CREATIVE PROJECT BY DEXTER LIN (’23)
A True and Historical Relation of a Man that was Half an Animal, and an Animal that was Half a Man, who was Chased Away by the Holy Men of this City of Manilai: As Told by Andrés Gómezii
An Interpretation of The Writings of Gerald of Wales
Real and Imagined Animals in Medieval Literature (YHU2330)
In the closing days of the last year, being the year 1623 of our Lord, a truly strange event occurred in this city. Reports of a strange and fearsome creature appearing in the forest began circulating in the markets. It was unlike anything we had ever seen before. Half-man, half-beast, it was a terrifying sight that filled us all with unease. Some described it as having the horns of a goat, with the strength and claws of a lion, but having a face of an Indian and walking upright like a man.iii The creature was, of course, a sign of impending doom and misfortune. That it appeared is no wonder, for we are surrounded by heathens, from the Mohammedans to the Protestant heretics.iv Its presence was surely a test from God, a test of our faith and loyalty to Him.
The creature, not content with putrefying the forests near our city, began to wander closer by. We began to see this creature on the outskirts of town, where the Chinese lived and farmed.v It was then that we began to worry with seriousness. Several people from the town appeared before me, requesting my help and advice. I told them that it was sin that brought this great evil upon our doorstep. It is no wonder that they appeared within the ranks of the Chinese first. After all, it was they who brought their idols onto our shores. Worryingly, several of the townspeople told me it appeared as if the creature began fraternizing with some of the townsfolk. As it became more and more entrenched in our society, I prepared to see for myself this debased creature.
However, the creature would elude me. Time and time again, when I would try to weed out this beast-man, it would go into hiding, no doubt returning to the Chinese who were unfriendly to priests or to the depths of the forest. Yet its influence continued to grow. I feared it was only a matter of time before it struck, having made some of the townspeople warm up to him. Things became unbearable when a young Christian boy lay dead a month after the creature’s arrival, his blood drained in an obvious ritual.vi With this in mind, I wrote to the Inquisition Commissar don Francisco de Estrada y Escovedo. It was my hope that the creature might be brought to trial in Mexico, where the Inquisition’s headquarters in his Majesty’s colonies were.vii By the Grace of God, he agreed with me and promised to lead a city-wide hunt for it the following year.
On one quiet night with no moonlight, forty armed friars and many soldiers accompanied don Francisco and I to find the creature.viii After several hours of ransacking homes and rounding up conspirators, I heard some shouting and a shot of musket from several houses down the street from where I was. Soon, a soldier by the name of Pedro ran to us. His breastplate of steel was scratched deeply by three claws. The creature, said Pedro, was trying to suck the blood out of him. But by God’s grace, he escaped death by firing a shot from his musket. The creature, scared by this foreign noise, ran off into the darkness. Nevertheless, the shot hit one of the creature’s horns. Shards of bone lay in the house in which Pedro had met the creature. Don Francisco and I decided that this was enough proof that it existed and was a clear threat to the sanctity of our city.
We returned to the town square where we had rounded up about thirty who conspired with the creature, helping him to enter our city. The person whose house we found the creature in, one mestizo called de Castro, was promptly taken away to the dungeons, where he remains today, awaiting his transportation to Mexico where he will face trial.ix We threatened the rest with banishment. Most immediately repented when we showed them the shards of horn that we had gathered from Pedro’s shot. They cited the magic that was cast upon them, which made the creature present itself as a normal man. We let those go, with a warning and a probation period in which they were to report to me weekly at the church.x
However, there was a strange man with a wild appearance who stood defiantly in our presence. Hateful words spewed out of his bearded mouth, and he said that we may have destroyed the creature, but not what it stood for, for that can never be replied. Before I could question him, however, don Francisco ordered a soldier to take him away in chains. When I had asked don Francisco the next day his thoughts on the man, he said that the ramblings of a wild man should not be heard by the good population of the city.xi
Thus ends this strange relation of a half-creature, and half-man. But let us not forget the lesson that this creature has taught us. It is a reminder of the dangers of sin and the influence of the heathens among us. May God have mercy on de Castro, who conspired with the beast, and for the wild man who dared to speak against the holy men of the Inquisition. May this city of Manila be spared from further trials and tribulations, and that it continues to thrive under the protection of God.xii
The short story is inspired by several themes: Gerard of Wales’ short tale of the hybrid men, the anxiety faced by early modern Spanish religious authorities in Manila, the evolution of the European relationship with nature, and the writing style of Succeso Raro de Tres Volcanes. The outline of the story is inspired by Gerard of Wales’ short tale of the hybrid men in Book II of The History and Topography of Ireland. I attempt to complicate the murderous paranoia of the Irish towards the ox-man in Gerard of Wales’ story by exploring a similar anxiety demonstrated by the early modern Spanish religious authorities in Manila. This short story also explores the evolution of the European relationship with nature from the medieval to the early modern period. Finally, the story takes on the writing style of Succeso Raro de Tres Volcanes, an early modern relation of a strange event where three volcanoes erupted in one day in the mid-17th century Philippines. Several other inspirations––some minor––are cited in the text, where they are most applicable.
Spanish Manila is a suitable setting for the story due to its history of religious homogeneity, suspicion towards new converts, and encounters with non-Catholic societies. In 1492, Catholic Spain ended Muslim Granada’s rule after centuries of intermittent wars known as the Reconquista, freeing the peninsula of Muslim polities for the first time in over 700 years.xiii When they encountered Islam once more in their colonial ventures in places like Ternate (to the south of Manila), these Muslim societies were considered naturally hostile, despite having evolved independently of any Catholic disputes.xiv This meant that there was an “other” that could be mapped to the first man-animal hybrid––who was killed by the Irish––described by Gerard of Wales.
In describing my hybrid, I also adopt the medieval/early modern pattern of painting the other as less than human. Gerard of Wales writes of another ox-man: “It spent nearly a year with the other calves following its mother and feeding on her milk, and then, because it had more of the man than the beast, was transferred to the society of men.”xv Here, Gerald of Wales portrays a hierarchy placing humanity at the top––if one were to be deemed enough of a man, he was to be welcomed into human society. Similarly, the hybrid man in my fictional story only truly faced trouble when he crossed that line into human society. More alarming is the killing of a Christian boy a month after its arrival. This is inspired by a common trope in medieval Christian propaganda against Jewish people living in Christian polities. In medieval Europe, two main anti-Jewish accusations were ritual murder and desecration of the host. These revolved around young boys, which often manifested in the ritual murder libel stating that the Jews of a certain area had killed a young Christian boy in their community.xvi These accusations would persist beyond the medieval era, finding their way into 18th-century European discourse.
It is for this reason that I deliberately did not ascertain whether the animal hybrid actually existed in my fictional piece, unlike Gerard of Wales in his story. After all, the shards of bone could very well have been from broken leftovers, and Spanish arms were more than potent enough to damage armour. Many of the ‘stories’ involving ritualistic killings mentioned earlier were fabricated, and I wanted to convey the paranoia surrounding a larger-than-life outsider in my story. It is also for this reason that the main ‘conspirator’ was a mestizo––those who were of mixed heritage were seen as suspicious. In fact, de Castro was a real person of mixed descent who was eventually condemned by the Inquisition.xvii I wished to maintain the suspense through having an unreliable narrator in André Gómez (whose name I also borrowed from a Inquisitorial notary who handled de Castro’s trial in 1625).xviii
While the elusive main character of my story has similarities with Gerald of Wales’ ox-man who was killed, the narrator in my story treats the hybrid very differently from Gerald of Wales. When speaking of the ox-man’s death at the hands of the Irish, Gerald writes that “[they] secretly killed him in the end in envy and malice – a fate which he did not deserve.”xix The narrator of my story does not extend such grace and mercy to our hybrid. Instead, it is seen as a corrupting force, brought upon as a plague due to their being surrounded by heretics and idolaters. Apart from serving as an analogy to crypto-Muslims and crypto-Jews, the story also shows an evolving attitude to nature. While Gerald of Wales describes his ox-man using the pronoun ‘him’, the narrator of my story consistently uses ‘it’. The colonial project, amongst many other things, was integral to the beginning of the idea of nature as factories to be exploited.xx Within this colonial psyche, animals were to be exploited and made subservient to humans, whose destiny was to master and tame the natural world. There is less space for grace towards a being that defied that clear distinction between human and animal––the master and the subjugated.
The inclusion of the wild man as a last vestige of a forgone age is inspired by Chrétien de Troyes’ romance Yvain and represents the repression and effacement of popular culture. Yvain learns to respect the wild man, who proclaims he is “nothing but [him]self,” and through his choosing of living in the wild, defies social conventions of the time.xxi However, instead of earning a begrudging respect, the wild man in this tale is taken away when he voices his opinion freely and defiantly. Taken away by the Inquisition, the wild man is a symbol of what historian Carlo Ginzburg calls repression and effacement of popular culture.”xxii
These themes are all brought together in the writings of a holy man. The text that the story borrows from stylistically, Succeso Raro de Tres Volcanes, levels blame upon an insufficiently pious population for the disasters that befell the Philippines in the mid-17th century. Similarly, it is under the guise of religious piety and conformation for salvation that, ironically, meant a lesser tolerance for grace towards the now-subservient subjects of nature.
In conclusion, this story hopes to deepen the treatment of the hybrid character as found in Book II of Gerard of Wales’ The History and Topography of Ireland. The different treatment of the two different hybrids speaks to an evolution in human attitudes towards nature, from one more open to cohabitation to one more exclusive and dominant. Through keeping the identity of the hybrid secret, I aim to represent the confusion and paranoia surrounding outsiders in the early modern Spanish empire. However, this confusion––as the Irish natives in Gerard of Wales’ account––would result in violence. The main difference between mine and Gerard of Wales’ treatment of hybrids, however, is that my hybrid may not have existed in the story at all. That, to my narrator, is not important––what is important is that the sins of the townsfolk are cleansed so the abomination against nature and mankind, which signifies sin, cannot penetrate society again.
i Gerard of Wales, The History and Topography of Ireland. Translated and edited by J. O’Meara (Penguin Publishing Group, 1983), 73.
ii Name taken from an Inquisition trial. See Ryan Dominic Crewe, A Moluccan Crypto-Muslim before the Transpacific Inquisition (1623–1645) in The Spanish Pacific, 1521-1815: A Reader of Primary Sources, ed. Lee Christina Hyo Jung, Ricardo Padrón (Amsterdam University Press, 2020), pp. 171-187.
iii Inspiration drawn from the Chimera description of Thomas de Cantimpré, Liber de natura rerum, Quadrupeds 4.23. Accessed on https://bestiary.ca/beasts/beastsource107209.htm
iv See Joseph Fayol, “Affairs in Filipinas, 1644-1647,” 1647, BR 35: 272.
v Charles J. McCarthy, “Slaughter of Sangleys in 1639,” Philippine Studies 18, no. 3 (1970): 659.
vi E. Carlebach, Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism in Germany, 1500-1750 (Yale University Press, 2008), 141.
vii Charles H. Cunningham, “The Inquisition in the Philippines: The Salcedo Affair,” The Catholic Historical Review 3, no. 4 (1918): 419.
viii Cunningham, 426.
ix Ryan Dominic Crewe, A Moluccan Crypto-Muslim before the Transpacific Inquisition (1623–1645), 185-186.
x Ryan Dominic Crewe, A Moluccan Crypto-Muslim before the Transpacific Inquisition (1623–1645), 180.
xi Sara T Nalle, “Insanity and the Insanity Defense in the Spanish Inquisition,” 1992.
xii Raymundo Magisa, Succeso Raro de Tres Volcanes, Dos de Fuego, y Uno de Agua, Que Rebentaron a 4 de Enero Deste Año de 641 a vn Mismo Tiempo En Diferentes Partes de Estas Islas Filipinas Con Grande Estruendo Por Los Ayres Como de Artillería, y Mosqueteria (Manila: Por Raymundo Magisa, 1641).
xiii Ethan Hawkley, Reviving the Reconquista in Southeast Asia: Moros and the Making of the Philippines, 1565–1662 in Journal of World History 25, no. 2-3 (2014): 286.
xiv Ethan Hawkley, Reviving the Reconquista in Southeast Asia, 287.
xv Gerard of Wales, The History and Topography of Ireland, 74.
xvi Carlebach, Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism in Germany, 1500-1750, 141.
xvii De Castro was not an innocent victim, and he was reported to the inquisition by his wife in part due to sexual transgressions including rape. See Ryan Dominic Crewe, A Moluccan Crypto-Muslim before the Transpacific Inquisition (1623–1645) for a full account.
xviii Ryan Dominic Crewe, A Moluccan Crypto-Muslim before the Transpacific Inquisition (1623–1645), 179.
xix Gerard of Wales, The History and Topography of Ireland, 74.
xx Amitav Ghosh, “The Nutmeg’s Curse,” in The Nutmeg’s Curse (University of Chicago Press, 2021), 73.
xxi Line 331 in Chrétien de Troyes, Burton Raffel, and Joseph J. Duggan, “Yvain: The Knight of the Lion,” in Yvain, The Knight of the Lion (Yale University Press, 1987), 12.
xxii Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller (New York, N.Y: Penguin Books, 1982), 126, https://search.library.wisc.edu/catalog/999673861902121.
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