Saturday, December 7, 2019

StorySpotting: Skin and bones (Terminator: Dark Fate)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

I really wanted to do a Terminator post about strong women and female warriors and whatnot, but then this random tidbit was so funny that the post just wrote itself. Sorry.

Where was the story spotted?

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

What happens?

In this movie we see a new type of terminator, the REV-9, which is designed as an infiltrator. As Wikipedia so eloquently put it: the REV-9's "primary feature is the ability to split its mimetic polyalloy exterior and endoskeleton into two separate units." Basically, its skin separates from its (carbon-based) bones, and goes walking around separately, taking on other people's form.

What's the story?

The first one that came to mind was a folktale from Palau, titled Budel and Iuesel. They were brothers, the children of the same woman; Budel was just an empty skin, and Iuesel was a skeleton. Iuesel went fishing every day, but one time Budel wanted to go too. The skeleton carried his skin-brother down to the seashore, where he could sit on a rock and spear fish. However, suddenly they saw an enemy war canoe coming in. They had to run back to their village, but as Iuesel ran, Budel kept flapping behind him like a cape. Eventually, to make things easier, the skeleton slipped his brother on himself like a sweater - and skeletons have been wearing skin ever since.
(Find the story here.)
Taking off your skin and putting it back on is a surprisingly common thing in folktales. In a folktale from Liberia, titled Tola and the Sea Monster, a girl declares that she will only ever marry a man with perfect skin. A sea monster, hearing this, borrows the smooth, perfect skin of a sea goddess, puts it on, and seduces the girl, carrying her away into the underwater realms. (She is eventually rescued by her brother). There are also many stories in the Central American and Caribbean region about people (especially women) who take their skin off, and go flying around at night. In many cases someone (often the husband) eventually finds out, and rubs the empty skin's inside with salt and/or chili peppers, so when the person comes back, they can't put the skin on anymore. There are many variants of this story in Elsie Clews Parson's collections, and I also found some from Nicaragua and Belize.

Don't try this at home, kids.

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