Saturday, October 31, 2020

StorySpotting: WTF did I just see (Raised by Wolves)

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!

Where was the story spotted?

All over Raised by Wolves, Season 1. (HBO)

What happens?

Uhh... well. Lemme see if I get it straight: An android called Mother (a.k.a. Lamia) raises a bunch of human children on an alien planet, except she is very bad at her literal only job and loses 4 out of 5. Then she plugs into a virtual reality machine, where she meets the Creator who reprogrammed her (from being a Necromancer who can explode humans with her screaming, but only when her murdery eyeballs are in her head, because she usually carries those in a little pouch around her neck). She has virtual floaty sex with him, gets doused in... let's say milk, and then she wakes up pregnant. After feeding the baby with android goo and human blood, she gives birth (orally) to a flying serpent that she tries to kill by throwing it into the core of the planet, but somehow they all survive. 
Yes. I believe that about covers it.

What's the story?

Okay, let's unpack this a little item by item:

Item No. 1: Lamia

Lamia is a name from Greek mythology. She was originally a queen, one of Zeus' many lovers who had a couple of children by him. Eventually Hera found out and took her children, which made Lamia go mad. She tore out her own eyes in grief, and... was consoled by Zeus giving her the ability to take her eyes out and reinsert them (such a thoughtful gift for a grieving mother). In most versions of the story, she turned into a monster that preys on children.  

Item No. 2: Floaty eyeballs

Talking about taking one's eyes out: this happens in gruesome detail multiple times in the series. And also in folklore. Besides Lamia, there are other characters in stories who can do this neat trick. Coyote, the trickster of many Native American stories, is one of them. In a Hopi story, Mother Coyote searching for food for her children meets some Blue Jays that are playing a game, taking their eyes out and playing ball with them. She joins the game, tossing both her eyes into the air, but she ends up losing them. Going around blindly, she replaces them with tree sap, and she has had yellow eyes ever since. They tell a very similar story in Brazil about Jaguar and a crab. In fact, this story motif exists in many American indigenous cultures, under the motif number J2423: The Eye-Juggler.
In a Hungarian folktale a princess loses her eyes, and a helpful person accidentally replaces them with cat eyes, which makes her want to peer into every mouse hole. Bonus: he gets the eyes from a witch, who has a side hustle as an "eye dealer". 
The motif number for Removable Eyes in general is F541.11. This book has a great story that features people with removable eyes (as well as removable bones, jaws, etc.)

Item No. 3: I'm skipping "virgin birth", too obvious

Item No. 4: Sonic boom

I included a Russian story in my book Tales of Superhuman Powers about a robber nicknamed Nightingale who could whistle so loudly it would flat-out kill people. I could also mention Banshees, but as far as I know they never really murderize someone just with their voice...

Item No. 5: Snake birthing and snake suckling

Giving birth to snakes is actually extremely common in world folklore (go figure). It even has its own motif number: T554.7: Woman gives birth to snake. These stories can generally be divided into two categories: One where the snake baby is benign (and usually turns into a human by the end of the story), and one where the snake turns out to be an actual monster. One famous example of "a little bit of both" would be the legend of the Lindworm
As for the latter, there is a story from the Kwaza in South America that parallels the HBO show quite nicely. It talks about a woman who thinks she is pregnant with a child, but instead she gives birth to a snake. She and her father manage to chase the snake up a tree and cut its tail off; after that, the snake flees into the sky.  
Now, as for breastfeeding snakes: This also appears in tradition. There are Roma stories where a woman tames a serpent (or dragon) by offering it her own breastmilk (sometimes mixing it with alcohol which she drips down her breast). And there is one tale that knocks it out of the ballpark: The Traveller story of The Magic Shirt tells about a prince who receives a shirt from his evil stepmother. The moment he puts it on, the shirt turns into a snake he can't get rid of. Eventually he meets a wise woman and her daughter, and with their help he goes through a ritual that lures the snake off of him... by making it latch on to the girl's breast. Yikes. After the snake is killed, he marries her, and makes her a new breast out of gold.
(If you want to read a really great re-telling of a more elaborate version of this tale, I highly recommend Daniel Allison's Scottish Myths & Legends!)

Bonus: Three Little Pigs

Just for the record: Some actual storytelling happens in this show in episode 3, where MamaBot tells the tale of the Three Little Pigs to the children she's kidnapped. She tells it in a really creepy way and the kids don't like it at all. Whoever programmed her for taking care of minors should have programmed in some better bedtime stories. I mean, geez...


This show is bad, people. But props to Amanda Collin for making the most of her performance. 

No comments:

Post a Comment