The maiden, the monster, and the hero

In the LGBT precinct of Facebook recently, this Jim Benton cartoon (eventually this posting will be about Benton, but first the folktale scenarios):

(#1)

The basic scenario is Beauty and the Beast: a beautiful maiden (that is, a virgin), often a princess; and a monster, a grotesque creature, either literally an animal (a gigantic ape, a dinosaur, a mutant lizard, a dragon, whatever — but male) or a man animalistic in form, sometimes in nature as well. The monster desires the maiden: to devour her (literally), to despoil her (sexually), or merely to love her (romantically).

A third character, the Knight, figures in an extended scenario: a hero, a handsome and virile young man, often in armor, often a prince, whose role is to challenge the monster in battle and overcome him, thereby rescuing the maiden — for himself; she is his prize. In the extended scenario, two males are rivals for the maiden.

In Benton’s version, the hero challenges the monster, demanding that the monster deal with him rather than the maiden. And so the monster does. Sometimes in a love triangle, the rivals become lovers. (Combat between men is sometimes a route to mutual respect, male bonding, and friendship; in this case, the relationship goes one step further.)

We have customary, rather elevated, language for talking about the monster, the maiden, and the hero. The monster proposes to devour the maiden, not merely eat her; devour is more elevated than plain eat, but it’s also more vivid (to devour is to ‘eat (food or prey) hungrily or quickly’ (NOAD2)). Alternatively, the monster proposes to despoil the maiden, not rape her. On the verb despoil, from NOAD2:

[with object] steal or violently remove valuable or attractive possessions from; plunder: the church was despoiled of its marble wall covering.

In the sexual use of despoil, the valuable or attractive possession that is stolen or violently removed from a woman is her virginity. It’s a metaphor, one (euphemistic) step removed from the ugliness of rape. But, again, despoil, with its imagery of violent theft, is more vivid than rape.

On the artist. From Wikipedia:

Jim K. Benton (born October 31, 1960) is an American illustrator and writer. Licensed properties he has created include Dear Dumb Diary, Dog of Glee, Franny K. Stein, Just Jimmy, Just Plain Mean, Sweetypuss, The Misters, Meany Doodles, Vampy Doodles, Kissy Doodles, and the jOkObo project, but he is probably most known for his creation It’s Happy Bunny.

Two more Bentons, with some limnguistic interest:

(#2)

He’s freed to continue working on being an asshole (by not acceptng the other man’s apology and by calling him homo).

(#3)

An ambiguity, as to which VP the adverbial so bad belongs to: the VP with head V want (the man’s intended interpretation) or the VP with head V kiss (the woman’s interpretation).

Benton’s humor is often crude (butts, feces, and sex often figure in them), and in the Happy Bunny cartoons we get outright insult humor (combined with self-glorification). From Wikipedia:

Happy Bunny is the name of a character in a series of stickers, buttons, greeting cards, posters, and other merchandise sold at novelty shops across North America. Designed by artist and writer Jim Benton, “who People Magazine called the most visible cartoonist in America, Happy Bunny is a small, smiling bunny, often varying in color, with an insulting slogan printed at its feet

Don Rickles as a cute bunny. Three examples:

(#4)

(#5)

(#6)

A little of this goes a long way.

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