The cannibal ogre – PRINCESS FIONA (Andy Chen, 2022)

Last week we reviewed a fan-fiction prequel of the cannibalism classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Fan-fiction allows anyone with a keyboard or, in these cases, a camera, to tell alternative versions, or fill in story elements that seem to be missing from their favourite narratives. Future targets of horror remakes include The Grinch and Winnie the Pooh!

This week’s short fan-fiction fills in the back-story of Princess Fiona from the Shrek movies.

Fans of the SHREK films will remember from the first movie in 2001 that Princess Fiona who had been imprisoned in a tower and with whom Shrek the ogre had fallen in love, turned out also to be an ogre. Fiona was voiced by Cameron Diaz who became one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actresses due to her role in the Shrek franchise, earning three million dollars for the first film and around ten million for each sequel.

Ogres are usually presented as cannibals, often eaters of babies and children as their first choice (see Marina Warner’s study of the ogre as the symbol of “monstrous paternity”). Shrek himself doesn’t really do that, although he does mention in the 2007 third movie, Shrek The Third, that he does not want to be a parent because his own father “tried to eat me”. Nonetheless, Fiona and Shrek end up with little ogre triplets at the end of the third movie.

“Ogre” comes from the Italian word OGRO meaning monster, which in turn came from the Latin word ORCUS (fans of Tolkien will recognise this etymological hint). Ogres have been eating children, sometimes their own, since the tale of Kronos, the king of the Greek gods, who was told that he would be overthrown by his own child, and proceeded to eat each baby as it was born (much like Shrek’s dad). Rubens painted a ferocious image of Kronos (identified as Saturn) eating his child in 1636.

Goya created a dark, even more desperate late painting, around 1821-3.

Kronos’ wife, Rhea, saved the last child, Zeus, by wrapping up a stone which Kronos ate, leaving Zeus to kill his father and become supreme deity. Such are the role models of Western civilisation.

Charles Perrault wrote a series of fairy stories that were published in French in 1697, and included such perennials as Puss in Boots, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty (later adaptations have taken a lot of the violence and gore out of the narratives). In one called Hop O’My Thumb (Le Petit Poucet), the hero is lost in the forest with his brothers and sisters and takes shelter in the house of an ogre, who is fond of eating small children. In the English version of the story, the ogre growl:

Fee, fau, fum, I smell the blood of an English man,
Be he alive or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.

Hop notices that the baby ogres wear crowns on their heads, which he puts on his own brothers, so when the ogre wakes up and fancies a snack, he slits the throats of his own daughters instead of the boys.

But what happens when ogres grow up (assuming no unintentional paternal consumption)? We rarely see female ogres, and the Shrek story seems to imply that perhaps female ogres are as violent and dangerous as their male counterparts, or even more so. Fiona has been put under a spell, which we are led to believe turns her into an ogre at night, necessitating her imprisonment in a tower. This spell is broken when Shrek kisses her, returning her to her proper self, but it turns out that her real self is ogre, and the only reason she appeared human during the day was the magic spell. She would become her true self, presumably a violent ogre, at night.

So we come to our short fan-fiction film made in Los Angeles by director and writer Andy Chen. A brave knight in armour explores a castle, eventually finding the beautiful princess, Fiona.

But when he offers to rescue her, night is falling, and she tells him it’s too late, and she turns into an ogre (wearing a crown still, like the ogrelings in Perrault’s story). Well, you can guess the rest. Fiona has been kept locked away at night for good reason. Everyone has a dark side, a hidden cannibal, even a beautiful princess. Perhaps especially a beautiful princess.

The film is quite splendidly put together, with plenty of dark, gothic imagery. The full film (it’s only four minutes, unfortunately) is on the locustgarden YouTube site, below.

“How did your sister taste?” HANNIBAL Season 3 Episode 3, “Secondo”

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Season 3, and particularly this episode, is presented as Gothic horror. There are dark churches, gloomy castles, even Hannibal’s shadowy kitchen, where he is removing a hand from the Sunday roast.

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This episode is all about identity. All our protagonists (if still alive) have gone through trauma, Will and Jack were clinically dead for a while, and such trauma usually leads to questioning – who am I, what am I doing, and what is this on my plate?

It’s the third episode of the final season (looking forward to being proved wrong here), and we still don’t know what happened to many of the victims of the last series. Hannibal of course is doing nicely in Florence under the name of Dr Fell, Curator at the Palazzo Capponi. Bedelia is living with him, a somewhat nervous room-mate, pretending to be Mrs Fell, but there is no sign of intimacy, and some definite portents of doom. Last episode, she witnessed the murder of Anthony Dimmond. Dimmond knew Hannibal was not Fell, and was duly killed with a bust of Aristotle (was it really Aristotle?) Hannibal, who believes Bedelia betrayed him, explained to her that she was not just observing the murder, she was participating. She knows, Dimmond knew, we know, that she is slated to be one of his next courses.

They speak, somewhat obsessively, about betrayal (not just Bedelia’s, but Will’s) and forgiveness. Hannibal forgave Will last season. Will forgave Hannibal last episode. Bedelia points out that betrayal and forgiveness are

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Hannibal is looking wistful. It is possible that he has not experienced love before, or at least not since the happy time before he ate his sister, Mischa. This is his search for identity – Hannibal as lover.

Will has two searches. He is of course searching for Hannibal, for love of for revenge is not clear to us, or to him. He is also searching for his own identity – is he a lawman or an acolyte of Hannibal? Where will he look?

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Will is in Aukštaitija, Lithuania. It’s the Lecter castle, which we last saw in the movie Hannibal Rising. Bryan Fuller, in his incomparable way, has brought to life a character who had a minor role in the book and no part in the movie – Hannibal’s aunt’s protégé, Chiyoh.

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Will walks past the grave of Mischa. He treads Hannibal’s sacred ground.

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He imagines a conversation with Hannibal, who tells him

“It’s not healing to see your childhood home – but it helps you measure whether you are broken, how and why, assuming you want to know…  Its door is at the centre of my mind, and here you are feeling for the latch.”

Hannibal’s identity is all tied up with the tiny girl who someone killed, and Hannibal ate.

We see Chiyoh shoot a bird and cut off the bird’s feet. The scene switches to Hannibal cutting off a human hand, presumably Dimmond’s. Then he is making cocktails for Professor Sogliato, the epitome of rudeness and intellectual pretension. The cocktail is Punch Romaine, a drink, he tells Sogliato, served to first class guests on the Titanic during their last dinner. Not a good omen. Sogliato has bad timing, and makes his one snide comment too many just as Hannibal is wielding the cocktail ice-pick.

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Sogliato, his frontal lobe partly destroyed, can only stutter and giggle. Bedelia, even though she is a trained doctor, pulls the ice pick out, and Sogliato immediately collapses on the table.

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Witty as ever. Bedelia asks if Hannibal is longer interested in “preserving the peace you found here?” Hannibal understands physics as well as medicine.

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Hannibal grows through conflict and engagement; it’s all a giant game of life and death to the evolving Übermensch. But it was far from impulsive. Bedelia sees what he is doing: the Titanic cocktail was a giveaway.

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He is drawing Will, who is of course in Lithuania, when Jack arrives in Italy. Jack is seeking not Hannibal, but Will. He has broken Will, perhaps turned him into Hannibal’s disciple, and while he would like the Italian police to find Hannibal, his main concern is Will.

Chiyoh is guarding a man, a wild, Robinson Crusoe type figure who, she says, is the one who ate Mischa. Fed her to Hannibal we suppose (that’s how it went in the movie). Hannibal is serving dinner to another couple from the Studiolo, who are lamenting the absence of Sogliato (who is probably at, or on, the table, unbeknownst to them).

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Hannibal wanted to kill the dude in the cage, but Chiyoh wouldn’t let him, so he left her to guard the man, for years and years. Will sets the man free, but he returns to his cage and tries to kill Chiyoh, and she then kills him. She accuses Will of doing it for the same reasons as Hannibal would – to see if she would kill. But he says he just wanted to set her free.

But here’s the thing. Our motivations for our actions come from our stories. As Will says:

“We construct fairy tales and we accept them. Our minds concoct all sorts of fantasies when we don’t want to believe something.”

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Chiyoh believes Hannibal’s story about the man in the cage. She believes that his cannibalism is simply a re-enactment of what he saw happen to his sister. Will has doubts.

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What makes Dr Lecter into “Hannibal the Cannibal”? Was it watching his sister slaughtered and eaten? Will argues this does not “quantify” him. Remember an earlier Hannibal who objected to being “quantified” by a census-taker? Remember also that thousands of people have watched appalling brutality being visited on their families and not reacted as Hannibal does.

We have not finished considering that question. Hannibal is washing Bedelia’s hair as she luxuriates in the free-standing bath tub. She asks him “What were you like as a young man?” His answer reminds us that Mads is playing the role as a demonic force.

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So, Bedelia asks the same question that Will and Chiyoh are covering. “Why can’t you go home, Hannibal? What happened to you there?”

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In Silence of the Lambs, this was followed up with

“You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You’ve given up good and evil for behaviourism… Look at me, Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil?”

Will took on that speech, back in Season 2, during their cannibal feast. But here, Bedelia is winning the debate. She has already told him that she knows he is drawing Will and Jack to him with his murders, and warned him that he will get caught. Diving under the water, she cheekily asks

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Bedelia is once again Hannibal`s therapist; her fee is staying alive. She tells him that

“What your sister made you feel was beyond your conscious ability to control or predict. I would suggest what Will Graham makes you feel is not dissimilar. A force of mind and circumstance.”

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“Same with forgiveness. And I would argue, the same with betrayal” comments Bedelia.

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Bedelia plays her trump card.

“If past behaviour is an indicator of future behaviour, there is only one way you will forgive Will Graham.”

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