Friday, April 24, 2015

The Humanity of Wild Men

One of the key ideas presented in Bisclavret is that of the "Wild Man", and it is debated if Bisclavret falls within this category of Wild Man or if he in fact more man than beast. Vanita Seth describes her idea of what the Wild Man is in mythology by categorizing him as somebody who is typically a mix or hybrid of different creatures, or sexes, or "disarranged" in some form or another. She also describes them as being morally ambiguous, and living in the wild. In the most literal sense of the Wild Man definition, Bisclavret would most likely be seen as fitting well into the category. He is both human and wolf, he attacked multiple characters, and spends a majority of his time living out in the woods.

He is also portrayed with some very telling human characteristics however, and I would argue that many of these traits balance out, if not overpower some of his more beastly characteristics. For example, when the king is hunting him in the forest, he is described as begging the king for mercy, which is not something a Wild Man would typically do. A Wild Man would likely be more inclined to either run or to attempt to defend against their attacker, but instead Bisclavret humbles himself before the king as a typical human would, thus showing the fearful and domestic side of his human self. Another important aspect of Bisclavret's life which distinguished him from the typical Wild Man is the fact that although he spends much of his time in the forest when he is with his wife, once the King "adopts" him as a sort of pet he betrays the wild and spends every waking moment at the Kings side, existing primarily in the Human world with him and his men. Finally, although Bisclavret's attacks on the Knight and later his wife do appear to show a sense of moral ambiguity, they are not uncommon to acts of violence often executed by humans. He is not described as being overly aggressive, or wildly hurting people without thought. The only two people he ever harms he does as an act of revenge, and although this is not seen to be a good thing and can be seen as a morally ambiguous act, it is also quite reminiscent of human attributes which shows he is not quite as much of a beast as people might assume. By definition alone he fits the categories which Vanita Seth put in place to describe a "Wild Man", but his humanity runs much deeper.

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