Mordion/Tess - Christian Imagery in Hexwood (long)

Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk
Mon Mar 13 12:08:58 EST 2000



[I am copying this - along with one or two other list items - to my Papa, TDB,
to help him decide to join the list...]


Melissa, quoting me:

>>I hadn't spotted Melissa's reference to a Christ-image in Tess.  I certainly
>>hadn't connected any of the Christian imagery I found in Hexwood with Tess at
>>all.
>
> It was sort of a sideways comment.  Basically, Elise's crazy teacher thought
> that Angel Clare was a Christ-figure who "redeems" Tess, and I said that if
> anyone was a Christ-figure in that book, it was Tess herself.  I don't think
> she *is* necessarily, but then it depends on what you think constitutes a
> Christ analogue in literature.  I'm not a big fan of that kind of analysis,

The only genuine literary Christ-analogue I know of is probably Aslan in the
Narnia books...

Interesting point here by Elise's crazy teacher.  I still haven't read Tess, so
I can't comment on this side of it, but on the Hexwood side I agree with the
teacher, I'm afraid.

I think I said this on the list once before, but I see in Mordion an analogue of
Everyman.  Mordion, in the wood, has repressed his guilty past.  When the Bannus
arranges for Three to turn him into a dragon, this opens up his memories.

Mordion has to come to terms with his memories, and acknowledge his
responsibility for his sins _even though_ they were not his fault [this is not
quite my model for the Christian concept of original sin - this idea needs a bit
more work].  The sins do not disappear, any more than their effects in the
world, but Mordion is given the opportunity to make a fresh start as if he were
not guilty.  This _is_ a very good model for confession (acknowledging sin),
repentance (resolving to make a new start) and absolution (being given the
opportunity to live a new life as if one had not sinned).

The Christ figure here is the Bannus.  The Bannus is the only entity that has
power and authority to pass - and enforce - such judgements on Reigners.  Like
Christ, the Bannus then gives Mordion a major task to perform in the new order -
a case of "the last shall be first".

Personally, I don't like the Bannus as a Christ figure - the role doesn't sit
well on it.  But I can't help wondering if the shutting down, years of
inactivity, and release of the Bannus can be connected with the death and
resurrection of Christ.  (This one also needs more work!)

But thinking over Mordion's role, I agree with the Suffering Servant analogy....

>>I would disagree about the connection here, in fact.  Mordion (and presumably
>>Tess) are acted upon, and caused to suffer.  Jesus acts to take the suffering
on
>>himself.  (This is one reason I don't like the view of Christ, popular among
>>some Christians, as a sort of super-scapegoat).
>
> Yeah, me too.  But I'll point out that the wording of Isaiah 53 (one of the
> Biblical references for the "suffering servant" imagery Hallie referred to)
> is very much "acted upon"--"He was bruised for our transgressions, he was
> wounded for our iniquities" etc.  Although Mordion's sufferings are all put
> upon him--nobody asked him if he wanted to be tortured by Reigner One--he
> acts out of his own strength to turn those sufferings into something
> worthwhile.  So I'd say there are similarities, but not a direct connection.
> For one thing, he fails to save the children--he only saves himself.  And I
> would expect a character who was intended to represent Christ to be more
> self-assured and aware of his role, which Mordion isn't.  Still, the
> similarities are interesting.

... Ironically I spotted the Isaiah reference in Hallie's post _before_ I
connected it with Mordion's original job title.  (Dim or what?).  I was thinking
of the verse that goes something like "he has laid on him the iniquity of us
all" - often quoted by "super-scapegoat" Christians.  This is explicitly stated
(by Vierran) as Reigtner One's role for Mordion, somewhere in the book: "The
Reigners bred their Servants to carry the guilt they should have carried
themselves" (can't remember the exact wording).

But I don't think Mordion's Christ-role goes much further than this.

In fact, Melissa replies to Hallie:

> Now, I don't think this makes Mordion an analogue for Christ.  It's sort of
> an extended link:  Mordion--"suffering servant"--Christ, and of course in
> Jewish biblical scholarship the suffering servant is interpreted very
> differently and that second link wouldn't exist at all.  But it's opened up
> an intriguing line of thought for me.  I just wish it had come up about six
> months ago, when I could have had a venue for an essay on it.... :)

That would have made it too easy!

> forum.  One of the things I studied in college was the Bible as literature,
> so my viewpoint is a little different--in my mind there is the Bible as holy
> writ and as literary text, both co-existing simultaneously.  But it sounds
> strange to some people, particularly religious people.  And the last thing I

Right with you, Melissa.  I never studied the Bible as Literature, but I often
wish I had!  I could say a lot more, but as you say, a list like this is no
place for any part of The Great God Debate...

*****

This time, Hallie is replying to Melissa:

>> Mordion is definitely a
>>suffering servant, isn't he?  Setting aside the connection between the
>>Biblical references and Christ for the moment, there are some remarkable
>>similarities.  I'm thinking again of the passage in Isaiah, which is in the
>>end of chapter 52 and all of chapter 53; I mentioned one of the relevant
>>quotes in my other post, but there's also the bit about how the servant has
>>no real beauty that makes him desirable (remember the death's head?) as well
>>as "we did esteem him stricken of God, and smitten" (i.e. a nutcase) and
>>Mordion is certainly viewed by the Reigners as not fully human, more of a
>>tool than a person.  I'm sure there's more than this, but I would have to
>>drag out my Bible, and I know y'all don't want me to go that far.

[Bible quote snipped]

> This is the Fourth Servant Song in Isaiah, and the first (42.1-4) is about
> how the Servant will bring forth justice (as in the task before Mordion as
> First Reigner).  I didn't see much relevance in the other Servant Songs.
> I'm not sure smitten couldn't just also mean suffering as punishment (?),
> but either way it makes sense.

Oops!  I didn't spot "smitten" in Melissa's post.  I agree it doesn't mean a
nutcase.  The verb to smite is used in a much more literal sense in the Bible
[this is the Authorised Version isn't it?].  I think it just means whipped, or
something similar.

> Well, bearing in mind what I have just said, I must confess to another
> thought arising from a hymn this morning (no, I don't spend *all* my time
> in church thinking about DWJ!).  Can't quote all of this verbatim, but it's
> a Lenten hymn, which starts "Forty days and forty nights, thou wast fasting
> in the wild", and also has something about being beset by wild animals and
> sleeping on the stony ground.  Of course, my mind immediately went to the
> time in the Wood with Hume, and being hungry and cold, and the wolves.
> Even just possibly the "temptation" of using Hume to kill the Reigners.
> Again, I see all the many points of dissimilarity just as well as the
> similarities, but the image still adds a layer of meaning for me, in the
> places where there may be a connection.

I like this.  This enriches Mordion both as Christ and as Everyman.

> a connection between the two!  And now all the hard work of thinking has
> made me hungry, and tapioca sounds pretty good ... (oh, no, that wasn't a
> food comment, was it? :-(

Tapioca?  I feel sick just thinking about it!

Philip.



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