Mon | Jul 26, 2021

Here there be monsters

Published:Friday | February 26, 2016 | 12:00 AMTony Deyal


I thought my daughter asked me, "Dad, have you seen Monsters Ink?" But even if this was not exactly what she wanted to know, I behaved as though it was. "Yes, of course," I replied.

"It is invisible but ... it is green." "How can it be green and invisible?" she demanded with some irritation. "Well, we all know that a ghost is an invisible object usually seen at night. Now I couldn't see it," I explained, "but the monster ink told me it was green, and since it was chewing on my fingers at the time, I thought it would be wise to humour it." "So what happened?" she asked. I smiled, "Well, at least it was environmentally friendly, so I got some recycled paper and wrote until I ran out of ink and then went straight to my computer to tell all my Facebook friends about the incident."

She was not amused and is generally not amused by my off-key jokes, a trait she shares with the late, great Queen Victoria who, although severely straightlaced (and you can see that in those pictures where she wore bodices) was the Empress of India and always appointed an aptly-named 'Viceroy'. This was the second highest position next to hers within the well-manned bureaucracy of the country where the Kama Sutra was written and followed with zeal and gusto (two Indian dishes that are no longer popular except in Bollywood).

My daughter really wanted to know about Monsters Inc, a comic movie about the city of Monstropolis, which is inhabited by monsters and powered by the screams of children in the human world. This was followed by Monsters University, a prequel. Now we have the sequel to Monsters Inc., but this one is set in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago which, if the prime minister and the murder rate are to be believed, is fast developing into a Monstropolis powered by a mixture of blood and gunpowder.

Media reports on February 23, just a few days ago, quoted the prime minister of the country, Tobago-born Keith Rowley, a geologist and former secondary school teacher, as asking the audience at a National Consultation on Education in his home island, "And what about the rights of the teacher, and the responsibilities of the teacher to ensure that as we take on that responsibility to educate that you also take on the responsibility to share in the moulding of our children? And what about the rights and responsibilities of parents who breed monsters at home and send these monsters to teachers?"

The monster-breeding comment was immediately attacked by several different people as "monstrous", but I thought that in these recessionary times, it might be a good business opportunity to explore. In Monsters Inc, the two main characters are Sullivan, a very large and intimidating monster with blue fur, large purple spots and horns, and his assistant who is short, green and one-eyed.

This led me to wonder if these were the only options available or whether monsters came in other flavours, sizes and traits and which will best suit Trinidad and Tobago, as well as regional and international markets.

I did a little research into the origin and early use of the term and read in Wikipedia, "A monster is any creature, usually found in legends or horror fiction that is often hideous and may produce fear or physical harm by its appearance and/or its actions. The word 'monster' derives from Latin 'monstrum', an aberrant occurrence, usually biological, that was taken as a sign that something was wrong within the natural order. The word usually connotes something wrong or evil; a monster is generally morally objectionable, physically or psychologically hideous, and/or a freak of nature. It can also be applied figuratively to a person with similar characteristics like a greedy person or a person who does horrible things."

An early use of the term was in mapmaking where "here there be monsters" refers to a variety of phrases used by early European mapmakers to warn of great and terrifying beasts which lurked in unexplored locations on a map. Among these monsters were craqueuhhe, a vampire-like creature that feasted on both your blood and body, demons, jaracacas (a type of venomous snake or pit viper found in Latin and South America) and Zeitgeists, or spirits.

I did not think that West Indians would buy monsters like these so I did some further research and came upon the Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. This family was clearly what the prime minister was referring to as "parents who breed monsters at home and send these monsters to teachers." One of the children in the movie, Wednesday, showed her teacher a picture of great aunt Calpurnia Addams who was burnt as a witch.

According to Wednesday's mother, Morticia, Calpurnia danced naked in the town square and enslaved the minister. "Really," asked the teacher. "Oh, yes,"Morticia answered. "But don't worry. We told Wednesday, college first!"

Now this is the kind of family I believe the prime minister meant and I started searching for others like them. First, I found the Saddams Family - parents and young terrorists, all of whom behave like they're in ISIS and if you give them the opportunity and a machete they will have your head before you can say, "John the Baptist."

Then there is the Baddams Family - their name is the sound of explosions and gunshots - Baddam, Baddam - that now resound through the hills of Trinidad and Tobago. So far in 2016, there have been more murders than days and the Baddams seem to be thriving in and out of school. There are also the Braddams - they come out to mash up the place and leave a trail of destruction wherever they go.

But the family of families are the Gaddams. They are the majority and they just don't give a Gaddam about anything.

- Tony Deyal was last seen repeating a line by Morticia to her husband: "Don't torture yourself Gomez. That's my job."