SiStan ChapLee

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Guest: King Kong

Edgar Wallace's 1932 novel King Kong is an interesting reboot of Milton's Paradise Lost. Here are a Man and a Woman in a 'virgin' land, a no-man's-before land. And the more the story proceeds, the more the protagonists are in love with each other, and 'innocently' naked, the girl especially.

Analogies are much less interesting than differences, though. This "paradise" is a nightmarish place full of ancient monsters, not only outdated dinosaurs like in the movie version (and nobody wanting to show them in a Park!!), but also fantasy creatures like giant spiders and walking octopuses. And they all, Kong included, are termed "Nature's mistakes." But especially, in KK the 'alien' invader is not the 'dark monster,' but right the other way round: Kong is attacked and finally destroyed by humankind, and the protagonists are all too happy to leave a would-be paradise that, in fact, is a Skull Island.

The 'just' 6-meter tall Kong is ape-like, he 'looks like' a gorilla, but he is not a gorilla. There may be a reference to the giants mentioned in the Book of Numbers 13: 33, with a parallelism between the Promised Land and Eden. Another of Kong's interesting features is that - so to speak - he is "without mother, without father" like the Messiah in the Letter to the Hebrews. How much time has he been there? How is he going to perpetuate himself? In the text, he is simply "there," like the Serpent in Genesis 3. And a genetic exchange with the blond, beautiful Ann Darrow looks unlikely.

In brief, Kong may be a symbol of Satan (and Hitler in those years, or  vice versa, the menace of Communism, etc. etc., blah blah) but it would possibly work better to see him as the male version of Lilith, i.e. an Anti-Adam. And/or the specimen of an old, cursed humanity like Beowulf's Grendel, with swamps and all.

As for the other happy findings from a bookstall, the 1974 anthology Creature note e ignote [Known and Unknown Critters] includes: G. M. Glaskin, The Inheritors; Paul Ernst, Nothing Happens on the Moon; Sterling E. Lanier, And the Voice of the Turtle; Thomas M. Disch, Nada; Dean R. Koontz, The Mystery of His Flesh. Jack Finney's The Body-Snatchers is a classic, but the true revelation is the post-apocalyptic, post-human Second Ending by James White, 1963. All three Urania books are very well translated; while the quality of this Italian version of King Kong is irregular, unfortunately.

Next Sunday it will be up to the second episode of the Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian.