Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Speaking of Evolution...

"ILN January 16, 1932 (reprinted in All I Survey)

I saw in this paper - which sparkles with scientific news - that a green-blooded fish had been found in the sea; indeed, a creature that was completely green, down to this uncanny ichor in its veins, and very big and venomous at that.

Somehow I could not get it out of my head, because the caption suggested a perfect refrain for a Ballade:: A green-blooded fish has been found in the sea. It has so wide a critical and philosophical application. I have known so many green-blooded fish
on the land, walking about the streets and sitting in the clubs, and especially the committees. So many green-blooded fish have written books and criticisms of books, have taught in academies of learning and founded schools of philosophy that they have almost made themselves the typical biological product of the present stage of evolution.

There is never a debate in the House of Commons, especially about Eugenics or the
Compulsory Amputation of Poor People, without several green-blooded fishes standing up on their tails to talk. There is never a petition, or a letter to the Press, urging the transformation of taverns into tea-shops or local museums, without a whole string of green-blooded fish hanging on to the tail of it, and pretty stinking fish too.

But for some reason the burden of this non-existent Ballade ran continually in my head, and somehow turned my thoughts in the direction of poisonous monsters in general; of all those dragons and demi-dragons and devouring creatures which appear in
primitive stories as the chief enemies of man.

It has been suggested that these legends really refer to some period when prehistoric man had to contend with huge animals that have since died out. And then the thought occurred to me: Suppose the primitive heroes killed them just when they were dying out. I mean, suppose they would have died out, even if the Cave Man had sat comfortably in his Cave and not troubled to kill them."

1 comment:

  1. Well, I know that I for one, am like Harry's friend Hagrid. I "like" dragons. They're really amazing, dragons.

    Providing they do not live nearby.

    Touching logic and nature, one of my favourite lines is this from GKC: "If there was a dragon, he had a grandmother." ["The Dragon's Grandmother" in Tremendous Trifles.] And then the line which sent Tolkien to his life work, the lover-of-words: he was told, I don't know if it was by his grandmother, though it would be just too glorious if it had been: "You must not say the green great dragon, but the great green dragon." [I have forgotten where I read this; one of his biographies, no doubt.]

    "Why?" he asked, and so, after long gestation, gave rise to Smaug (see this dragon really did have a grandmother!) and all the subcreated realm of Ea - the World that Is.

    Speaking of Tolkien - he had the GREATEST line regarding dragons, one of the many for which I (like GKC said of A. C. Doyle) shall continually "offer my mite of thanks":

    "...often enough what children mean when they ask: 'Is it true?' They mean: 'I like this, but is it contemporary? Am I safe in my bed?' The answer: 'There is certainly no dragon in England today,' is all that they want to hear."

    That is from his IMPORTANT essay "On Fairy Stories" printed in his Tree and Leaf, which is required reading for Chestertonians and any who, like D. L. Sayers, want to understand more of "the Mind of the Maker" (see her book of that title!)

    Ahem... But now I must get back to my duties, if you are to have any hope of seeing my work come Thursday.

    I am glad to be told that there are no dragons in England* ... but I also am glad there are no dragons near me, too.

    --Dr. Thursday

    * I have also heard that there is no Mayonnaise in Ireland. I don't know what they put on their sandwiches.


Join our FaceBook fan page today!