Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror. It’s a battle of monsters this time around.


Image by Joey B at Deviant Art

Image by Joey B at Deviant Art

As this stanza begins the supernatural being Maldoror has been conversing with the Wandering Jew from folklore. Way back in And Now Men Fear You No More we learned about Maldoror’s long-ago relationship with Lohengrin the Knight of the Swan when they both lived in the Grail Castle. Now our main character interacts with another figure from legend.

The narrative never bothers clarifying which of the many versions of the Wandering Jew story it favors, it’s simply presenting a chance meeting of two ancient beings who wander the Earth.  

A white-winged, serpent-tailed dragon with the head and body of a tiger makes an aerial approach toward the two figures. The dragon lands and the Wandering Jew notes it is taller than the tallest oak. The dragon has come for Maldoror and the two exchange words of greeting as a prelude to their battle. 

Balladeer's Blog

Balladeer’s Blog

Maldoror transforms himself into a gigantic eagle, following which he and the dragon take to the air and fly around each other for an extended period looking for signs of weakness. The Wandering Jew has no reason to love the world and may have his own reasons for resenting what God or Jesus or both have done to him but he still recognizes that the best hope for humanity is if the dragon destroys Maldoror. He makes it clear where he stands as he watches events unfold.

The battle overhead is fierce and bloody as each monster rends the flesh of the other multiple times with their claws and mouths. Eventually the dragon completely disables one of Maldoror’s wings and he crashes to the ground. Propping himself on his useless wing our protagonist – still in gigantic eagle form – lashes out at the attacking dragon with both claws and his monstrous beak.

Against the odds Maldoror is able to persevere despite the immense bodily damage his attacker inflicts on him. At length he manages to bury his beak in the dragon’s tigerish chest and withstands all the harm that the creature’s claws and teeth are doing to his bloody form. Finally Maldoror’s beak plucks out his foe’s monstrous heart, killing him.

Our vile main character reverts to human form, albeit still bloodied and torn, and walks away victorious. The Wandering Jew departs in disgust, pitying Maldoror’s future victims. He takes what solace he can from his belief that when the end of the world arrives he will at last be forgiven (for what depends on which version of the Wandering Jew story you go by), and so wherever he spends eternity at least it will be far away from the evil Maldoror. +++  

The meaning at the heart of this stanza can be understood by asking yourself this: Why did Ducasse specifically indicate that the beast who fights Maldoror is a dragon with the head and body of a tiger rather than a tiger with the wings and tail of a dragon? Got it? Exactly! 




© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Filed under Maldoror


  1. Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content.

    Please let me know. Many thanks

  2. Jesse

    I didn’t get your last question. Could you please help me out? Why did Ducasse describe the dragon in this way?

    • Back then “the dragon” was a fairly common epithet for Satan, so 1800’s readers would have known the creature was supposed to be the devil adopting a monstrous living form to attack Maldoror. (Lucifer will try this tactic against Maldoror again later).

      Since Ducasse was writing for a much more self-consciously “Christian” Europe the tableau of readers finding themselves agreeing with the Wandering Jew that Maldoror’s destruction would be the best possible outcome of the battle would have been profoundly disturbing to them.

      This notion that readers – just like the Wandering Jew in the story – would be “rooting” for Satan in a battle would have seemed more mind-blowing to readers back then than it is to us. To us today it’s just kind of “meh.” For readers back then it would have bordered on blasphemy or heresy to toy with the concept that a victory for Satan under ANY circumstances would have been “the best hope of mankind” as the actual narrative calls it.

  3. Jesse

    Wow. Thank you for clearing that up. That is quite profound. I like this verse even more than I did. Go Maldoror!

  4. Pingback: SONGS OF MALDOROR: CANTO THREE GUIDE | Balladeer's Blog

  5. Lars

    Awesome review of these Maldoror things.

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