Friday, April 27, 2012

The Tarasque

The Tarasque
[Image courtesy: Finlay Cowan]

Unless you come from Tarascon in provincial France, are a fan of Warcraft or Dungeons and Dragons, you're probably unlikely to have heard of it.

[image courtesy: The Paradise Post ]
This is a somewhat sad mythological tale, but one that intrigues me. The Tarasque was predictably perhaps, a beast that roamed Provincial France, laying waste to fields and villages. Described as a strange chimaera type creature, it was said to have six short legs (something like a bears) an ox like body covered by a turtle shell, a scaly tail, topped by a scorpion sting and a leonine head. Which you'll probably agree is fairly bizarre even for a mythological beastie. Everything the Tarasque touched, it burned.
The king of the area had sent several knights to kill the beast, to no avail. Finally, St Martha ventured forth to help the people. She came across the Tarasque in a forest, eating a man. She approached the beast, sang hymns to it, prayed at it and sprinkled it with holy water. The creature then became as docile as a lamb. Using her own girdle (as you do?!) , she lead the beast back to the village.
The villagers were horrified by the beast and brutally slew it - despite it no longer being a threat. St Martha reprimanded the villagers and told them they were wrong to kill the beast. Once they realised their error they were very sorry, and converted to Christianity for forgiveness, and re-named the village Tarascon in memory of the Tarasque.
[Image courtesy: Wikipedia]
In mythology there is a reoccuring theme of women calming the beasts of the world. St Martha and the Tarasque, the Unicorn who can only be tamed by a virgin, even King Kong is calmed by a woman. Other more bloodthirsty beasts can only be calmed or sated by sacrificing maidens to them. 
The symbolism of virginity and purity in "calming the beast" can be found in almost every culture. It is a theme often played upon in paranormal romance itself.
It is perhaps interesting that in our era of kick-ass heroines that the virgin calming the beast is a theme that dares be repeated. Yet it is, over and over again - but it has evolved with the times. The latest development I've noticed in my readings of paranormal/fantasy romance is of the fiesty virgin. These are women who are virgins by choice, and can still be 'kick-ass' when they need to be. One of my favourite authors, Kresley Cole, frequently has feisty virgin heroines and brutishly male heroes...and I highly recommend them all!

Enjoy your weekend

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