Green Witch Village

The MGM movie of The Wizard of Oz popularized the idea of the Wicked Witch of the West having green skin, something she didn’t have in the book. And at this time of year, it’s common to see witches with light green skin. That, along with the broom and the pointed hat, is an indication that you’re seeing a witch. So where did this idea get started? This was a topic of discussion on the now-defunct International Wizard of Oz Club message board back in 2009, and it appears that there weren’t that many green witches prior to 1939, but they did appear in some Halloween decorations as early as the 1920s.

It’s likely the case that the Wicked Witch was made more colorful in the film for the same reason the Silver Shoes were turned into Ruby Slippers, but still, why green?

The color seems to have been associated with disease and the decomposition of dead bodies. Death is said to have ridden on a pale green horse. It’s still considered a rather sickly color. Ruth Berman points out that copper arsenate dye, which was discovered in the eighteenth century and remained popular throughout the nineteenth, had a pale green color and was discovered to be poisonous. A search on the Internet turns up several suggestions that the Halloween witch was based on a bruised and battered witch facing execution, but this seems a bit unlikely. Another possibility is that it has to do with witches working with plants, but that would suggest a deeper green.

Then again, witches probably would grow mint in their herb gardens. Green was also considered a magical color in Celtic folklore, and tended to be associated with fairies.

I don’t know whether any of these was consciously the reason for green-skinned witches, but they might well have contributed to the idea.

It also applies to other monsters, like how Frankenstein’s monster was colored in green on movie posters, although that could just be to highlight his decomposition.

Even Mr. Hyde was green in Bugs Bunny and Scooby-Doo cartoons.

And I’ve also discussed green Martians. I guess the main remaining question is why Halloween witches have long noses, but that’s probably just because it’s generally agreed to look ugly.

Posted in Cartoons, Celtic, Characters, Fairy Tales, Halloween, Holidays, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Monsters, Mythology, Oz, Oz Authors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Girls Against Gestahl

Picture by Beth Wulff/Annie Felis
The ensemble cast of Final Fantasy VI has definitely stuck with me over the years, and I’ve written about a few of them, but I don’t think I’ve said much recently about the character who is arguably the main protagonist. I say it’s arguable because it was never intended to focus on one viewpoint character the way FF4 has Cecil, FF5 Bartz, and FF7 Cloud. Still, Terra Branford is the first character you control (not counting the temporary Biggs and Wedge), and is quite central to the plot. Also, if you do count her as the main protagonist, she’s the first female to hold that role in the series, and that’s definitely cool. I recently read somewhere that, since FF4, pretty much every main FF title has had three playable female characters. I haven’t played beyond FF7, but it does seem to work out up through that one. FF4 has Rosa, Rydia, and Porom; FF5 Lenna, Faris, and Krile; and FF7 Tifa, Aerith, and Yuffie. FF6 fits the pattern as well, with Terra, Celes Chere, and Relm Arrowny. It also generally seems to be the case that two are adult women and one a child, but that’s a bit flexible. Rydia starts out as a child, but grows to an adult due to spending time in a place where time flows differently. And Yuffie is sixteen, which isn’t that much younger than the other two, but she’s definitely less mature. The thing is, even the adults tend to be quite young as well, usually between eighteen and twenty-two. If they lived in the United States, they’d be college age. This often surprises me when I look at the official statistics. In addition, when heights and weights are mentioned, all the women are apparently really skinny. Most of the male characters are quite young as well, but there are exceptions: Cyan is fifty, Tellah and Strago sixty, and Fusoya millions of years old. Terra and Celes are both said to be eighteen, even though the latter is a general. The Final Fantasy Wiki proposes that Celes might have been partially inspired by Joan of Arc, who was also a military commander at a young age. Terra and Celes are both magicians, which is a bigger deal in the FF6 world than in those of other games. Terra has her powers because her father is an Esper, while Celes was augmented with hers by the Empire. In terms of offensive magic, Terra specializes in fire, and Celes in ice.

Picture by Style XX

At the beginning of the game, Terra has amnesia, and only after the battle in the mines of Narshe does she recall her unusual heritage.

It turns out that her parents were the Esper Maduin and the human Madeline (called Madonna in the original Super Nintendo translation, although I was never sure whether that was supposed to be her name or just a description).

When Emperor Gestahl invaded the Espers’ village and Madeline died, he took the baby Terra back with him. We know little of her upbringing, but it’s likely that she was basically treated as a lab rat. Under the control of Kefka’s slave crown, she commits various atrocities in the name of the Empire.

Since mind control is necessary to achieve these effects, she’s presumably not violent on her own, despite having been brought up around would-be world conquerors. After finding out about her past, she is able to take a more powerful Esper form during battle.

A major struggle for her is that she’s concerned she’s incapable of feeling love, but this turns out to be untrue when she begins caring for the orphaned children of Mobliz. Her friends are worried that she’ll die when magic and Espers disappear from the world, but she’s able to hold onto life due to her attachments.

Celes is presumably an orphan, but since Cid of the Magitek Research Facility is a surrogate grandfather to her, she apparently knew more of familial affection than Terra ever did. Still, she’s fairly proud and independent. She was one of the earliest experimental Magitek Knights, given power from Espers when she was a child. As a general, she led some brutal attacks, but eventually turned against the Empire. For this, she was jailed in South Figaro. Locke Cole rescues her and develops feelings for her, and she becomes a valuable member of the Returners. During the course of the game, she has to take the place of an opera singer who looks like her. After Kefka destroys much of the world, she spends a year on a desert island with Cid, but finally uses a raft to reach the mainland and reunite her allies.

Picture by KatChan00
Many of the FF women are presented as either love interests or motherly figures, if not both. They also tend to be healers, and not all that skilled with weapons. There are exceptions, however, like the purposely un-feminine Faris. While neither Terra nor Celes is a physical powerhouse, they’re both former imperial soldiers. For all of the terrible things you can say about Gestahl, he apparently never had any objection to women in the military. Terra is a motherly sort, particularly fond of children and animals, although at first she thinks she might not be able to love at all. Celes is a love interest, but that’s hardly the extent of her character. They do both seem really interested in clothes shopping when preparing for Gau’s reunion with his father, but then so do some of the guys. Celes is said to have a passion for gardening, although I don’t know that this is considered especially feminine in Japan.

It’s been speculated that Terra and Celes’ names are meant to parallel each other, with the former referring to the terrestrial and the latter the celestial. The only problem is that Terra’s name was originally Tina, but the English translator changed it because he considered Tina to be too common. So the connection might be intentional, but only in English. It is perhaps noteworthy that Aerith in the next installment has a name that’s supposed to sound like “Earth.” It’s also possible that Celes was named after the grain goddess Ceres, but I don’t think there’s ever been an official answer. I’m not even really sure how it’s supposed to be pronounced, although I’ve always said it like “sea-less.” The ending of the game reveals all of the characters’ last names (well, except for Gau, Mog, Umaro, and Shadow), and I initially thought Branford sounded rather too bland for Terra. Looking at its meaning on the Final Fantasy Wiki, it’s apparently derived from Welsh. Her father’s name, Maduin, comes from the Irish Mael Duin, so maybe there’s supposed to be a Celtic connection there. The Espers’ village being accessible only through a hidden cave fits with the Celtic Sidhe and their fairy mounds, and Terra could probably pass for one herself. The fact that nobody uses the last names in the game itself apparently means imperial military officers are called by their first names, which is also true of General Leo Christophe and Kefka Palazzo. I don’t even know where Terra and Celes received their surnames. Was Madeline’s last name Branford? I remember seeing it suggested that Cid’s last name was Chere, but his full name was later revealed to be Cid del Norte Marquez. If Celes marries Locke, I wonder if she’ll become Celes Cole.

Picture by Lady of the Lake

Posted in Celtic, Final Fantasy, Gender, Greek Mythology, Magic, Mythology, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hell in Oz

The Evil Emerald Village of Oz, by Ron Baxley Jr. – This follow-up to The Talking City of Oz has some clear similarities to its predecessor, but the story isn’t anywhere near as developed. It concerns the ghost of Mombi creating a town that is more or less Hell within the Winkie Country, and summoning the magically animated beings who are unsatisfied with life in Oz to join her. The Gump’s head, a wheelbarrow, and Div Ining Rod from Baxley’s earlier book all make the journey, only to find that Mombi has no intention of keeping her promises. Another group of Ozites has to rescue them, with help from some fairies and the Cowardly Lion and Hungry Tiger. A new character in the book is Hi Drant, a dog constructed from a fire hydrant who extinguishes fires by…well, you can probably guess, but it’s not something you’d be likely to find in an L. Frank Baum book. The plot is nothing much and the religious overtones a little too heavy-handed at times, but there’s some good wordplay in Baxley’s typical vein. There’s also some back story for Mombi herself, who is said to be afraid of rats and mice because her parents died of the bubonic plague, taught witchcraft by a trio of hags who sound similar to the Wyrd Sisters from Macbeth, and had a lover who was tricked into replacing Charon as a ferryman in the Underworld. It’s quite popular for fans to want to bring Mombi back, be it her painted image in John R. Nell’s Lucky Bucky, David Tai’s tale about how her death was faked in the first place, or Tekrouri Troll’s accidental resurrection of her in Bucketheads.

Posted in Book Reviews, Characters, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Oz, Oz Authors, Ron Baxley Jr. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Modern-Day Marcionism

I’ve read a few times about the Marcionites, an early Christian sect that had significant influence but was declared heretical. It has some ideas in common with Christian Gnosticism, but lacks the emphasis on secret teachings. Instead, Marcion held that ONLY the letters of Paul and parts of the Gospel of Luke were valid.

He was also distinguished by his view on the Old Testament, believing that it was true as far as it went, but that the Jewish God couldn’t possibly be the one who sent Jesus. It’s certainly not an uncommon belief even today that the Old Testament God is a wrathful jerk and the New Testament God a nice guy. Of course, this is simplifying things considerably, as God showed compassion in the Old Testament and preached hellfire in the New. Marcion’s view was that there were two different gods, the law-obsessed cosmic judge of Judaism and the kindly and more powerful deity of whom Jesus was a manifestation. Jesus was not the Jewish Messiah, who was yet to come. There wasn’t much point in following the Jewish law, because it was impossible to meet all of its demands. Of course, the Old Testament pretty much acknowledges this, as it has a lot of rules about atoning for sin. The early Christian view on the Jewish law was a matter of much debate. It generally seems that Jesus and his earliest followers were devoted to the law, even if they interpreted some aspects of it quite differently from the Pharisees. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” It was Paul, Marcon’s main man, who more or less made the law optional in an attempt to appeal to potential pagan converts.

It isn’t surprising that mainstream Christianity would reject Marcionism, as having only one god was what separated it from the myriad of other religions in the Roman Empire. Still, it seems that its influence lives on in some strange ways, only here they’re from people who DO believe the Old and New Testament Gods are the same. It’s what Jack Chick is constantly insisting, that nobody can possibly follow the Old Testament law, so you need to accept Jesus.

It’s not entirely clear what accepting him necessarily entails, but it seems to involve a lot of groveling. Exactly why God changed His mind on the sin stuff when He incarnated as Jesus, I don’t know. Chick’s reasoning (if you can call it that) is that Jesus’ death on the cross paid for everyone’s sins, but how does that work if he’s the same guy who made the law in the first place?

It would actually make a little more sense for Chick to be a Marcionite.

Similarly, washed-up actor and holier-than-thou prick Kirk Cameron and his kiwi pal Ray Comfort did the same thing over and over again where they’d ask people if they followed the Ten Commandments, then insisted that telling the slightest untruth, being attracted to someone you weren’t married to, and using the name of God while cursing counted as breaking them. I don’t think that’s exactly how false witness and taking the name of God in vain work, but these aren’t exactly theological scholars we’re dealing with here. My wife, who has an odd desire to be exposed to things she hates, is actually following Cameron on Facebook. Recently he talked about how he spent his birthday with some of the Duck Dynasty guys, and he compared one of them to John the Baptist.

Yeah, except if you live on locusts and wild honey, you probably aren’t going to be shooting a lot of ducks. And even if you think homosexuality is a sin, isn’t Jesus supposed to forgive ALL your sins? So he’s forgiving murderers and rapists right and left, but not people in committed gay relationships? He’s also apparently not forgiving people who kiss anyone other than their spouses while acting.

But anyway, the general theme of the teachings of Chick and Comfort is that God is so just that even the slightest bit of sin means he’ll condemn you to Hell, but there’s a way to get out of it totally if you think and say the right things. He’s not able to make minor exceptions, but he’s able to make this one really big and really specific exception. Hey, he didn’t make the rules! No, wait, he did. So he’s rejecting one set of seemingly arbitrary rules for another set of seemingly arbitrary rules. Dudes, if this is your idea of spreading the good news, I think Jesus would be better off without you.

Posted in Christianity, Fundamentalism, Gnosticism, History, Jack Chick, Judaism, Religion, Roman Empire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kampe Trip

I’ve always enjoyed looking at mythological monsters, and Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods reminded me of one from Greek mythology I hadn’t covered yet. That would be Kampe, jailer of the Cyclopes and Hekatonkheires in Tartarus. Kronos imprisoned these giants and set Kampe to watch over them. The most complete description of her that we now have is that by Nonnus in the fifth century, which really throws in everything but the kitchen sink. She has snakes for hair (meaning Athena’s curse on Medusa wasn’t all that original after all), the head and torso of a woman with the hindquarters of a dragon, more snakes wrapped around her legs, fifty heads of ferocious beasts around her waist, claws like sickles, a scorpion tail, and dusky wings that could produce gales. Also, her eyes are telescopes! No, periscopes! No, microscopes! Actually, they apparently shot sparks.

Picture by GNZG
For such a fearsome creature, there isn’t really that much description I can find of how she was defeated. Zeus wanted to free his giant uncles so that they could help in his battle against Kronos and the Titans, so he killed Kampe with a lightning bolt. I suppose that would do it, but I’m not sure how he got close enough. Even if her back was turned, wouldn’t some of the heads around her waist see him approaching? Also, didn’t the cyclopes make Zeus’s thunderbolts after being freed? Well, maybe he found a few lying around before receiving a consistent source for them.

Posted in Authors, Greek Mythology, Monsters, Mythology, Percy Jackson, Rick Riordan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gladly the Chrono Cross I’d Bear

Chrono Trigger is a somewhat unusual game in that it kills off its main character. The hero, known as “Crono” because the game only allows for five-character names, is taken out by the alien parasite Lavos in the Kingdom of Zeal. It’s possible to win the game without him, but since it involves time travel there’s a little more to it than that. Unfortunately, the way time travel works in the game is that your characters can use gates or a vehicle to access various eras, they can only go back to AFTER they last left that era. There is, however, a way to circumvent this with the Time Egg, also known as the Chrono Trigger, which is in the keeping of Gaspar, Guru of Time.

You also need one of the weird moving clone-dolls that Norstein Bekkler provides, and Belthasar’s help in climbing Death Peak. The wishes of the party, combined with the Time Egg and Marle’s pendant, allow you to go back to Crono’s death and replace him with the doll. Apparently Lavos doesn’t notice the difference.

When I learned about Islamic views on the crucifixion of Jesus, I immediately drew the connection to Crono. Not that Crono is Jesus, exactly, but there’s often somewhat of that vibe to video game heroes. Jesus probably spent less time zapping monsters with lightning, but we don’t know that for sure. Anyway, there’s a verse in the Quran that indicates the crucifixion was merely a matter of appearance, and that Jesus didn’t die but was elevated to Heaven right then and there. Exactly how the illusion was pulled off isn’t clear, but some Muslims have speculated that someone else was crucified in Jesus’ place. This isn’t entirely original with Islam, either.

The Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter has the titular apostle seeing a vision of Jesus on the cross with another Jesus above him laughing. The laughing Jesus is the true, living person, while the one on the cross is merely a fleshly shell, reflecting the general Gnostic view about how the material world is basically a prison. According to the translation I found through Google, Jesus identifies the one on the cross as “the substitute being put to shame, the one who came into being in his likeness.” He doesn’t make it clear whether this body can still feel pain, but if it can it strikes me as rather inappropriate to laugh about it. I don’t think any of these sources claim that Jesus was replaced by a doll made by a mad scientist with no visible body and brought back in time, but it’s not like we have any eyewitness accounts anyway.

It is perhaps telling that the town of the Mystics in the year 1000 is called Medina, the same as the second holiest city in Islam. Was it called that in the original Japanese, though? As mentioned here, the names of the Gurus are only the same as those of the Three Wise Men in the English translation.

Speaking of Crono’s death, I recently came across this post on Press the Buttons that indicated the original idea was that the party would have to go back to the beginning of the game and recruit an earlier version of Crono, and later return him to that time, making his death permanent.

I wonder whether you would have had to build up this earlier Crono’s statistics. You’ll notice that this solution, while ultimately more depressing, also involves travel back to a moment in time when some of the party members had already been present, so going back to Zeal and saving a stronger version is obviously more practical. Of course, Magus goes back to his own past, so it’s apparently possible in certain circumstances even without the Time Egg. There’s also the odd sequence when Lucca can go back and prevent her mother from losing her legs, an event she witnessed as a child, which comes after some speculation about the entity that allows for time travel in the first place. I suppose this entity is not all-powerful, but has the ability to set things into motion.

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Cowardly Beginnings

The Way of a Lion: A Tale of Oz, by Jared Davis – This story originally appeared in the 2013 Oziana, but it’s now available in miniature book form from the author. It includes some additional illustrations by Sam Milazzo, including one of Lurline. It’s a little difficult not to think of The Lion King when looking at the pictures, especially the one of the Lion looking at his reflection, but that’s probably unavoidable with stories involving lions. The rather tragic tale explores why the Lion thinks he’s a coward despite behaving like an ordinary male lion. There are some mentions of how carnivores find food in a land where all (or at least most) animals are capable of human-like speech and intelligence, although there are some hints in the original Oz books that the Lion has killed animals for food in the past. I get the impression that this is an aspect of Oz that L. Frank Baum never fully worked out. The end of the story ties in with the Lion’s introduction in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Posted in Book Reviews, Characters, Jared Davis, L. Frank Baum, Oz, Oz Authors | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments