Saturday, April 11, 2009

Urbanite's Irrational Fears

Ever since humans began living in societies, they have feared the woods. Anything chthonic was dark and unreasoning. It was where the beasts lived. It was a place where you were not safe. The more urban a population, the more it feared what lurked outside the walls of the city. Rural populations were subject to less irrational fears of the woods. For the farmer the fear was that his livestock would be killed and eaten by wolves. The farmer couldn't let his children go outside at night for fear that some beast would kill them. The fears of the urbanite were more irrational. The city dweller created fantastical beasts that were much more horrific than anything that existed. While traveling through the wilderness he feared his imaginary monsters more than the highwaymen who were to rob and kill him.
Perhaps the real fear of the wilderness, was due to the darkness, the fear of the unknown. In the woods you can experience real darkness. Cities have always been lit up with lamps that remove the real darkness. Anyone who has spent a night in the woods on a new moon night knows what real darkness is. When only the stars are visible, and you fear you might not find camp after your 0300 bathroom break. For the urbanite, anything could exist in the darkness. Legends spring up when people, who can't see well in the dark, see shadows moving and tell their companions of the beasts that they have witnessed. Their friends tell others, who tell others, and the image of the beast is soon distorted into something that no longer resembles the animal that it was based on.
For the history of civilization man has feared the things that lurk in the shadows of the wilderness. From the serpent in the Garden of Eden to Jason Voorhees, citizens have mistrusted and feared what they imagine to live in the woods. Since there are so many dangerous animals in the woods, it reasons that anyone who would choose to live in the woods must themselves be dangerous. With all of the dangerous men in the woods, any woman who chose to live in the woods must be truly dangerous. The society comes to think of women that live on the outskirts of towns as witches who are able to control the beasts of the woods. Women who are to be feared and destroyed, just as the animals who live in the woods are. How many wolves were killed, because of the Germanic folk tales that demonized the Big Bad Wolf? How many women that lived outside of town were hunted and killed because of some overgrown fear of the dark? In this blog I will attempt to explore the many facets of the urbanite's fear of the woods, of the fantastical monsters that have sprung up from this fear, and of the things that city dwellers have done because of this fear. Hopefully it's gonna be a good ride.

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Heavy Metal Yogi by Nick Matthaes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.