The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sociopaths and the second gate

Michael Ende's book Die unendliche Geschichte is a meta-fantasy: like Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth or, heavens, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. For instance, the Swamp(s) of Sadness is clearly a depression analogy. Much that is in the book, therefore, has to do with human character. Maybe all of it; I last read this in translation and many years back. I wish here to discuss one detail that has nagged at me for decades. I just never got around to it here, yet.

So: hero Atreyu is on a quest to save Fantas[t]i[c]a, and must consult the Southern Oracle. The Oracle happens to be a sphinx, or at least a sphinx-spirit; and such requires a test. This test is in three parts, via gates. (I could not resist the pun; apologies.) The first gate tests the petitioner's own self-regard. If he doesn't really think himself worthy, he dies. The second gate then throws this back upon the petitioner. The petitioner is shown his true self, which - if he is evil - he had never ever seen before. (The first gate has already screened out the bad guys who both know and feel their shame.) By going through it, the petitioner would effectively be saying that he didn't mind his other "true" self. The third gate, lastly, screens those who want to meet the Oracle. Anyone who passes all three tests, then, is a disinterested seeker of whatever. Apparently.

[I never much liked the third gate. The Movie agreed and omitted the thing. But I did miss Ygramul the Many, earlier on.]

When I was younger - as in, a day younger - I'd also had a problem with Door Number Two, the mirror. Even as a ten-year-old I wondered if the mirror was just being a jerk. A petitioner who had done good works because he was afraid of evil might be shown an evil image because, hey, G-d has his own standards. I also wondered how many petitioners would see the image, and then shrug and march right through.

Against that I had one revelation today: The villains who turned back screaming could then, on their way out, be frozen / shot by that first gate. These might even welcome their death. As for those who gritted their teeth and marched through the second one - these, too, if they then felt a glimmer of self-doubt, might not be allowed back out. So yes. The mirror in that Mittelzugang was terrible. Literally.

One problem. The Oracle still fails to screen the sociopaths.

posted by Zimri on 17:40 | link | 0 comments

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