17 January 2007

Stone Babies

This is from William Buck's translation/interpretation of the Mahabharata:
"Dhritarashtra lost his sorrow in Gandhari's love, as a river is lost in the sea. She became pregnant by Dhritarashtra, but a full year passed by without her giving birth, and longer, until Dhritarashtra sent for Vyasa in dismay.

"Vyasa came to the king and said, 'Gandhari carries one hundred sons. She will give birth at the end of two years. Be patient and know that there is no danger to her, and I will return when it is time.'

"Vyasa then spoke with Bhishma, so that when Gandhari gave birth there were a hundred bronze jars filled with clear butter, ready and hidden in the palace garden. From her womb came a hard ball of flesh that Vyasa took from her and washed in cool water.
"'Here are your hundred sons,' he told Gandhari, 'but there is more to do before they are formed.'

"Vyasa divided that ball of flesh into pieces. As he worked in the garden, Bhishma put each piece into a jar and sealed it. At the end there was an extra piece. Bhishma brought another jar and Vyasa said, 'There are now one hundred sons and one daughter. See that the jars are not opened for two more years; then they will be born.'"

Warning: not for the faint of heart, or for people who don't like to read about fetal abnormalities used as plot devices. I had a hard time finding an accompanying picture that wouldn't completely turn people off.

The word of the day is Lithopedion. I found out about them at the Human Marvels website under "Pickled punks." No this isn't going to be a happy post, but you were warned.
Last night I described the lithopedions to my fellow gamers, after we played our game for the night. It's always fun to share the freaky and strange things you learn about on the internet. Emily said, "It's like the baby you found in your attic."
"There are no babies in my attic, what are you talking about?" I said.
In Shizuka's attic, she meant. Oh yeah. There are no babies in my attic. What are you talking about?

Stone Babies are character and plot device jewels. They're like trichobezoars. Creepy and freaky, they require pathological behavior from the character. In order to create a stone baby, you need a fetus to die in utero, and a mother to neglect or forget or otherwise ignore the fact that labor comes to no fruition or labor never comes. Then the fetus ossifies, calcifies, undected for years before the mother begins to feel discomfort or pain.

Gandhari's seed born children, (stone baby cousins?), the Kaurava, were the antagonists of the Pandavas in Mahabharata. The first born, Duryodhana, is an avatar (incarnation) of the demon Kali (not the goddess).

Anyway, I had no idea what a Lithopedion was until Tuesday night, but I've read Williams Buck's version of The Mahabharata about four times, and parts of the whole poem (translated into English) when I was in college. I love it when things click subconsciously like that.

Here are my two bad haiku about Stone Babies:

Conceived, forgotten, dead child.
Now we are both old.

You died in my womb
I forgot to give you birth
Now you're a stone child.

Another Mahabharata translation.
Much better Haiku
More Anatomical/Physical Items of Note

No comments: