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Article
Poor, Pitiful Monsters From Homer to Borges
English Faculty Publications
  • Robin McAllister, Sacred Heart University
Document Type
Article
Publication Date
8-1-2016
Abstract

This article reviews famous monsters in Western literature that reveal a hidden humanity or affinity with the hero that elicits compassion or emphasizes their bestiality in surprising ways. Their monstrosity is often a distorted mirror image of the hero’s humanity. Shakespeare’s Caliban is a famous example of the affinity between monster and protagonist. Homer’s Polyphemus, the first monster in Western tradition establishes certain traits that persist through later literature: lawless, barbarian, cannibal, and giant. Polyphemus hates men, but loves his old ram. Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon in Beowulf are giants, lawless, cannibals. The dragon Beowulf dies fighting anticipates the identity between hero and monster that Borges makes explicit in Asterion, the Minotaur. Dante’s Satan in the Inferno fails to leave later successors. In Borges’s “The House of Asterion” the Minotaur is both monster and hero. Asterion’s affinities with other protagonists in Borges’ stories suggest that the monster in the labyrinth is not the Minotaur, but the concept of infinity.

DOI
10.17265/2159-5836/2016.08.004
Creative Commons License
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0
Citation Information
McAllister, R.L. (2016). Poor, pitiful monsters from Homer to Borges. Journal of Literature and Art Studies, 6(8), 901-904. doi:10.17265/2159-5836/2016.08.004