Est 2012


Ad Monstrum

By inflatablemonster, Jul 12 2017 09:39PM


Needing to be filled with air or gas before you use it (Oxford English Dictionary, 2017)


The word "monster" derives from Latin monstrum. (Ad Monstrum).

The word usually connotes something wrong or evil; a monster is generally morally objectionable, physically or psychologically hideous, or a freak of nature. It can also be applied figuratively to a person with similar characteristics like a greedy person or a person who does horrible things.

The root of monstrum is monere—which does not only mean to warn but also to instruct, and forms the basis of the modern English demonstrate. Thus, the monster is also a sign or instruction. This benign interpretation was proposed by Saint Augustine, who did not see the monster as inherently evil, but as part of the natural design of the world, a kind-of deliberate category error.

A monstrum is a sign or portent that disrupts the natural order as evidence of divine displeasure. The word monstrum is usually assumed to derive, as Cicero says, from the verb monstro, "show" (compare English "demonstrate"), but according to Varro it comes from moneo, "warn." Because a sign must be startling or deviant to have an impact, monstrum came to mean "unnatural event" or "a malfunctioning of nature." Suetonius said that "a monstrum is contrary to nature <or exceeds the nature> we are familiar with, like a snake with feet or a bird with four wings." The Greek equivalent was teras. The English word "monster" derived from the negative sense of the word. Compare miraculum, ostentum, portentum, and prodigium.

In one of the most famous uses of the word in Latin literature, the Augustan poet Horace calls Cleopatra a fatale monstrum, something deadly and outside normal human bounds. Cicero calls Catiline monstrum atque prodigium and uses the phrase several times to insult various objects of his attacks as depraved and beyond the human pale. For Seneca, the monstrum is, like tragedy, "a visual and horrific revelation of the truth." (Wikipedia, 2017)

Monstra were an important category of prodigies. The word monstrum is etymologically related to monstrare, “to show”, and monere, “to admonish” (Festus Gloss. Lat. 122 L.; Serv. ad Aen. 2.681) (Wiley Library)

I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be, for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.

Taken from Mary Shelley’s Author’s Introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, this quote describes the vision that inspired the novel and the prototypes for Victor and the monster. Shelley’s image evokes some of the key themes, such as the utter unnaturalness of the monster (“an uneasy, half-vital motion”), the relationship between creator and created (“kneeling beside the thing he had put together”), and the dangerous consequences of misused knowledge (“supremely frightful would be the effect of . . . mock[ing] . . . the Creator”).

Human beings are the only fire animals, with out gas and air there would be no fire.

Monsters are guardians to boundaries of the unkown. They represent, us.

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