You are not logged in.

Gougai! Gougai!

HOLY SHIT PEOPLE, IT'S NOT BAD ENOUGH WE'RE GETTING AN UTENA EXHIBITION RIGHT NOW

THEY. ARE. MAKING. A. NEW. MUSICAL. NEXT. YEAR. START LOSING YOUR SHIT RIGHT NOW

#1 | Back to Top11-26-2011 03:01:30 PM

Katzenklavier
Wondrous Sexual Eggplant.
From: Back of your thoughts.
Registered: 09-13-2008
Posts: 1120

Anthy the Hag

I'm deep in the midst my annual wintertime re-watch of the series, so what spews out? Drunken analysis, of course! However, unlike the majority of my inebriated ramblings, I believe this one to have some actual substance. SKU incorporates many elements of the classic sacral and "hag" mythologies. Most of this analysis comes from the context of pre-Christian Northern European mythology, specifically Irish, so of course it has limitations. I will discuss how

For those of you unfamiliar with the sacral myth (also known as the sovereignty myth) archetype, it's essentially the classic "noble knight/powerful warrior/stud" proves himself worthy to marry the beautiful and fertile princess. However, in many mythological systems, the fairytale has deeper connotations of dominion over the land and religious right. The woman symbolizes the lush power of the land itself. When she is without a virile male, she descends into decay and withered old age. In many Celtic myths, for instance, Ireland is personified in the form of a treacherous old hag called a badb (often amusingly described with a "lower beard descending past her knees"). Only when a worthy warrior conquers numerous obstacles does she transform into the young princess. Most importantly, her transformation occurs at the moment of sexual intercourse, which essentially "cures" the haghood. This is often paralleled by the sudden blossoming of the land. Male virility causes formerly barren wastes to turn fruitful and, as scholar Lisa M. Bitel describes, "tame war goddesses, beautify and domesticate hags, and reduce warrior women to docile concubines."

The symbols of this union are most commonly the sword and chalice, representing masculine and feminine essences respectively. For example, the eponymous goddess of Ireland, Ériu, presents the warrior Conn with a chalice to indicate his sovereignty. Perhaps the best-known case is found in the Arthurian legends of Britain. Arthur must first draw upon his own divine right to draw a sword that proves his masculine dominance, then proceeds to obsessively seek the holy Sangraal. Although Geoffrey of Monmouth (who popularly canonized the tales) associated a strictly Christian interpretation on the meaning of the grail, chances are it's basis was in pagan sacral mythology.

In SKU, there are fairly obvious references to this symbolism. Obtainment of the passive Rose Bride, determined through a series of distinctly masculine tests, eventually supposedly leads to sovereignty over the floating castle. The worthy prince, Utena, is initially granted the sword of Dios through a pre-determined right (having been selected as a duelist at a very young age). While there is no chalice, there are many representations of Anthy's sacral femininity. In order to imbue the sword with greater power, she literally takes the sword into herself, thus echoing the receptive significance of the grail.

But just as the series develops and Anthy is revealed to be far less passive, so too does the hag mythology reflect a much more complex politic between the two genders. Just as the badb could bestow divine power upon a worthy mate, she could also be a terrifying force of magic and dominance. When unconquered, she represents the uncontrollable and wild aspect of nature - the unknown and dark forests, the wild and treacherous sea, and the fields that refuse to yield and thus case starvation. The Morrigan, an Irish goddess of war and death, manifests in the form of crows that feed upon broken bodies. In her battle of wills with the god-hero Cu Chulainn, she takes the form of a bull and a river of blood; all attributes of nature rather than man-made force. Ultimately, after he refuses to couple with her, she assists in his eventual downfall. Bitel writes of these witch figures: "To lose them was to lose power....to lose control over their sexuality was to endanger a patrilineage. Hence the sagas' trope of the violent women raped."

Anthy has a strong symbolic correlation to the hag figure. She is directly referred to as the witch that causes the patron figure's ultimate downfall. Again and again, she displays influence through corruption and treachery. Her power is passive and thus feminine. With Utena, Akio, Saionji, Miki, and many others...she, in a sense, castrates their ambitions and undermines their intended ascent to the castle. To Akio, who obsesses over almost purely masculine expressions of dominance, she embodies the natural and unknown. Even when she is penetrated and in a sense raped by the million swords of hate, she remains internally unmoved. She is as inaccessible as the castle and it's sovereignty. In order to claim what he perceives as his right, he sets up a game of sacral determination in order to secure his surrogate prince. Ultimately, his intent to control and domesticate the hag with which he is locked in an eternal power struggle.

Really really good resource on this topic: Land of Women. Any thoughts? Arguments? Ideas?


We must go forward, not backward. Upward, not forward. And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

Offline

 

#2 | Back to Top11-26-2011 11:05:19 PM

AutomaticVirgin
New Student
Registered: 11-25-2011
Posts: 6

Re: Anthy the Hag

Well I've been sipping on about 4 Peach Fuzzy Navels so I feel that I am totally ready to convey my thoughts on your analysis. Which is rather short but when I come back sober, I'll do much better. I'm a lightweight drinker you see...school-eng101
But for the most part I am enjoying reading this. It really gives me another look at the characterization going on and knowing that no matter how many times I've seen Utena, I've always learned something different through the eyes of another viewer.

Offline

 

#3 | Back to Top11-27-2011 12:21:00 AM

Katzenklavier
Wondrous Sexual Eggplant.
From: Back of your thoughts.
Registered: 09-13-2008
Posts: 1120

Re: Anthy the Hag

Thank you, automatically virginal one. That's the appeal of SKU - so many different lens through which to interpret. So much bullshit potential. Enjoy your schnapps. emot-dance


We must go forward, not backward. Upward, not forward. And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

Offline

 

#4 | Back to Top11-27-2011 12:53:20 PM

CoffinBreaker
Rose Bride
From: Here and Now
Registered: 10-28-2010
Posts: 117

Re: Anthy the Hag

Fuck, I love this fandom.


You don't need to understand Revolutionary Girl Utena to understand it.

Offline

 

#5 | Back to Top11-28-2011 01:38:32 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
Website

Re: Anthy the Hag

I like it!  The badb archetype is a new one on me -- but the last couple of episodes have reminded me of the story of the Arthurian Fisher King for years, with Anthy in the role of the wounded king who must be healed by a pure knight to restore the blighted land and claim the grail.  And while we're on the topic of allegorical parallels, there is some Medea in Anthy, too, and some Amaterasu, and some of the Genesis serpent.  I'd be surprised to find that Ikuhara based Anthy on any one of these stories, but I'd be equally surprised to find that he wasn't influenced by any of them.  At the same time, some stories and some symbols are just so powerful that they arise independently in cultures widely spread out over space and time, and swords are right up there, along with wild women and absentee princes...

Last edited by satyreyes (11-28-2011 01:41:08 PM)

Offline

 

#6 | Back to Top11-29-2011 01:36:55 AM

Katzenklavier
Wondrous Sexual Eggplant.
From: Back of your thoughts.
Registered: 09-13-2008
Posts: 1120

Re: Anthy the Hag

satyreyes wrote:

I'd be surprised to find that Ikuhara based Anthy on any one of these stories, but I'd be equally surprised to find that he wasn't influenced by any of them.  At the same time, some stories and some symbols are just so powerful that they arise independently in cultures widely spread out over space and time, and swords are right up there, along with wild women and absentee princes...

Absolutely. I use Celtic/Irish examples because that's what I'm most familiar with, but the sovereignty myth has universal manifestations. However, the images that Ikuhara draws upon - the sword, the prince in grand military garb, the castle, the rose as crest/representative of nobility - all are derived from the distinctive Northern European fairytale tradition. These symbols were very much formalized throughout countless representations  (perhaps most notably the canon popularized by Hans Christien Andersen) but found their roots in sacral mythology. Andersen himself was fascinated with pre-Christian legends and spent much of his time re-interpreting them into a Christian framework.

So although I doubt Ikuhara was influenced directly by the badb myths, the sovereignty myth and its manifestation of the hag figure is very much present in SKU. Of course, I don't know too much about Japanese mythology, and that leaves out a huge part of the picture. What's great but vastly ambiguous about the show is trying to determine its cultural influences. Obviously, it's a complex amalgamation that combines elements of Japanese, French, English, demonic, etc. culture.


We must go forward, not backward. Upward, not forward. And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

Offline

 

#7 | Back to Top11-29-2011 02:01:50 AM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
Website

Re: Anthy the Hag

Yeah, that's true.  Ikuhara invokes fairy tales explicitly, starting in Act I Scene 1 and not stopping until Dios rides off on his carousel in Episode 39.  He chose a framework full of European-style princes and princesses, knights and witches.  The sacral myth, I guess, is a potentiality inherent in the genre, and it is a natural connection to make to Utena.  In a usual fairy tale, the good prince may rescue the princess from the evil witch; in SKU, the good prince rescues the witch from the evil prince.  From a certain point of view, Utena is the story of a valiant hero/ine who heals a witch with her redeeming love.  If that's what the prototypical sacral myth is, then Utena is a sacral myth.

With that said, though, it seems to me that SKU departs from the tone you describe in your first post in how it portrays Anthy.  Saying that Utena heals Anthy, as I did above, is a little glib; it skips over Anthy's active and crucial role in her own healing process.  Anthy is not, I think, a treacherous hag right up until the moment of symbolic intercourse, when she reaches for Utena's hand from her coffin.  I think her healing began much earlier.  I would date it to Episode 12, when seeing Utena's futile struggle against Touga causes an epiphany in Anthy and brings tears to her eyes.  (Is it also the only moment in the series when we hear Anthy's internal monologue?)  Anthy's shell is cracked, though not shattered, from that moment on, and we see her change in stages throughout the show afterwards.  And at these key moments, Utena, for the most part, is present but incidental -- a catalyst for healing that nonetheless couldn't take place without Anthy's participation.  Anthy doesn't have to switch out the Sword of Dios for Utena's own soul-sword; she doesn't have to have late-night heart-to-hearts with Utena about reincarnation; she doesn't have to open up to Utena on the roof after her suicide attempt.  This is not the story of a prince rushing into the lion's den to save a helpless princess, though Utena probably thinks it is.  This is the story of a role model whose example makes a witch want to become a hero.  And she does.

I'm not up on my Celtic and Gaelic mythology; all I know about Morrigan I learned from Dragon Age.  Are the hags of sacral myths empowered figures who ultimately participate in their own redemption, like Anthy?  Or does the prince subdue them kicking and screaming, if at all?

Last edited by satyreyes (11-29-2011 02:03:41 AM)

Offline

 

#8 | Back to Top11-29-2011 03:19:05 AM

Katzenklavier
Wondrous Sexual Eggplant.
From: Back of your thoughts.
Registered: 09-13-2008
Posts: 1120

Re: Anthy the Hag

A very fine point! In terms of conclusive plot development, SKU doesn't fit the general trajectory of the hag redemption/sovereignty. Rather, it's more of a modern critique of those very stifling classic conventions. The sacral myth fits in better with what Akio intended to create; a parody of tradition, in which his ambiguous sibling represents the barren wasteland refusing to bear fruit. She is the bewitching hag in his limited world. And then, even outside his influence, her role to the other characters resembles this archetype. To Saionji, she's the princess who embodies grasping his deepest desire, but refuses to yield it. To Utena (initially), she's the perfect savior-bait, but ultimately becomes a source of destructive corruption before the finale.

But I agree in that, ultimately, the Anthy has far more agency than these labels suggest. After all, the story is in large part hers. Her transformation is deeply profound. But in the strange little narrative of Ohtori's superficial game, she is very much a sacral figurehead. A being that is supposed to incarnate what others desire to see, Simone de Beauvoir's definition of "seeming." A trophy to acquire and tame in order to claim power. And in order to realize that role, sacral mythology is invoked - from being a receptacle for the masculine sword to being a supposedly passive catalyst for World's End.

satyreyes wrote:

Are the hags of sacral myths empowered figures who ultimately participate in their own redemption, like Anthy?  Or does the prince subdue them kicking and screaming, if at all?

Really really hard to say. Different ages have seen different interpretations. For instance, in the earlier records, these hags often initiate the intercourse with the virile heroes. This emphasis on female sexual initiative is considered odd by historians - until the idea that pre-Christian myths basically served as pre-Internet pornos came to light. Meaning, a lot of what we possess now of these stories are basically glossy early medieval pornos. As these sagas saw more and more development into the late Middle Ages, sex became increasingly associated with punishment. Still it's hard to apply modern connotations to these legends. While rape in these interpretations was an extremely common occurrence, it was not likely to induce "kicking and screaming", but rather a restoration of principle. So I suppose my overall answer is the very unsatisfactory...."Eh. Depends."

Last edited by Katzenklavier (11-29-2011 03:33:14 AM)


We must go forward, not backward. Upward, not forward. And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

Offline

 

#9 | Back to Top12-23-2011 04:23:16 PM

rhyaniwyn
Myth is my Bitch
From: Tallahassee, FL
Registered: 11-09-2006
Posts: 684
Website

Re: Anthy the Hag

I really enjoyed this. Thank you :-)


http://i120.photobucket.com/albums/o165/absolethe/itrg_signature.jpg

Offline

 

Board footer

Powered by PunBB 1.2.23
© Copyright 2002–2008 PunBB
Forum styled and maintained by Giovanna and Yasha
Return to Empty Movement