Middles and Monstrous Motherhood

18 Oct

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The feminine body as long been one of mystery, and even one of monstrosity. One aspect of feminine monstrosity is certainly the female body’s procreative capabilities. As the Bible states that Eve is the mother of us all, biblical myth identifies Lilith as the mother of all monsters. This connection to monstrous motherhood is tied also to other mythological monstrous mothers, like Echidna—the half-snake woman whose family attempted, unsuccessfully, to overthrow the Greek gods. Zeus allows Echidna (her name meaning “she-viper”) and her brood to live so that Greek heroes have monsters to fight. The connection between Lilith and Echidna goes even further than their motherhood; it extends even to one of their traditional forms.

Just as Lilith is often depicted in snake form—no doubt intertwining her mythic form with that of the tempter-snake in the Garden of Eden—Echidna is also half-snake.  And this snake form can also be conceptually linked with the belly; lest we forget, God’s punishment of the serpent was for it to crawl on its belly in the dust forevermore.  And the abdomen, although mistakenly, is often connected with motherhood. Similarly, snakes are connected in many mythological systems with fertility (not just monstrous fertility). However, why would one not assume that monstrous children would not arrive from the monstrous womb that drags the ground?

crommyonian_sow_by_uralowa-d58409eHowever, like the children of the alien queen form Aliens, Echidna is a ravenous example of what Barbra Creed refers to as the monstrous-feminine. Echidna devours her pray, first leading them in with her seductive gaze. And gluttony is linked to both the vagina (vagina dentate) and the stomach. As Eve hungered for more than the Garden could give her, she may have become ravenous. And because the vaginal canal is the passageway for life, it might also be the portal to death. Echidna’s teeth, thus, are often depicted as being lined with sultry, full lips but with dangerous and jagged teeth or dagger-like incisors. Parallel, the alien queen’s teeth are also sharp and shark-like. And like Echidna, the Queen seeks warm-bodies for her children’s sake.

Xenomorph_queen.pngThe Queen uses human bodies, not only as flesh for food to sustain herself and her children, her brood plant eggs in their chests to spread her monstrous children throughout the universe. The chest-bursters here reveal another fear involving motherhood: the male as mother, the subversion of the “natural” roles between the sexes. There is, of course, a normative way for life to come about, and clearly a dominant mother figure in charge will produce totally “unnatural” disharmony.

Thus the themes of gluttony and fertility are all linked in these displays of the monstrous-feminine.  As Simone de Beauvoir writes, the female is the Other. The body—women are often linked only with the body—without a head, as Jeffrey Cohen tells us, monstrous. The monster, like the female, is conceived of a pure body, all body. It is uncontrolled nature. Thus the feminine body, examined here through the myths of Lilith and Echidna and the Aliens story, is monstrously hungry and fertile.

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