Monday, 27 February 2012


On the last Post, my apologies I forgot to credit Wikimedia Commons  with the pictures and for The Return of the Native The New Wessex Edition (London 1975).

I shall pick up on The Return of The Native shortly


                                               THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE

This work, 'The Return of the Native' (1878) is based on the triangular relationship of one woman, Eustacia Vye, and two men, Damon Wildeve and Clym Yeobright.

It contains the same elements of Darwinian struggle for survival amidst fatalistic forces. This is brought out by Hardy's depiction of Egdon Heath, the beliefs of the peasantry, the ritual of Susan Nunsuch, and most important Eustacia's attempt to alter her destiny by paranormal means.

The main action proceeds in three stages: Eustacia's attempt to ensnare Wildeve; her rejection of him and her attempt to ensnare Clym Yeobright; and her eventual downfall.

The setting for the drama, Egdon Heath, is described from two aspects: it is a repository of ancient beliefs, superstitions, occult practices and prehistoric earthworks; it is also delineated as if it were a personality capable of exerting titanic power and influence over its residents. Thus, the inhabitants of Egdon because of this environment  have a particular destiny foisted upon them and their world view is shaped by it. One survival from the past is a prehistoric tomb, Rainbarrow, which dominates the whole landscape and forces upon the peasantry a superstitious view of the world. Hardy further emphasises the power of the Heath to affect its inhabitants when he says: "The place became full of watchful intentness now; for when other things sank brooding to sleep the Heath appeared slowly to awake and listen." Furthermore, in summer did 'its mood touch the level of gaiety' but in winter it became ferocious when 'the storm was its lover and the wind its friend.' (page 35) and in March 'the heath showed its first faint signs of awakening from winter trance (Book Third III)


This use of personification and mesmeric vocabulary reinforces Hardy's idea that Egdon Heath was a place where the paranormal is anticipated, for at such a time 'it became the home of strange phantoms.' (Book First I)

Three distinct groups practice paranormal rituals on Egdon Heath, the peasantry, Eustacia Vye, and Susan Nunsuch. The peasantry are extremely superstitious and conscious that supernatural beings roam the Heath and are capable of directly affecting their lives. Christian Cantle speaks of himself as a man no woman will marry because one 'never comes to anything that's born at new moon.' Cantle's despondency at being born at such an unlucky time is heightened when Fairway says, 'You'll have to lie all alone all your life and 'tis not to married couples but to single sleepers that a ghost shows himself when a' do come' (Book First III), He also has a superstitious fear that the Heath is populated by spectres after dark (Book Fifth II)


These notions lead the villagers to light a bonfire on the ancient buriul mound. The purpose is clearly stated: 'such blazes as this the heathmen were now enjoying are rather ... descendants from jumbled Druidical rites and Saxon ceremonies ... It indicates a spontaneous Promethean rebelliousness ... the fettered gods of earth say, Let there be light.' (Book First III). They are attempting to entreat these supernatural forces to change the destiny foisted upon them.


Even a game of dice is seen by the heath dwellers as a paranormal ritual which can alter their fate, linked as it might be to communicating with the Devil. Cantle, carrying the money intended for Thomasin and Clym, plays with Wildeve and says, 'What curious creatures these dice be - powerful rulers of us all, and yet at my command.' He indicates to Wildeve his desire to use this new found power as a means of multiplying Thomasin's money. He further says, 'What magical machines these little things be, Mr Wildeve ... That these little things should carry such luck, and such charm, and such a spell, and such power in 'em'

But as the game steadily goes against him and he loses Thomasin's inheritance, Christian's old suspicions begin to surface: 'The devil will toss me into the flames on his three pronged fork for this night's work, I know! But perhaps I shall win yet, and then I'll get a wife to sit up with me o'nights, and I won't be afeard' (Book Third VII)


Eustacia Vye and her use of the paranormal to improve her circumstances is implied rather than stated directly. She is described by the superstitios peasantry as one 'very strange in her ways' (Book First III) They see her as 'the lonesome dark-eyed creature .... that some say is a witch'  who is frequently 'up to some odd conceit or other' (Book First V) Her father is viewed as 'a romantic wanderer - a sort of Greek Ulysses' (Book Third VI) In order to alter her destiny and improve her chances of marriage she tries to ensnare Damon Wildeve, who is betrothed to Thomasin Yeobright. Her method is described in paranormal terms. Eustacia lights a bonfire isolated from the main bonfire on Rainbarrow, but still within its vicinity.

Little Johnny Nunsuch tends it until the approach of Wildeve and Eustacia gives him a crooked sixpence for his trouble. Significantly amongst the peasantry a crooked sixpence was able to defend one against witchcraft. Because Eustacia lights a fire in this vicinity it gains a mystical significance, strengthening the attribution of witchlike powers to her. In fact Eustacia seems to suggest as much when she says to Wildeve:

I ... thought I would get a little excitement by calling you up and triumphing over you as the Witch of Endor called up Samuel. I determined you should come and you have come! I have shown my power. A mile and a half hither, and a mile and a half back again to your home - three miles in the dark for me. Have I not shown you my power? (Book First VI)


Eustacia by apparently using paranormal powers has altered the course of her own and of Wildeve's destiny: she is drawing him away from his betrothed. In this scene Eustacia is described at great length by Hardy in supernatural terms. 'Eustacia Vye was the raw material of divinity... She had the passions and instincts which make a model goddess' Her power of enchantment resides in her 'Pagan eyes, full of nocturnal mysteries.' Somehow, her personality connects with the devil for 'Egdon was her Hades, and since coming there had imbibed much of what was dark in its tone (Book First VII)

Whether or not Eustacia actually practised a paranormal ritual to obtain Wildeve is not crucial; the fact that Hardy describes her in such terms and that the peasantry viewed her as a witch is sufficient to establish the connection. Notice the remark of Wildeve. Finding himself torn between Thomasin and Eustacia he exclaims: "Mine is a curious fate. Who would have thought that all this could happen to me' (Book First IX)

We shall leave it here until the next post where we shall examine how Eustacia and the paranormal powers combine in the attempt to ensnare Clym Yeobright.

Thursday, 16 February 2012


At last I can return to writing more on my blog for those who are interested. I have had several writing commissions to fulfil including contributions to a magazine devoted to Military History, contributing to Wiki and writing a Play for forthcoming performance.

Anyway, enough on that; let us get back to the visit of Rhoda Brooke and Gertrude to Conjurer Trendle. We remember Gertrude is attempting by Paranormal Means to discover the identity of the one who attacked her in the night and blasted her arm. So here goes:

Trendle informs Gertrude that it is beyond the power of medicine to cure for 'Tis the work of an enemy'. He divines who the enemy might be. Rhoda waits outside whilst the procedure takes place:

       He brought a tumbler from the dresser, nearly filled it with water, and fetching an egg, prepared it in
       some private way; after which, he broke it on the edge of the glass, so that the the white went in and
       the yoke remained. As it was getting gloomy, he took the glass and its contents to the window, and
       told Gertrude to watch the mixture closely. They leant over the table together, and the milkwoman
       could see the opaline hue of the egg-fluid changing form as it sank in the water, but she was not near
       enough to define the shape it assumed ...."Do you catch the likeness of any face or figure as you
       look?" demanded the conjurer of the young woman. .  She murmured a reply, in tones so low as to
      be inaudible to Rhoda,  and continued to gaze intently into the glass. (V)

Though the technique is pre-Victorian, and this means of looking into the future was once used in the Scottish Lowlands for love-sick maidens attempting to find a suitor, however, this fictionalisation is drawn from Hardy's own experience as his diary entry for 1884 shows.

Rhoda, deducing that she  has been identified as the culprit, 'experienced a sense of triumph', nor did she 'altogether deplore that the young thing at her side should learn that their lives had been antagonized by other influences than their own' (V)

The climax of the story arrives and Rhoda's paranormal ritual makes its fullest impact. Six years after Gertrude's visit to Trendle her arm has become worse and her husband finds her tolerably abhorrent because of this blight on her beauty.Gertrude's personality has either changed or her true personality, hinted at earlier, has surfaced. She is an 'irritable, superstitious woman, whose whole time was given to experimenting upon her ailment with every quack remedy she came across' These include 'bunches of mystic herbs, charms, and books of  necromancy'. Out of sheer desperation at the failure of these nostrums she decides to visit Trendle again.

Here we have an 18th century visit to a Quack Doctor

Her second visit to Trendle is a further attempt to utilise the paranormal to ensure the survival of her marriage. He advises her to 'touch with the limb the neck of a man who's been hanged. (VI) , resulting in a turning of the blood and the eradication of the disease from her system. Even though this is a gruesome paranormal ritual Gertrude reconciles herself to the idea by suggesting that the conjurer's words were 'capable of a scientific no less than a ghastly interpretation. She also prays each night 'O Lord, hang some guilty or innocent person soon!' (VII)

Hearing that there was to be an execution in July and taking advantage of her husband's absence, apparently on a business trip, she departs for Casterbridge. However, when the hangman mentions the possibility of a reprieve she involuntarily exclaims, 'O - a reprieve - I hope not' (VIII) Clearly, a man's life means less to her than her own relief from this paranormal blight.

Survival, in Darwinian terms is her basic drive: to be in a fit condition to satisfy her husband biologically. As she approaches the newly hanged man she seems to experience a mesmeric trance: 'a grey mist seemed to float before her eyes .. she could scarcely discern anything: it was as though she had nearly died, but was held up by a sort of galvanism.' Hardy's vocabulary juxtaposes ancient beliefs in a sort of tension with Victorian equivalents.

Here is a Seventeenth Century Public Hanging

Placing her arm on the neck of the dead man, 'Gertrude shrieked: "the turn o' the blood", predicted by the conjurer had taken place.' At which point Rhoda Brook and Farmer Lodge appear. The dead boy is their son. Hardy through Rhoda reveals the source of the midnight encounter: 'Hussy - to come between us and our child now! .. This is the meaning of what Satan showed me in the vision! You are like her at last!' (IX). This comment may be a concession to those Victorian readers who believed that paranormal occurences were from some evil source. So great was the shock to Gertrude, of her blood turning 'too far', of the tension experience in the previous twenty four hours, and of seeing Rhoda and her husband together, that she dies shortly afterwards.

In a Darwinian sense, then, Gertrude is unfitted to survive in her new environment. Inexorably, forces come into play which eliminate her, and, perhaps in this regard, it is of some significance that she could bear no children to Farmer Lodge. Farmer Lodge leaves Holmestoke and Rhoda, disclaiming the ample provision he had made for her, continues milking until her old age

This story, therefore, contains a strange mixture: biological Darwinism which produces shifts in Rhoda Brook's  social status; paranormal rituals which attempt to redress the balance (in the case of Rhoda Brook it succeeds, but in Gertrude's case it fails); bodily projections; mesmerism, and ancient methods of divination. Hardy moves easily between two modes of thought as if they were inter-changeable. The paranormal material in this story is not a mere literary device. Hardy uses it realistically and perhaps to give a warning that one's circumstances are capable of modification only within certain limits.

The main point of the story is that it was a paranormal ritual which changed the destiny of the two women, operating within a framework of biological Darwinism.

In the next Post - THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE - I shall pick up the theme of the paranormal and the Darwinian struggle for survival

Source of images Wikimedia Commons

Literary Source, 'The Withered Arm' New Wessex Edition (London 1977)

Wednesday, 13 April 2011



In the last Post I discussed how Darwin and Folklore influenced Hardy's World-view. I suggested that both Darwinism and Folklore saw Humans in the grip of Titanic Forces. In terms of Darwinism survival would be possible by ADAPTING to such pressures. For the Folklorist Destiny could be changed by INVOKING PARANORMAL FORCES.

With this in mind we take up the study of the two novels: 'The Withered Arm' and 'The Return of the Native' We begin with 'The Withered Arm.

The story opens in a dairy, part of a country having but little contact with the wider world.


In fact, in areas such as this there would be but one County Newspaper. People occasionally borrowed a copy from someone else. News, and of course gossip, was generally circulated by word of mouth  at the local Markets or Fairs.

In this dairy where SUPERSTITION easily dominates the minds of the workers, Rhoda Brook, is isolated from the rest: she is suspected of WITCHCRAFT. Rhoda is described as a thin, dark woman, living with her twelve year old son in 'a lonely spot ... not far from the border of Egdon Heath,' in a cottage made of 'mud walls'.


By contrast with Rhoda, Farmer Lodge's new wife, Gertrude is described in almost angelic, innocent terms: 'almost, indeed, a girl. Her face too was fresh in colour ... soft and evanescent, like the light under a heap of rose petals.' She has 'the shyness natural to a modest woman.' She is 'a lady complete ... her hair is lightish and her face as comely as live dolls.'

Unlike Rhoda's eyes, hers are 'of a bluish turn' and her sensual mouth 'is very nice and red; and when she smiles her teeth show snow white.'  This contrast, BIOLOGICALLY DETERMINED, arouses bitter animosity in Rhoda's soul.


So driven to jealousy, one night when Gertrude is asleep at home, Rhoda engages in a PARANORMAL RITUAL, to redress the balance, and to alter the fortunes of her rival.

Sitting over the 'turf ashes' Rhoda 'contemplated so intently the new wife' that she produces an exact mental picture of her. Rhoda then retires to bed, and as a result of this long contemplation 'Gertrude Lodge visited the supplanted woman in her dreams.' Hardy suggests that this was more than a dream because he states, 'since her assertion that she really saw, before falling asleep, was not to be believed.' As a result of the RITUAL Gertrude appeared in her 'pale silk dress ..' However, this apparition is no longer innocent, angelic, nor modest, but 'shockingly distorted, and wrinkled as by age.'

She sits upon Rhoda's chest as she lies in bed, almost suffocating her with pressure. 'Her blue eyes peered cruelly' into Rhoda's face, and 'then the figure thrust forward its left hand mockingly,' making the wedding ring 'glitter in Rhoda's eyes.' Rhoda's PARANORMAL RITUAL has called up an 'INCUBUS' which 'still regarding her withdrew to the foot of the bed, only, however, to come forward by degrees, resume her seat, and flash her left hand as before.'

A struggle ensues during which Rhoda 'seized the confronting SPECTRE by its obtrusive left arm, and whirled it backward to the floor.' So vivid is the whole thing that Rhoda exclaims, 'that was not a dream - she was here!' At which point the INCUBUS vanishes. The following day Rhoda 'still retained the feel of the arm.'

This passage is important for it incorporates what many people of the day believed, the idea of BODILY PROJECTION. It is similar to the Folklore idea that when horses were found reeking with sweat of a morning it was because they had been hag-ridden by witches all night. Furthermore, Gertrude's posture, combined with her physical description and the designation of her as an 'INCUBUS,' implies that Rhoda's PARANORMAL RITUAL has resulted in calling forth something which she has not anticipated: the presence of a WITCH.

This novel, therefore is profound on a number of levels. For a start it probes Gertrude's CHARACTER and shows, perhaps SUBCONSCIOUSLY, that she is egotistical, gloating, and vindictive. The colour of her eyes and her mocking gestures betray this. Yes, Gertrude is quite different from the reader's initial impression of her. It further implies that lurking within certain individuals are PARANORMAL POWERS, and aspects of the personality that one is unaware of. Such POWERS may be RELEASED by the right stimulus. The stimulus in this case is the PROJECTION of Rhoda's bitterness into the lower part of Gertrude's nature.


The novel seems to contain a strange paradox. At one level of interpretation Gertrude is a VICTIM of Rhoda's jealousy; at another level, she herself is the WITCH. Gertrude by unwittingly displacing Rhoda, and disinheriting Rhoda's son, arouses strong, hostile emotions. The whole thing occurs in a framework of one individual acting consciously or unconsciously upon another. Such results in setting in motion a whole chain of events with malign repercussions. In 1886 Hardy wrote in his memorandum that he firmly believed in such things.

So, once more, we need to keep in mind what I tried to show in my Posts on 'The Victorian Consciousness', that Hardy was NOT simply writing a Novel: he was DECLARING what he believed to be true, cast in the form of fiction.

I must comment on something else: both women seem to be employing the PARANORMAL in a struggle for dominance: Gertrude to maintain the status quo, Rhoda to alter it. We need to think about something else, also. The comment regarding the appearance of the wrinkles, 'as by age' on Gertrude's face. This imagery either intensifies the horror of the scene, giving Gertrude a hag-like appearance befitting a witch, or it is prophetic of Gertrude's future condition as her sufferings increase during the course of the story.

Rhoda's PARANORMAL RITUAL achieves the desired result, but it also has a number of psychological repercussions upon her. As the marks on Gertrude's arm become more prominent, and the limb begins to wither her BIOLOGICAL attractiveness to Farmer Lodge ceases. Their marriage disintegrates in direct proportion as Gertrude's arm grows worse. At first Rhoda's 'sense of having been guilty of an act of malignity increased, affect as she might to ridicule her SUPERSTITION.' We can imagine Rhoda, as she sees the horror of the situation regarding Gertrude, trying to convince herself, unsuccessfully, that she is responsible. She feels that this 'innocent young thing' whose limb bears 'the shape of her own four fingers,' should receive 'her blessing and not her curse.'

Gertrude for her part is unable to ascertain the cause. She tells Rhoda, 'One night when I was sound asleep, I was dreaming I was away in some strange place, a pain suddenly shot into my arm .. and was so keen as to awaken me. ' Strangely, Gertrude does not describe Rhoda's cottage as the scene of her out of the body journey;  nor does she mention any tussle with Rhoda. However, Gertrude 'named the night and the hour of Rhoda's spectral encounter.' These facts cause Rhoda to feel 'like a guilty thing.'

Apparently, any part that Rhoda plays in the drama is MOTIVATED SUBCONSCIOUSLY for she muses: 'O, can it be that I exercise a malignant power over people against my own will?' Perhaps this was the reason why Rhoda 'had been slily called a witch'.

Fighting for the survival of her marriage Gertrude also resorts to the PARANORMAL. She and Rhoda visit Conjurer Trendle.


Trendle is a Conjurer in the true sense of the word. He is not a person practicing tricks or sleight of hand, but a true MAGICIAN who works with PARANORMAL POWER.

This visit has a strange psychological effect on Rhoda. She experiences 'a horrid fascination at times in becoming instrumental in throwing such possible light on her own character as would reveal her to be something greater in the OCCULT WORLD than she had ever herself expected.'

Here then is the paradox. On the one hand Rhoda feels guilty about the whole episode and the disintegration of Gertrude's marriage as a result of the PARANORMAL drama. On the other hand she seems to derive an egotistical sense of her own importance.

Trendle as we shall see in the next Post begins a PARANORMAL RITUAL. But enough has been said for now. I shall pick up from here in a day or so.

Any Comments?

Picture Credits Wikimedia Commons

Quotations From The New Wessex Edition (London 1977) of 'The Withered Arm' in Wessex Tales

Saturday, 9 April 2011



In 'The Withered Arm' (1888) and 'The Return of the Native' (1878) we find a strange mixture of ideas. Some seem derived from the theory of Darwin, and others from primitive Folklore elements. Hardy uses the PARANORMAL to tie these twin strands together. What does this imply? mainly that Hardy had a complex view of the world, which meant that his views of Humankind were a mixture of Darwinism and the influence of Folklore.

Let me make this clearer. Simply put, each system of thought saw Man in the grip of titanic forces, which CONTROLLED HIS DESTINY. Both notions contain a FATALISTIC element. This notion resounds throughout all of Hardy's work.

Darwin argued that the fittest survive by adapting biologically, and perhaps culturally, to their environment; the adherents of Folklore and superstition held that INDIVIDUAL DESTINIES could be modified by enlisting supernatural powers through PARANORMAL RITUALS.

In the two novels it will be shown how Hardy's World View was articulated by both of the influences I have mentioned.


Let us look at one or two early influences that pin down what I have suggested. Keep close in mind the three points of early contact: Christianity; Darwinism; and Folklore.

Let us begin with Christianity. It is reported that in his early youth Hardy dressed himself in a tablecloth to resemble the local parson, and then climbing upon a chair read out the Morning Service. As a boy he attended the Dorchester 'British School', a non-conformist Institution set up by the British and Foreign Bible Society. In 1858, when he was eighteen years old he had long religious discussions with Henry Bastow, A Baptist. He encouraged Hardy to attend Prayer Meetings. Around this time Hardy seriously considered taking up the Christian Ministry. So, we can see that some of these Christian influences went deep.

However, by the mid 1860s his ideas began to shift. Although Hardy still had some regard for the veracity of the Bible, he no longer accepted many of the teachings of the Church. Why was this? At this time Hardy met Horace Mosely Moule, Cambridge Fellow, writer for the Saturday Review, and son of the vicar of Fenington. This man, who later cut his own throat, was primarily responsible for introducing Hardy to the philosophies of the day. He seems instrumental in drawing attention to Darwin's ideas.


Therefore, due to Moule's influence Hardy began to broaden his reading. Two works in particular, amongst numerous others, had a corrosive effect on his view of Orthodox Religion. They were 'Essays and Reviews' and 'The Origin of the Species'. The first of these works, although hardly known today raised a storm in Church circles. It consisted of a series of articles which, written by 'progressive' Ministers of the Church, cast doubt on many accepted doctrines of Christianity. The authors were branded as heretics and labelled as enemies of Christ. The ideas of Darwin are so well known that it is uneccessary to discuss them here.

What was the result of Hardy's reading? Mainly this, that by the 1880s he had definite reservations regarding the relationship of Orthodox Religion to the Natural World. In 1890 he recorded in his notebook that he had been looking for God for five decades, and surely if he existed,Hardy thought, he should after all that time have found Him. So, Hardy came to believe that Natural Processes, rather than the direct creation by God accounted for the arrival of Man. But here is the paradox: in spite of these influences Hardy still retained some regard for the Music of the Church, and for what he believed were its Civilising Influences. Hardy reminds one of G.H.Lewes and his attitude to Spiritualism. Neither could ignore the practices, attack them though they might.

What then was Thomas Hardy's view of FOLKLORE and the other aspects of the PARANORMAL?

In the 'Pall Mall Magazine' in 1901 Hardy said that he would give ten years of his life to see a credible ghost. Furthermore, he insisted that he was a believer, but thus far, despite his willingness to see an apparition, .he had been disappointed. Even so, late in life he did claim to have had an encounter with an apparition outside Stinsford Church. Here, he asserted, a man in eighteenth century dress greeted him and walked into the Church. Hardy immediately followed and found no one.

Although, not convinced by many of the Spiritualist Practices of the day, he seemed to think some phenomena were capable of a scientific explanation, whereas others might be genuine Paranormal phenomena. He believed that he had experienced some sort of TELEPATHIC COMMUNICATION  whilst riding on a train to London. At this time he had begun to jot down a few lines of his poem, 'Thoughts of Phena'. The theme of this poem is the sadness experienced by the death of a woman. Out of the Blue, the thought of Hardy's cousin flashed into his mind. He was completely unaware that she was dying. Six days after his experience she passed away.

There are many other PARANORMAL interests that Hardy had, such as Wraiths But enough has been said on this.

Hardy's sensitive temperament as well as his boyhood influences certainly inclined him towards the PARANORMAL. The environment in which Hardy lived had hardly altered from Medieval and Elizabethan Times.


In these villages the inhabitants were barely educated, were deeply superstitious, and they had a strong belief in witchcraft. Execution of criminals still took place, and, around the fire at night the same stories of unusual happenings were retold for centuries. It seems that people like  Rhoda Brook and Susan Nonsuch (characters in 'The Withered Arm' and 'The Return of the Native') lived in Dorset in the early part of the nineteenth century. Also, Thomas Hardy's Mother and Grandmother were often plying young Hardy with tales of the supernatural. In fact the author's own cousin, Elizabeth Endorfield, had also fallen under the suspicion of being a witch or sorceress.


So, here we have it: plently of material for Hardy to work into his novels. Please keep one thing in mind, as I stated in relation to the other novelists: Hardy was not merely writing two stories; he was DECLARING his own viewpoint and position.

It is far too involved to take up the interpretations of those scholars who see that Hardy, whilst adhering to a Darwinian viewpoint, simply recorded the PARANORMAL and FOLKLORE elements to keep them alive.I take the view that Hardy was using the DOUBLE VOCABULARY of Ancient Folklore and Modern Science to bring out his own view of Man's relationship to Cosmic Forces. Both systems of thought see human destiny affected by forces outside Man's control: whether ADAPTING in the face of such pressures in order to survive, or ENLISTING THE AID OF SUPERNATURAL POWERS, HUMAN DESTINY COULD BE CHANGED.

So, we shall see how in 'The Withered Arm' and 'The Return of the Native' Hardy uses an amalgam of the Paranormal and Modern Science when discussing Human Fate and its possible modification. It must be appreciated that although modern readers might think that the practices and beliefs of some of his characters are bizarre, Hardy did not.
Having had 'The Withered Arm' rejected by Longman's Magazine, Hardy despatched it to Blackwoods.  He informed the publishers that the main events in the novel were true because he knew the two women he had characterised. In fact, in conversation in 1894 with Edward Clodd , the Folklorist, Hardy assured him that whatever superstitions or customs appeared in his novels they were not fictionalisations, but genuine accounts.

After that preamble, let us dig into 'The Withered Arm' (1888).

This is a story about two women, Rhoda Brook, and Gertrude Lodge. Gertrude, without realising it, has supplanted Rhoda in the affections and estate of Farmer Lodge. Farmer Lodge is the father of Rhoda's son.

If one was reading the story from a DARWINIAN PERSPECTIVE it would be interpreted as a FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL on the part of the two women with the more sexually attractive of the two, Gertrude, at first coming out on top. From such an interpretation Rhoda's destiny would be fixed: rejection and an ultimate descendancy on the social scale.


However, Hardy resorts to the ideas and principles of the PARANORMAL to alter Rhoda's fate. Rhoda uses a PARANORMAL RITUAL, namely a MESMERIC TRANCE to change the course of her destiny. SUPERNATURAL FORCES take over in two stages: Gertrude's beauty is blighted; her death follows. Each of these stages I shall deal with in turn.

In my Next Posting in a day or two I shall open up the two Novels I have mentioned and explore them from the Paranormal perspective.

Until then, dig into the two novels.

Any Comments?

Picture Credits: Wikipedia Commons

Monday, 28 March 2011



Here we go again! Having indulged in some extremely enjoyable Chess Games, it is time to return to my blog.

In the next couple of days I shall Post a discussion of Thomas Hardy's novel, 'The Withered Arm, ' to be followed by his, 'The Return of the Native.' The emphasis will be upon THE PARANORMAL elements within the works and to some extent how DARWINISM affected Hardy.


Until the Post, enjoy Life

Picture credit Wikipedia Commons

Wednesday, 9 March 2011



In the last Post I presented some ideas concerning the Social Background of the Fairy Tale; I cast some doubt upon the general assumption regarding the height of the Giant; finally, I mentioned the codes of Angl-Saxon justice

In th  
Now it is time to explore the various ARCHETYPES in the Fairy Tale. I shall spend some considerable time examining the maneuverings of the SHADOW and CRUCIALLY WHAT HAPPENS IN THE STORY WHEN THE SHADOW TRANSMUTES.

Right, off we go. Let us begin with the ARCHETYPE OF THE MOTHER. Right at the outset I must state that I am NOT RIGIDLY interpreting the ARCHETYPES. As you will see I am deliberately FLEXIBLE in their interpretation. I take this position because, I think such an approach allows a deeper insight into the story and shows how people change under various circumstances and pressures.

We have established previously that the MOTHER ARCHETYPE relates to Nurturing, Caring, Training, Providing for and Protecting the young. So the ideal MOTHER ARCHETYPE would have these attributes in perfect balance. She would teach and train her offspring with Love and Kindness, yet where discipline is required it would be administered fairly and properly. In short, her offspring would know the role of the Mother. But is this the ARCHETYPAL pattern we see in Jack’s Mother?


It seems that this is not the case. Her offspring, young Jack, is described as her “only child … whom she INDULGED to a fault”.  The origin of the word, ‘indulged’ throws some light on Jack’s Mother. In the early 17th century the word took on the meaning of  treating one with EXCESSIVE kindness. It comes from the Latin word, “indulgere”, which has the sense of ‘giving free rein” to something. So, although Jack’s Mother had PROTECTED his life when she fled with him from the Giant, and had tried to bring him up, NURTURING him, as best she could, even attempting to sell her cow to keep them alive.

Incidentally, the COW is also AN ARCHETYPE.  The cow is at the point of sale,  their only means of sustenance. Notice the cow goes to the Butcher, so like the classic Scapegoat its life is going to be taken so that the family can live on. The COW  is a very important ARCHETYPE throughout the world, both ancient and modern. For example in Ancient Egypt the Goddess Nut is associated with the cow. Hathor, also was worshipped by the Egyptians as a cow-deity. In this role she was considered the great nurturer and sustainer of everything. As a nourisher the Cow appears in Norse mythology, in Vedic literature, and to this day considered to be India’s most sacred animal. It well depicts this role in our story. Just a word on the Butcher, before reverting to Jack and the Mother. The Butcher well personifies the TRICKSTER. Look how he sets out deliberately to cheat Jack


“The Butcher held some curious beans in his hat; they were of various colours and ATTRACTED JACK’S NOTICE. This did not pass unnoticed by the Butcher; who knowing Jack’s temperament thought it was now time TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT, and determined not to let slip so good an OPPORTUNITY….. the SILLY BOY” deceived by the sly Butcher “the cow was exchanged for a few paltry beans.”

Going back to Jack’s Mother, once he had grown past childhood, she ABDICATED her role. Her role as the ARCHETYPAL MOTHER was subordinated to something else. The SHADOW surfaced in her personality. The end result was that Jack, ‘did not pay the least attention to anything she said, but was indolent, careless, and extravagant.’

Let me isolate one or two of the elements attributable to the SHADOW, which had surfaced within her personality. If you need to, look back at the Previous Posts to see my interpretation of this ARCHETYPE. Jack’s Mother  became a WORRIER, often coming to tears, because of Jack’s idleness and their increasing poverty. She becomes afflicted with RAGES, one example is her throwing the Beans out of the window in anger, ‘she kicked the beans away in a passion,’ and then retreating to bed without any supper. But that is not all. She becomes ILL through the anxiety vibrations generated by the SHADOW. This occurred after Jack’s disappearance up the Beanstalk for the second time. When he returns with the bags of gold his Mother recovers. But what happens to the MOTHER ARCHETYPE? Does it reappear? I shall return to that point after I have discussed the ARCHETYPAL elements within Jack.

When the story opens Jack seems to be dominated by the vibrations of the SHADOW. Any normal, appreciative son would do what he could to ease the burden on his Mother. But as I have pointed out he takes the opposite attitude, being completely disobedient, ‘indolent and extravagent’.

Jack becomes the HERO ARCHETYPE in spite of himself: it is thrust upon him. We learn later that the wizened old woman, the Fairy influenced the whole drama, without Jack’s being aware of it. She  is obviously a HELPER ARCHETYPE and she tells Jack when they meet on the road to the Giant’s house:

The day on which you met the Butcher as you went to sell your Mother’s cow, my power was restored. It was I who secretly prompted you to take the beans in exchange for the cow. By my power the Beanstalk grew to so great a height and formed a ladder. I need not add that I inspired you with a strong desire to ascend the ladder.

How she did this is not explained. One wonders HOW the INSPIRATION was achieved:  because the fairy is an ARCHETYPE, and so is Jack, is she operating WITHIN his psyche? If so, how did she maneuvre the Butcher into position and cause the Beanstalk to grow? I am sure you will be able to work this one out.


There is no doubt that Jack subordinates THE SHADOW and takes on the role of the HERO ARCHETYPE. This is abundantly clear when we see how he braves the threat of death when entering the Giant’s lair; we see this manifested when he creeps out of hiding on more than one occasion and seizes, the hen, the bags of gold, and the harp. It surely took enormous courage to snatch these objects from under the Monster’s nose and then flee out of the Giant’s lair, run down the Beanstalk, hurriedly chop it down whilst the Giant is in hot pursuit and watch the ogre plunge to his death.

There is no doubt about it Jack successfully TRANSMUTES THE SHADOW. When?

We first notice the glimmer of a change when he intends for the first time to ascend the Beanstalk to ‘seek his fortune’. The MUTATION deepens when, after climbing the Beanstalk he sits down exhausted on a stone and he then thinks of his Mother ‘and reflected with sorrow on his disobedience in climbing the beanstalk.’ Yes, Jack is beginning to change the SHADOW is being transmuted. He is FACING IT, not rationalizing it away.

But he will go deeper yet and produce profound effects within the story.  Once Jack meets the Fairy on the road and she recounts the misfortune the Giant brought upon Jack and his Mother, once she tells him of the courage his Mother displayed in pleading for his life and eventually hiding him safely away, once Jack learns all of this the TRANSMUTATION is almost complete. We see how he braves danger after danger and in EVERY instance gives to his mother the proceeds of his dangerous undertakings. His EXTRAVAGANCE has gone.

Look at his statement of REPENTENCE and the evidence that the SHADOW within has been TRANSMUTED. He gives his Mother the hen and then says:

I have brought home that which will quickly make YOU rich without any trouble: I hope I have made you some amends for the affliction I have caused you through my idleness, extravagence, and folly.

Once Jack had TRANSMUTED THE SHADOW within himself it had several effects. First, he and his Mother became very rich, and after he had successfully killed the Giant, and promised ‘to be dutifully obedient to her in the future’, his Mother’ whole personality changes; so does hers. She TRANSMUTES THE SHADOW and he and his mother ‘lived together a great many years and continued to be very happy.’

This would seem like the end of the discussion, but not so. There are one or two other elements that need to be explored in relation to the SHADOW.

Let us go back into the Giant’s domain. I want to suggest that the Giant is – if not specifically – the SHADOW of Jack’s father. This is not to say that he is part of the father’s psyche, rather he is the DARKNESS corresponding to the light of Jack’s father. As we shall see the entire psyche of the Giant corresponds to the SHADOW.

But before I develop this further. I would like to comment – NOT dogmatically – that the tumbledown Cottage that Jack and his Mother lived in BEFORE Jack and she TRANSMUTED the SHADOW within their natures, may well be the SHADOW aspect of either their former home, or at a stretch, the Giant’s house with its ‘large hall magnificently furnished’  and several other “spacious rooms all in the same style of grandeur”. Now, we need to go back to the Giant.


As far as the Giant is concerned there is not a single redeeming feature. He is totally manipulated by the vibrations of the SHADOW within his psyche. What is of interest is that once Jack faces up to the Giant it is as if he is FACING THE SHADOW. As a result the MUTATION of the SHADOW within his own nature takes place.

Now, what makes us believe that the Giant was all SHADOW. Let us look at the catalogue of his behaviour.

When Jack, after climbing the Beanstalk, he is told by the Fairy that the Giant was,

As wicked as your father was good; he was in his heart envious, covetous and cruel; but he had the art of concealing these vices …. and wished to enrich himself at any rate.

He was also a liar, and a calculating murderer, deceiving Jack’s father into taking him in and then plotting to kill his benefactor. This he does along with the Porter and the Nurse. Even though he allows Jack and his mother to slip away, but later the Giant ‘repented that he had suffered her to escape.’ He then proceeds to burn down the familiy’s ancestral property.

He is also a cannibal, having a dungeon within his house to keep the prisoners whom he will later eat. He even treats his wife in a despicable manner: not only does he have her running around, waiting on him hand and  foot, he also ‘frequently lifted up his hand to strike his wife for not being quick enough’. Truly, he was a ‘very ill-tempered and impatient’ individual. For good measure he ‘was continually upbraiding her with the loss of the hen’ which Jack had stolen.


Much more could be said about this PERSONIFICATION OF THE SHADOW but the narrative sums it up perfectly: Jack intends to steal the Harp because, ‘the Giant’s SOUL was not ATTUNED to harmony.’ He had to die.

When the Giant is killed, the SHADOW vibrations have ceased in the Fairy Tale. When this has occurred both Jack and his Mother become perfectly attuned: the SHADOW has been TRANSMUTED. It is of interest that once this TRANSMUTATION has taken place the Fairy appears both to Jack and his Mother. He Fairy explains the drama behind the Beanstalk and once this explanation had been given, ‘Jack was now fully cleared in the opinion of his Mother.’

So in these two Posts I have tried to show that there are many levels on which Fairy Tales such as this one can be understood. They have endured for centuries and been found all over the world because of one simple fact: they are replete with ARCHETYPES, and these ARCHETYPES are part of our own Nature. Consequently, when we are reading Fairy Tales, we are in some ways looking at ourselves.

I hope you have enjoyed this Post even though much more could have been said. If the discussion has served as a stimulus in some way, then the purpose has been fulfilled.

In the next Post I shall return to ‘The Paranormal in Victorian Literature’ and examine Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Withered Arm’ and ‘The Return of the Native.’

Any Comments
Picture Credits Wikipedia Commons
Source : “The History of Jack and the Beanstalk’, Tabart, London 1807