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Primal Hero
Was King Kong: The Last Mythic Western Hero?
© 2021 James LaFond
The mythic war culture of heroism in the Western world tracks from roughly 6,000 years ago in Sumer down to General George Armstrong Custer and his men “dying with their boots on” at the Greasy Grass fight. According to O’Connell, author of "Of Arms and Men," this dedication to decisive, confrontational warfare, as opposed to hunting the enemy like big game is not uniquely European. However, the close geographic fragmentation of Europe, the fact that it was an invasion terminus for ages and the fact that European man fought his earliest enemies in forest and swamps and caves and did so at close range, and that many of these enemies would have been food sources like cave bears and mammoths and aurochs that were taken down at close range at great peril, as indicated by the majority of the Labors of Herakles and the stories of Enkidu and Gilgamesh fighting the Forest Demon and the Bull of Heaven, made decisive confrontational combat a trademark of Western warfare. This is reflected in prize-fighting originating among the Indo-Europeans before any other group. This enabled the Indo-Europeans to conquer the world.
This is not to say that other war traditions are not lethal or confrontational, but to remind the reader that in the main, as documented by Keeley in "War Before Civilization," primitive confrontational warfare tends to be less bloody than the western version, and that the more lethal forms tend to be predatory, not confrontational.
In other warrior cultures that demonstrated high levels of confrontational western-warrior style warfare, we see also a relationship with large animals that were fought and then eaten, and eventually in some cases domesticated, like the Bantu cattle of the Zulus.
The most prominent of these non-Western war cultures that also demonstrated Western levels of commitment to set piece battles, and in all cases slaughtered superior Western forces in such battles, we see the relationship with big game hunting of non-prey animals, and of the largest herd animals. The following Аrуаn-like war cultures make both Keely and O’Connell’s cases:
-Masai, Bantu lion hunters and cattlemen
-Zulu, Bantu lion hunter and cattlemen who slaughtered a superior British force in open battle
-Polynesian, man hunters and cannibals, who slaughtered superior French and British forces in set-piece affairs in Typee and New Zeeland at the Gate of Ptah.
-Native American bison, panther, bear, elk and man hunters who slaughtered superior American forces in the 1670s, 1790 and 1870s in set-piece battles, with Custer, who was a slaughterer of women and children at dawn and was called by the Crow “Son of the Morning Star” for his killing of non-combatants, leaving his Gatling guns behind and fighting head-on, like he had done in the Civil War against Johnny Reb.
In the European and Native American traditions, the sacred white animal: stag, wolf, dog, buffalo, and finally the whale Moby Dick, served as an extension of the myth of the holy animal, directly created by God to test man, which is so central to the legends of Gilgamesh, Jason and Herakles. In "Moby Dick," the whale, the first creature brought forth by the ocean on God’s command, is hunted by men of all of the above-mentioned warrior races, being Ahab and his African, Indian and Polynesian harpooners. There is still a respect for the creature made by God to test man—they are confronted, not poisoned, machined-gunned from a distance, or hunted from helicopters. That is until Custer’s debacle, when the men who won the war against the handful of warriors who routinely defeated massive U.S. military force in open battle, such as the Nez Perce, were the buffalo hunters, rolling up to great herds on trains and conducting industrial slaughters to starve the warriors that the U.S. Army could not defeat.
I see these factors as tied in with the myth of Beowulf, which is in many ways more ancient than earlier epics.
Beowulf was the ultimate confrontational hero, more fool-hardy than Achilles, eschewing the tricks of Odysseus, battling monsters alone unlike Gilgamesh.
The monsters he faced where of four types:
-Sea monsters, primordial things of the deep that should have been left alone.
-Grendel, a fiend of feral type who snuck into the domain of men and murdered sleeping men.
-Grendel’s mother, the fiend who spawned Grendel, who was depicted as a feral and fallen man-monster, caught halfway between her state and that of man and lonely for it. Grendel’s mother only avenges her son, and does not murder out of despair as he does and she follows the pattern of the forest demon Humbaba in Gilgamesh, who is sought out in his home and murdered in a confrontational way, not by stealth. For this crime the heavenly powers doom the heroes to face heaven sent monsters.
-Heaven sent monsters, such as the Bull of Heaven from Gilgamesh, the Manticore that afflicted Enkidu in dream, and most commonly the Dragon, seen the world over as possessing ferocious energy, heavenly power and ancient knowledge seem to represent a heavenly hand placing man in check. The beast that slays Beowulf is the Dragon.
So, in terms of the life of heroic man, knowing that the sea monsters represent beasts of creation that test, that Grendel as well as the giants and titans before him represent fallen powers raging against man, and that Grendel’s mother represents earth powers rising up against man in vengeance for wounds and wrongs, how do we frame the Dragon, the magical war beast that swoops down from heaven and strikes the hero down?
The locomotive of buffalo hunters…
The Gatling gun and the maxim gun that slaughtered confrontational warriors of the Zulus and the Sioux and the Maori…
The storm of steel that shredded millions in WWI…
The air forces of WWII down to this day that predominantly rained death down on innocent women and children and elderly by all national war machines…
The drones that now blow up children in their apartments in shithole nations because the child committed the crime of having a parent who was a neighbor of a suspected enemy of the Forever War Machine.
Recently, I had numerus conversations about the King Kong movies with various men. The three men who were military or law enforcement advocates, all admitted to cheering the death of King Kong—even though these men extol “the confrontational warrior ethic.”
All of the other dozen and a half men who cheered for Kong, were hunters, prize-fighters and working men. They all admitted to cheering for King Kong even though they knew he must die. This is why, they, like I, so liked the final version of King Kong, where the ape king destroys U.S. Army Aviators and their death machines. The final iteration of King Kong brings us back to the divinely conceived beast at the heart of Moby Dick, the ethos of the royal lion hunt and the wearing of the divinely anointed king’s crown in imitation of the lion’s mane.
I will use the basic storyline of the original King Kong, a very American movie, which was almost immediately corrected with the movie Mighty Joe Young, as the sympathy for the Kong character was so great in American minds of the 1930s and 1940s. Even the scumbag Hollywood villain in King Kong extols Kong as a creature of noble type caught in an age he was unsuited for.
Basic King Kong Plot Elements Concerning Heroics
-King Kong minds his own business and lives in the wild on his island, which has been invaded and colonized by Stone Age men. Kong has an honor-based agreement to take a bride every so often in return for not wiping out the invaders, which is fully within his power.
-Modern men discover Kong’s domain in the quest for money and fame.
-The Stone Age men steal a female actress and give her to Kong.
-Kong protects the actress against numerous beastly threats in heroic fashion, even wrestling with a dinosaur and snake.
-Modern men invade Kong’s domain and attack him. He battles them just enough to stop the invasion and retreats further into his domain.
-A “hero” sneaks away with Kong’s bride.
-Kong attacks the Stone Age people for breaking their treaty agreement and is ambushed by the war machines and sleep gas of modern man.
-Kong is abducted and taken to civilization as a zoo animal.
-Apparently understanding the casting couch and the fact that Faye Wray was going to be raped by a Hollywood producer, Kong attempts to rescue her and battles unsuccessfully against the war machine of modern man, against the dragon, the flying death machines, his confrontational warrior heroics counting for nothing against the dragon, winning only a moral victory by downing one of the dastard machines.
In the story of Kong, a post-WWI story, I see the sorrow for the dethroned hero. After using machines of destruction to slaughter the Zulus at Ulundi, and the women and children at Wounded Knee, and the bison in their tens of millions, the victorious machine warrior, the Western Soldier, found himself degraded. In 1901-03, the revolt of the people of the Philippines, in which U.S. soldiers executed entire tribes of non-combatants, in which the confrontational Moro swords-men could not be stopped by .36 caliber handguns before they repaid the conquest of their home by stabbing a U.S. officer, the result in the U.S. Army was not heroic. Learning hand-to-hand combat was not advocated. Rather, the Colt 1911 .45 APC was the result, a round powerful enough to drop a charging lightweight, another war machine that negated warrior confrontation and turned war into a rat hunt.
That was bad enough, the feeling that an American man could never best a smaller man in close combat, an ethos that sold Karate to America and saw it replace boxing as the self-defense art. There was a frustration, for a look at the development of combat effective jungle fighting knives and machetes by American servicemen from 1901 through 1945 is an awesome evidence that this desire to fight like men rather than like machines and rats, had welled up in the American mind.
I see this expressed in the fate of Kong, which had been the fate of all infantrymen in WWI, to be reduced to rats tunneling in the mud while the sacred war machines of the Economic World Order raged like dragons overhead.
Who are the modern Kongs, the hopeless heroes slaughtered by the war machines?
1980s: John Africa and Gordon Khal
1990s: Randy Weaver and David Koresh
2000s: Pashtuns who resent Cannabis Infused Asshole-sponsored heroin cultivation in their homeland, and who are hunted like Big Game
2010s: The men who fought the Pashtuns for their evil overlords and are now discharged, hated, drugged with opiates like Kong with the sleeping gas grenades and paraded in TV dramas like zoo animals…
2020s: Any man who defends himself, like Kong, against invaders of his home will be ambushed, drugged, paraded and ultimately killed by the very same media system depicted so negatively by itself in the 1930s movie.
The hero is hated, because we meat-puppets cheer for the dragon in the form of the jet warplane and the assassin drone, because we cheer for the 10-man SWAT team kicking in a door at 4:45 am with as much firepower as Custer’s 7th cavalry to abduct one unarmed man, because we cheer for the four Navy SEALs and the supporting rangers and war machines sent into a house half a world away to punish a monster that in many cases has been invented by the U.S. itself. For the history of the various bad men of the War on Terror show them to have been originally the pet beasts of the U.S., raising a monster and then setting it loose so we can be the monster slayer.
A look at George C. Scott depicting Patton in the movie, firing at a war plane with his pistol, an act of useless defiance, that scene was what the entire King Kong character was—sympathetically portrayed in all four iterations of the movie.
King Kong is us, those who might be heroes, if not for an infinitely powerful war machine that makes minced rats, rather than heroes, out of men.
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