The Man Who Thought He Was A Bantha

It is hard not be generous in one’s thinking towards cattle. Even if one does not want to be an ignorant herd animal, it is hard not to appreciate an animal that is so simple in that it gives mankind so much and demands so little–enough room to graze, good pastureland, and a salt block every now and again to lick. When my father was alive, he got some good natured (and ill-natured) ribbing about a quote he made in his senior yearbook, when he said that he would rather be with a cow than with a girl. What he meant was nothing inappropriate, but rather that cows (unlike girls) had no emotional demands. He was a dairy farmer and quite adept at dealing with farm animals and tractors, only not very adept at dealing with the problems of the human heart, hiding his feelings behind very think walls and presenting himself to the world as sociable company but not someone who was particularly open, a witty conversation partner with a taste for zinging and often intensely critical comments but not a particularly warm and empathetic person, even if he was a dutiful and responsible person. He felt very strongly, but showed his feelings indirectly, a skill he passed on to at least one of his children.

I say this because I am someone who knows the nature of cattle relatively well myself. I find cattle to be immensely sweet animals, most of the time. They aren’t very intelligent creatures, lack the nobility of the horse or elephant, but they are sweet animals that need to be cared for, only less cuddly than lamb and sheep because they have horns and because they are too large to be held like little lambs. Cattle and lambs, not surprisingly, are the two animals that are most symbolic of God’s view of mankind, something that ought to give us pause when we think of the greater restitution in the Bible required for those who stole either a cow or a lamb (Exodus 22:1). Cattle (like lambs) are prototypical herd animals.

I have previously discussed my love of the bantha, a large cow that comes from the Star Wars universe [1], but while it is not objectionable to think of eating the meat of a bantha (I assume it has cloven hooves and chews its cud, after all), or drinking the milk of a bantha, or riding a bantha, it would be a monstrosity to think that one was a bantha, or any other type of ox. And yet there are people who think that they are ox. It is a disease known as boanthropy, where someone has the diet and behavior of an ox, eating grass and losing the higher sense of consciousness present in human beings [2].

The most famous case of a man who thought he was an ox is the story of Nebuchadnezzar in the Bible. Nebuchadnezzar was an immensely proud king of Babylon, until God took away his rational sense and for seven years gave him the nature of a cow to teach him humility. It worked [3]. As Daniel 4:33-34 reads: “That very hour the word was confirmed concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.”

In short, Nebuchadnezzar was humbled from his pride by seeing himself as a mere animal, and he recognized when his sanity returned to him that he was nothing (Daniel 4:35) and that God was supreme above all in the universe, including him. It was a lesson most of us would want to learn in a less drastic way, but Nebuchadnezzar had to learn it through a disease that while rare is not entirely unknown. Simply because God sometimes chooses to teach lessons through actual diseases does not make them any less elements of temporal (earthly) divine judgment simply because they take the form of physical or mental illnesses.

Nor is boanthropy the most famous disease where someone thinks of themselves as an animal. Its more famous cousin lycanthropy, where human beings think of themselves as wolves [4], seems to be the source of myths and legends about werewolves and other were animals, which are common in many cultures (were-bears are common among Native American tribal legends, were-foxes are common in Japanese myths and manga, and the Turks and Romans believe themselves deeply connected with or descended from wolves at the beginning of their history as a people).

I have always been intrigued by the way werewolves are portrayed. Werewolves are savage and hostile beasts, and truly nations like the Romans and Turks have often been portrayed (and portrayed themselves) as behaving in such a position, especially when it comes to dealing brutally with their enemies. In movies werewolves are portrayed as savages (making it intriguing from a sociological perspective that they are portrayed by Native Americans in such movies as the Twilight series). As werewolves they are portrayed as slaves to the base nature of animals, wild with lust or more often brutality. For this reason particularly fierce and brutal nations (like Rome and the Turks) have seen themselves as related to the wolf in their savage ferocity.

This makes for an interesting contrast with the vampire, who is often seen as particularly refined in civilized brutality, an aristocrat who is tyrannical, but not a savage, often living in a castle. Here instead of a loss of human nature there is the loss of human kindness so that the power of the aristocrat/vampire is used for tyrannical and oppressive consequences. The famous “vampire” Vlad the Impaler was a Wallachian ruler (over what is now Romania) who had been born in Transylvania [5]. Thought to be the victim of Ottoman buggery, and certainly Turkish brutality, Vlad the Impaler killed some tens of thousands of people, many of them through impaling, which is thought to have disgusted the Ottomans so much on more than one occasion that they (no strangers to brutality) retreated back to Constantinople in revulsion. However, he spent enough time in other pursuits to end up as one of the heirs of the British monarchs through George V’s wife, Mary of Teck, mother of King Edward VIII and King George VI [6].

Again, even though vampires are considered to be taken from tyrannical and brutal aristocrats who see themselves as gods over humanity and werewolves are seen as savage and bestial humans who have lost human traits, movies tend to portray human beings as mere cattle for the slaughter of either, unable to defend themselves from either the bestial and anarchial lower aspects of human nature or the tyrannical and oppressive “higher” elements of human nature. Yet this sort of trilemma between vampires, humans, and werewolves with mankind as mere prey is truly incorrect, for anarchy inevitably fails and tyrants do not endure, but humanity still manages to survive anyway.

And so we have come full circle. Despite the fact that Nebuchadnezzar thought he was above the law and above others, God gave him the nature of a cow for seven years, and then when Nebuchadnezzar responded to his punishment with praise of the Most High God above, he was restored to his dignity and his authority. Despite the fact that mankind is often symbolized, either directly or indirectly as being cattle, whether when it comes to vampire novels or werewolf tales or the Bible, human beings are called to develop a higher nature and it is a great monstrosity (through demonic possession, likely) when someone considers themselves to be an ox or bantha. Nevertheless, an examination of this phenomenon covers a lot of territory, and even today there are those who prefer the undemanding cow to the often heavy and irrational demands of human beings. Perhaps it would be better if we could all be less demanding, like the bantha. We can all learn lessons from the humble ox, even if we don’t want to be one.






[6] credit-is-due-colin-firth-and-king-george-vi

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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6 Responses to The Man Who Thought He Was A Bantha

  1. Nathan, I cannot thank you enough for posting your writings for those in dire need to wake up like sleepy cattle. Interesting that your father would have rather dealt with a cow than a girl, I see your point: High-maintenance and I will briefly explain in a moment. People, especially living in this greatest nation on earth that did away from what enable them to live comfortably, shifted to this deadly Post-modern disease known as “entitlement,” especially in certain places in this country that merely exist for consumerism or materialism, their only purpose in life that are dependent on whoever they could latch onto in order to pay for their luxuries without taking responsibility. In a wicked generation, it makes no difference, but basically I would say the majority is affected, regardless of age bracket. A trait that could go either way, especially for those ascribing to this way of life of having herd mentality, an animal-like instinct of following whatever the crowd does with the latest trend on the marketplace that they could imitate, even personality suitable for suffering from identity crisis that could be added to the list of another prevalent popular culture diseases. To demonstrate the animal instinct of the cow, just imagine when you watch a herd of them go into the slaughter house unaware where they are going. In fact, it does even take a rocket scientist to notice that many people are like lost cows nowadays without a purpose in life, lacking direction because they do not know where they are going. That is why cows need to be tended. As urban/suburban, I could be wrong if the cows have any awareness of being slaughtered or natural instincts, but this scenario is well-demonstrated in today’s popular cultural disease of “entitlement,” but the difference is that cows do not complain, covet, or take advantage of another to get ahead or to get whatever they want to keep up with the Joneses’ lifestyle of pretense for being somebody that they are not. What I got out of your point is that the cow that neither demands nor complains is like the person that rather lives in humility but not in the dumb sense since he is evidently aware of this reality since he lives outside the realm of the herd mentality. In sum, what people need today is a wake up call, not the horn toward the slaughterhouse of the short-lived New Years Resolution that only ends in hopelessness and failure. With much appreciation, this is a powerful message for the New Year! Many thanks! Blessings for the 2012!

    • Thanks, I’m glad you understood the deeper point I was getting across in my typically indirect ways. We often look down on cattle, who seem not to realize they are being slaughtered until it happens, at least from my experience, but fail to see how we are often like herd animals ourselves. We have a delicate balance to maintain, in which we recognize that our lives and possessions and talents are gifts from God, and that our lives are “borrowed heaven,” and that we ought therefore not to complain about what we have or don’t have. We have higher consciousness as a gift, but that does not make us gods above others, and that gift (like all of God’s gifts) comes with responsibilities attached. I was trying to convey a lot through my comments about cattle and mental illness, and thought it best to do so indirectly.

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