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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, March 29, 2014


...combinatory sublime... a sublime affect brought about by the potentially dazzling array of "changing forms"-- COMBINATORY CONSIDERATIONS.

In the case of religious myth-figures, some sort of extra-human power would seem to be implied in the very idea of religion.  Mircea Eliade once commented that the hierophany (manifestation of a god) was always also a kratophany (manifestation of power), be it the strength of Heracles, the ability of Aphrodite to make mortals fall in love, or even the power to become a holy sacrifice, as with Dionysus in his form of Zagreus.  Folklore proper, perhaps because it often stems from oral and/or rural roots, tends to deal more with clever if powerless trickster-heroes as well as types who possess superior power: types like the "Jack" of beanstalk-fame would seem to outnumber types like the German "Strong Hans."-- THE UBERMENSCH AND THE PRINTING PRESS.

In the second quote, I noted that "extra-human power" was a fundamental aspect of religious myth-figures. But I do not find it to be so fundamental in the form usually called the "folktale."

In this essay I commented on the distribution of the levels of dynamicity between three tales from the collection of the Brothers Grimm. The last-analyzed tale, "The Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was," sports the protagonist with the greatest dynamicity, in that he overcomes threats almost as powerful as himself, so that the tale also sports the greatest potential for the "dynamic-sublime."  The tale "Hansel and Gretel" deals with protagonists who have no spectacular dynamicity themselves, but who do overcome a menace of such high dynamicity, an evil cannibal-witch.  And "The Bremen Town Musicians" deals with only a functional level of dynamicity, as a group of intelligent animals take over a house from a gang of easily routed thieves.

Having rated these stories in terms of their potential for the dynamic-sublime, do they show the same dispersion with regard to the combinatory-sublime, a response to the "dazzling array of changing forms?"

As I noted in the last essay, not all works in the marvelous phenomenality are equally able to inspire the affect of the combinatory-sublime.  Though the protagonist in the "Youth" story encounters more menaces than Hansel and Gretel do, it might be argued that none of the young hero's menaces inspire a sublime affect equal to the primary menace presented in "Hansel and Gretel," that of a cottage of candy which conceals a cannibal witch: a crone who makes an appeal to the hunger of lost children in order to satisfy her own hunger on their flesh.  Certainly "Hansel and Gretel" has a fair greater popularity than "Youth," though this in itself does not demonstrate greater mythicity.

However, "Musicians" is still on the bottom level with respect to mythicity as it is in terms of dynamicity, and this returns me to the point I made at the outset.  The only marvelous element of the story is that the animals are intelligent and can communicate with one another, though as I recall not with human beings.  This seems to be the only marvelous element one can finds in most such animal-fables, like those for which Aesop became famous, and in general, as Tolkien observed in a different context, this form doesn't usually engender much in the way of the "sense of wonder." Further, though today Aesop's oeuvre is strongly associated with animal-fables, that oeuvre also includes joke-tales of a wholly naturalistic nature:

The joke involves a woman who asks a surgeon (in this case) to cure her from approaching blindness on the understanding that he would not be paid until she was cured. The surgeon applied salves but stole from the house anything moveable during the course of his visits. Once the cure was completed, the woman refused him payment on the grounds that now her sight was worse than ever, since she could not see any of her household effects.-- "The Old Woman and the Doctor."

So the folktale, unlike the religious myth, is able to be as marvelous both with or without involving "extra-human power," or simply naturalistic, or arguably uncanny, as in the case of the most well-known version of the Bluebeard tale

All of these observations are pertinent as proofs of my argument that the "two sublimities" are essentially independent of one another's operations, though those operations can become intricately intertangled, as I'll note in my next essay.

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