Monday, February 20, 2012

Doctor Who, the giants, and the demons

JAMES MCGRATH has a post over at Exploring Our Matrix on the early Doctor Who multi-episode The Faceless Ones in which James compares the episode to the ancient Jewish story of the giants who were killed in the Flood, but whose spirits survived to become the demons that, er, bedevil human beings thereafter.

Here are some of the specific Second-Temple-era Jewish texts that narrate the story. In the book of 1 Enoch, the Book of the Watchers tells the story in chapters 15 and 16. And the Book of Jubilees chapter 10 gives a slightly different version in which, first, only one tenth of the giant spirits are let loose upon humanity and, second, a special book of incantations is given to Noah to protect his descendants from the demons.

Incidentally, the Talmudic-era compendium of incantations known as Sefer Ha-Razim or The Book of the Mysteries purports to be this lost book of Noah (or something similar). I am translating it for volume two of The More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project. (Details about volume one, which is in press, are here. And more on Sefer Ha-Razim here and links.)

I am not suggesting—nor, I believe, is James—that these ancient traditions influenced the Doctor Who episode. Rather, I would say this is an example of what we might call the convergence of independent nightmare traditions.

A final thought: another somewhat tangential parallel to the Doctor's faceless ones and to the giant-demons is the story of Sauron in the Tolkien mythos. After Sauron's body was destroyed in the (n.b.!) Flood of Numenor, he was able to rebuild a new hideous body, but when Isildur cut the One Ring from the finger of that body after the Battle of Dagorlad, Sauron was reduced to a powerful but malevolent spirit not unlike the giant-demons, although vastly more dangerous than they. Finally, after the One Ring was destroyed, he was further reduced to a still malevolent, but now entirely impotent disembodied spirit.

UPDATE (3 March): More here.