Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror. This time around our main character encounters a fellow supernatural being with a horrific origin story.


Maldoror 4 7This 7th Stanza of the 4th Canto from The Songs of Maldoror finds Maldoror standing on a rocky outcropping along a seashore. It is sunset on a summer day and his preternatural senses have enabled him to spot a strange figure off in the distance. With his usual contempt for humanity Maldoror notices that none of the mere mortals in the vicinity have detected the strange being swimming in the sea.  

The figure in question is a naked man with a mostly human body but short, stubby arms and legs plus webbed hands and feet. A huge dorsal fin protrudes from the amphibious man’s back and various schools of fish follow in his wake like he is their leader. The strange hybrid figure frolics with porpoises and outperforms them at leaping from the sea and diving spectacularly back into the water, resurfacing hundreds of meters away.    

Three normal human beings have made the mistake of lingering too near Maldoror and commenting on how they cannot make out what the monstrous man sees in the far-off waves. Our vile protagonist grows annoyed at their slack-jawed incomprehension and – particularly perturbed at this open-mouthed confusion – kills them by breaking their jaws. He wrenches them apart so far that the three twitch for a time and then die, and Maldoror admires his handiwork, joking about how outrageously abnormal the corpses look with their jaws ripped open so widely. 

Returning his attention to the amphibious man in the sea Maldoror cups his hands together and shouts greetings to the odd figure. He invites him to recount how he came to be but warns the amphibian that his interest should not be interpreted as a sign of friendship if he values his life. 

The amphibious man replies with a loud wailing noise like the singing sounds whales emit. The volume causes the rock our narrator stands on to shake while the sadness in the song moves even the black-hearted Maldoror and makes him still more curious about the origin of this odd creature. 

Maldoror 4 8Now speaking to our main character in a mostly human voice the amphibian states that he was born human to a wealthy and prominent family which he will not name. He and a twin brother were born after their parents had been married for a year. As they matured it became apparent that the now-amphibian sibling was more intelligent and talented than his twin.

This awakened the jealousy of that twin, who was far more nefarious than his “good” sibling. Through various intrigues the “evil” twin erects a wall of suspicion and hostility between their parents and the good sibling. Eventually the evil twin has turned the mother and father so thoroughly against the good twin that he is permitted to do with him whatever he pleases.  

The malevolent twin had his hated twin brother imprisoned in a cell for fifteen years. The captive’s only food was maggots and his only drink was brackish water. Every day the evil twin, the father and the mother would each separately come to the cell and torture the captive with tongs, pincers and other devices. The good twin’s cries of pain left them unmoved and the bloodshed they caused him made them smile.  

At the end of the fifteen years the good twin escaped (but he does not explain how). His pale, scarred skin and his mutilated limbs made him an outcast beggar among “normal” humans. Seeking to end his miserable existence the good twin threw himself into the sea, hoping to drown.

However, his utter divorce from humanity coupled with the cosmic scale of the injustices done to him seemed to stir the mercy of Maldoror’s archrival God, who, rather than allow him to drown, let the good twin become the amphibious figure he is now. His life among the inhabitants of the sea has been gloriously happy compared to his life among human beings. 

His tale completed, the amphibious man swims off, accompanied by his devoted aquatic creatures who obey his every command and supply him with ample food as well as good company. Maldoror watches the figure swim away and when even his own supra-normal eyes can no longer see the amphibious man he pulls out his hand-telescope and watches some more.

When the tragic figure has moved beyond even the limits of the telescope Maldoror smashes the device and bows courteously in the direction traveled by the amphibious man whose story has oddly moved our main character. +++  

In this stanza we again see the author Isidore Ducasse employing the theme of a misanthropy so intense that a retreat into non-humanity is the only escape.




© 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

16 responses to “MALDOROR 4:7 – THE AMPHIBIOUS MAN

  1. The guy who wrote these was on something.

  2. Wonderful to find a way of understanding these. I don’t do poetry so I never understood what was going on in the book.

  3. Very eerie. There is something about these stories.

  4. Wow. That is one twisted family.

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

  6. Angela

    These maldoror ones really scare me.

  7. Pearl

    Depressing. Way too depressing.

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