Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror. It’s back to more explicitly horrific material this time around.


Maldoror 4 3 tormented manAfter the previous topsy-turvy stanza saw Maldoror lost in The Valley of Unreality this adventure is much more straightforward.

The supernatural being Maldoror is wandering through a forest when he is attracted by the sound of agonized screams. Locating their source he is intrigued to see a man hanged from a gibbet by his very long hair and with his hands tied behind his back. His legs swing freely, increasing the agony of his pain-wracked form.

The man’s emaciated form showed he had not been fed in days and his face was so stretched from long suspension by his hair that it had lost nearly all human shape.

The tormented man screams that, due to all manner of tortuous pain, he has not been able to sleep during the three days he has been hanging there. He also begs Maldoror to slit his throat and put him out of his misery. 

From hiding Maldoror observes two crazed, drunken women approach the spot where the man hangs. One of the women is very old with her uncombed hair fluttering in the breeze. The other woman is much younger but so thin her knees knock together as she walks. The ladies carry whips, paint-brushes and buckets of hot tar with them.  

The younger woman addresses the tormented man as her husband and laughingly expresses amazement that he is still alive. The older woman identifies herself as the victim’s mother and taunts him about how he has grown so thin that the breeze causes his body to swing back and forth like a lantern. 

The two ladies happily paint the man’s body with the hot tar and then even more happily begin to lash him with their whips. As the tormented man screams over and over again Maldoror contentedly watches and happily reminisces about his days as an Overseer on a Virginia plantation in the pre-Civil War south. 

Given our main character’s vile past it is certainly no surprise that he once held such a position during his journeys. In addition to fondly recalling the fun he had lashing the slaves Maldoror blissfully remembers how much fun it was hunting down escaping slaves, crushing their hopes of freedom and then physically abusing them. (It’s possible he raped them, too – both the men and the women – but the author Isidore Ducasse usually spells it out when his malevolent protagonist commits such acts.) 

Since many people see parallels between The Tormented Man and The Hanged Man of the Tarot I'm presenting this look at my favorite Tarot representation of The Hanged Man.

Since many people see parallels between The Tormented Man and The Hanged Man of the Tarot I’m presenting this look at my favorite Tarot representation of The Hanged Man.

Eventually the sadistic women are exhausted from all their fun and depart, wondering if their suffering victim will still be alive the next day when they visit. Maldoror emerges from hiding and slices off the dangling victim’s hair to free him. On a first reading there is an air of tension since our insane main character’s intentions are unclear.   

The tormented man tells Maldoror how he came to his present circumstances. Days ago his mother did an erotic dance in front of him and then disrobed, inviting him into bed with her. The man’s equally demented wife encouraged him to have sex with his mother, stating she had convinced the old woman to sign over all her wealth if she (the wife) could persuade her husband to use his body to satisfy his mother’s incestuous longings. 

The man refused, and so the two ladies plotted behind his back to render him helpless, tie his arms behind his back and then hang him by his hair from the gibbet where Maldoror had found him. At first it seems like Maldoror may inflict even more suffering on the unfortunate man, but, luckily, the dark tale told by the tormented man has charmed our vile protagonist the same way the Philosophical Gravedigger and later the Hermaphrodite charmed him, so he decides to spare him.  

Maldoror carries the man until he comes to a farmhouse. He leaves the man in the care of the farmer and his family, leaving sufficient money with them to make sure they do. Unfortunately the man dies mere moments later. Maldoror takes note of the man’s passing and then wanders off. He passes by the place where he first spotted the tormented man and notes that a wolf who had been lingering in the area, obviously hoping to feed on the weakened man, stoically acknowledges that its intended meal has vanished and goes off in search of more prey.  

Maldoror lies in wait for the dead man’s wife and mother to return the next day, when he will inflict his own brand of sadistic violence upon them. +++

Be here next time for some of the most surreal violence yet in The Songs of Maldoror.




© 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

10 responses to “MALDOROR 4:3 – THE TORMENTED MAN

  1. That is coldhearted torture.

  2. What a weird book for the 1860’s.

  3. Incest and extreme violence. Just another day in Maldoror’s life.

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

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