Führer principle’, to standardise political life in accordance with National Socialist principles (Gleichschaltung) by banning political parties and mass organisations and to abolish freedom of the press. The concentration of power in the hands of the government, and hence in the person of Adolf Hitler, sealed the transition to dictatorship.” [Historical Exhibition Presented By The German Bundestag, March 2006]

The monster metaphor in World War II applied to other places and people.

(1) “Following Hobbes, who compared the modem state to the monster known as Leviathan, and F. Neumann, who compared the Nazi Third Reich to a Behemoth, should not Manchukuo be seen as that mythical Greek monster, the Chimera, with head of lion, torso of goat, and tail of dragon, where the lion is the Kwantung Army, the goat the Japanese emperor system, and the dragon, needless to say, is the Chinese emperor?” [Yamamuro Shin i’chi, “Saigo no ‘Manshlikoku’ blimu O yonde,” ChuakOranOune, 1989, pp. 354-62, as cited in: Gavan McCormack, “Manchukuo: Constructing the Past,” East Asian History, Number 2, December 1991]

(2) The Dutchman Christian Lindemans was a member of Resistance groups in Rotterdam, Brussels and Paris when he was recruited as an agent by the Abwehr (German military intelligence). The Germans gave the traitor a codename: King Kong. []
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