Titanomachy and the ‘Three Spinsters and Six Cronies’
Saturday 10 August 2013, 10.14am HKT
REMINISCENCES: mental impressions retained and revived.
(Trust me, not a movie review, but instead a total recall.)
“Clash of the Titans” (1981, MGM)
From my own crappy mind
WHEN I first watched it, the thought that went through my mind was—
“Brilliant, Perseus gets thrown into some foreign land because of the gods. Perhaps soon I’d be thrown into one just the same.”
That year, I learnt the then new British Nationality Act 1981 came into force, causing all sorts of disruption and problems for me and everybody else…
My most vivid impression is Perseus battling the gorgon Medusa in her lair. Result as shown above.
The second is the reverberating metal oil drum “FRUNGG-FRUNGG” sound of the thunderclaps.
My sympathies since Day One of the movie has always been with Calibos.
Neil McCarthy as Calibos a.k.a. King Acrisius of Argos
How d’you fancy being transmogrified into a mauve-coloured monster one fine day for no reason? And a name change to boot?
The pitch from Greek mythology and the movie was that Calibos (born Acrisius, king of Argos and the ‘official’ maternal grandfather of Perseus) was mean and cruel.
Rubbish. Calibos/Acrisius was merely ‘selfish.’ He’s no more and no less offensive, mean or cruel or jumped up than most royals before, then and since.
As for selfishness, draw your own conclusions. He plied Andromeda (the heroine in the story) with expensive bling-bling and fed her people, etc, just to please her and win her hand in marriage. When was the last time you got food stamps from your ‘king’?
Did he deserve that kind of ‘form factor reset’ that morning? That’s just mean and cruel, if you ask me.
‘The Three Spinsters and Six Cronies’
Flora Robson, Anna Manahan and Freda Jackson played the three Stygian Witches, who shared the use of just one single prosthetic eye among them. Not funny at all.
Here’s a highly memorable trivia from Dad:—
Those three chicks are part embodiment of that Chinese idiom 三姑六婆 (san-gu liu-po, Cantonese saam gwu luk por), a phrase traditionally translated (until recent times) as ‘the three spinsters and six cronies’ — the idle gossiping or meddling of those busybody women who either can’t get laid or because the menfolk just point blank refuse to lay them.
The Three Spinsters
The more polite description is ‘women who are not in the social marketplace for husbands.’ Choose the words you like best, as Marc Antony said to Cleopatra.
The Three Spinsters (三姑 san-gu, saam gwu) were originally the three kinds of religious renunciations made by ancient Chinese women if they wanted to become Buddhist nuns or the Taoist version of Vestal Virgins. In short, they’re hags who take an active role in their celibacy and the menfolk equally actively avoid them.
The Six Cronies (六婆 liu-po, luk por) traditionally are those six kinds of women who meddle in other people’s affairs, either for professional reasons or because of personal nosey-parkery.
Who are the six?
- ‘Teeth crony’ (牙婆 yá-pó): women who’ve lost their teeth
- ‘Intermediary crony’ (媒婆 méi-pó): women who are into ‘human trafficking,’ which in Chinese culture would be social introducers or matchmaking middlemen
- ‘Master crony’ (師婆 si por): psychics or mediums
- ‘Pious crony’ (虔婆 qián-pó): brothel keepers or madams
- ‘Medicine crony’ (藥婆 yào-pó): women who specialise in selling ‘women’ medications (but who aren’t necessarily snake-oil saleswomen)
- ‘Stable crony’ (穩婆 wěn-pó): midwives
C’mon, midwives? Women who’ve lost their teeth? It’s just cruel and mean to lump them with the other four. Honestly.
In the Chinese mindset, gossiping is an ‘illegitimate (pre)occupation’ — a blemish on feminine virtue, if you like — that defines whether a woman can become a member of your family.
Interestingly, a lot of Chinese youngsters don’t know what san-gu liu-po means even in Chinese. Here’s a clue—
An idiom usage guide from
the New Taipei City Principal Selection System
If the above is from a quango that deals with selecting school principals — and if principals need such a usage guide — then imagine how little the general population is likely to know about this idiom (at least for Taipei if not elsewhere). You just have to wonder.
Lip-smackin’ Kraken to get the party crackin’
The Kraken doesn’t actually figure in Greek mythology.
The Kraken is actually Nordic — Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian or Swedish. His name (usually considered a ‘he’) is from the Scandinavian word Krake, meaning ‘something twisted.’
The Kraken could pull the largest of warships to the seabed. If it ignored your vessel and dived back underwater, the whirlpool created would sink any ship anyway. It’s highly likely that legends of the Kraken were based on sightings of giant squids.
Not as big as you were expecting
In reality, the Kraken is just an IKEA seafood product with no assembly required.
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2013. (B13256)