The Golden Ass: A Valentine’s Day Novel with Something for Everyone

Happy Tuesday!

Okay so Valentines day is tomorrow.  I have expressed how seriously I take this “holiday”(1) in the past.

However as a shameless self-promoter and a young writer/artist desperate for ever more attention as a form of validation (for a struggling artist, everyday is like being single and drunk on Valentine’s day: an emotional fucking roller coaster), I always try to jump on whatever will grab me more traffic without completely whoring out my “talents”.  Which this time of year means writing something about Valentine’s day.

This post started out as a simple etymological exploration of the English word “love”(2) and myth of Eros and Psyche, particularly inspired from the brilliant video from Overly Sarcastic Productions: Miscellaneous Myths: Eros and Psyche.

Then I remembered: this is OBOP what’s so offbeat about writing about “love” during valentines week? It’s onpoint but not offbeat.  So I. Dug. DEEPER. And what I found was…really interesting.

the golden ass

The book in question this week is one that, like the word “love”, has a few different faces and lacks the simplicity that a four letter word seems to promise.

NOTE: I haven’t read this book in it’s entirety yet.  I’m working on it but I couldn’t finish it in time however I promise this will not be the last time I visit t his unique piece of literature.  I have big plans for this rare volume.

There are more than a few interesting(3) things about this novel other than it’s rather lewd title.  The first being is that the original title was “Metamorphosis”, which as far as I can tell has very little to do with the Kafka novel of the same name, but then was renamed by St Augustine of Hippo to the more appropriate “The Golden Ass”(4) and the second is that this is the only novel from the Grecco-Roman to survive in it’s entirety.  Some one cared to make sure that this piece of literature survived the fall of the Roman empire.

As promised, The Golden Ass is about an Ass or more specifically about a man who is driven by curiosity and the desire to learn about magic and accidentally turns himself into a donkey and then goes on adventures.  These adventures include adultery, witches rasing a familyreplacing a man’s heart with a sponge, golden showers, murder, necromancy, , thievery, kidnapping, anonymous sex with an invisible being, animal cruelty, catamite priests, cuckolding, incest, and bestiality.  These are just the highlights, folks.  Truly something for everyone.

Now if you’re still with me, you might be wondering “Fin: what does this lewd and strangely appropriately titled piece of ancient literature have to do with Eros and Psyche?”

One of the inset stories in The Golden Ass is Eros and Psyche. I feel like the entirety of The Golden Ass, rather than one hand-picked and relatively tame piece, does a better job of reflecting the complexity, beauty, and occasionally taboo aspects of love.  Love, for me, in every capacity from romantic to platonic has many different forms and facets.  Sometimes love is beautiful, other times it’s gross, but most often love much more complex than just a couple of star-crossed lovers who get a lovely ending or the loyalty between individuals who have grown together and die together.

Happy Valentine’s day.

-fin

STAY TUNED: The next comic in The Adventures of Fin and Louie is coming soon (probably this week), it’ll be the second to last comic before the end of the “Looking for a Friend/Count Rubber’s Keep” story arc.

Footnotes:

  1. Valentine’s day started out as a guilt trip from a Saint named Valentinus (there are two, no one knows who it was about originally) who, according to legend, was marrying Roman soldiers illegally, they took vows not to be married, and then healed the judges blind daughter.  The judge ruled to against the Saint and the Saint wrote a farewell note reading “Farewell, your Valentine”.  At best, being someone’s “Valentine” is like a passive aggressive death curse or something.

2. Which does have an interesting and complicated history which reflects it’s relatively sloppy application because of how ambiguously it can be used from sports (Tennis) to phrases like “for love or money” roughly meaning “for anything” which it self has revealing implications of motivations.  If you’re interested, read more here: “love” etymology online dictionary

  1. I recognise that one of my weaknesses as a writer is the over-use (I prefer “liberal”) of the word “interesting” however this is one of those posts where “interesting” might be the best word to use liberally to talk about this ancient novel.

  2. I understand that St Augustine of Hippo was not, publicly, a fan of Metamorphosis and likely nicknamed the book a less polite title as a way to smear the reputation of the book.  I think the title is an improvement because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have looked into this book in the first place.

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Why do cats chase rats? (Mythology #1)

Happy Monday!

Saturday, 28 January 2017, was Chinese New Year and I got to thinking about this anime I used to watch when I was seeing this girl who was like really into anime.

fruits-basket
Fruits Basket, pretty amusing from what I remember.

I remember there being a 13th character in the show, a cat and I forgot all about why or what happened to the cat and I figured this might be an apt time.

Roughly the story goes as follows:

The Great Race

The Jade Emperor of Heaven decided as a way to celebrate his birthday he would invent time.  He decided on a 12 year cycle, based on Jupiter’s orbit and for festivities he summoned all the animals and announced that he wanted to hold a race and the first 12 animals to cross the finish line will have a year named after them.

Just before the finish line was a river.  The Cat and the Rat reached the river first but neither could swim.  Along came the Ox who could swim and, being a nice person, em offered the Cat and the Rat a ride on it’s back.  Just as they were reaching the shore, the rat pushed the Cat off the Ox’s back and jumped for the shore and won first place.  The Ox was a close second.

The Tiger, who also swam, arrived third and explained to The Jade Emperor that em would have arrived sooner but despite em’s strong swimming skill, the current kept pushing em down delaying arrival.

From up the river bank came a pad-pad-padding, the rabbit was hopping down the river bank.  The Emperor asked “How did you cross the river?” the Rabbit answered “I found a set of hopping stones.” The Rabbit is granted fourth place.

Down comes flying the Dragon and The Emperor is very surprised that the Dragon, who has the ability to fly, did not get first place.  The Dragon explains em self “on my way here, there was a village on fire, so I brought them rain then while flying over the river I saw Rabbit slip on a log crossing the river and gave em a helping  claw.” The Emperor was very pleased and granted the Dragon fifth place.

From down the bank, again comes a funny noise. This time it’s a clop-colp-clopping of the Horse’s hooves, confidently striding towards the finish line when the Snake drops off the front hoof of the horse giving the Horse a great fright, for the Horse did not know the snake was hitching a ride, causing the Horse to loose sixth by a nose.

Down the river comes a raft with the Goat, the Monkey, and the Rooster.  They explained to The Emperor that they could not but worked together to secure a raft and crossed the river together.  The Emperor is pleased and grants them eighth, ninth, and tenth respectively.

The dog comes swimming ashore and The Emperor is again surprised, why should the dog who is the strongest swimmer finish so late? The Dog explains that em was having such a good time playing that em wasn’t ready to call it yet.  The Dog is given eleventh.

Lastly comes the Pig trotting down, looking fully satisfied regardless of being so late.  The Pig starts to go on about all the food em found on the way, which gave everyone a hearty chuckle.

The Emperor declares the race over and the victors named.  When the soaking wet, half drowned cat washes up ashore the only one to notice was the Cat’s former friend, the Rat.  The Cat made a revenge promise which is why cat’s chase rats today.

 

All this talk about a thirteenth sign reminds me about this thing I heard about on the radio originally, back in 2009 some time around the time The Prince of PoP’s reign ended, something about a thirteenth zodiac sign.  I never investigated it much until now but apparently this idea isn’t new and originally popped up in the with the book “The Thirteen Signs of the Zodiac” by Walter Berg in 1995.  The book was a best seller in Japan in 1996 and influenced some popular video games at the time such as Final Fantasy IX.

final-fantasy
Remember this side quest?

The symbol for Ophiuchus (pronounced “o-few-cus”) is the Rod of Asclepius symbol, wielded by Asclepius a Greek hero and god in medicidne, commonly confused with the Caduceus symbol, wielded by Hermes.

staffs
The Reason these are mixed up: The US Army Medical Corps erroneously adopted the Caduceus for their symbol. 

Anyway it’s now the year of the Rooster.  Happy Chinese New Year!