Clive Barker’s “Rawhead Rex”

Clive Barker’s short story “Rawhead Rex” was my definition of a story about wanton death. Nearly every character that is ever focused on in the story dies horribly at the hands of Rawhead. I honestly didn’t know who our protagonist was going to be, or even if there would be one, until closer to the end of the story. And that’s okay because it worked to show the sheer, unstoppable power that Rawhead wielded.

Unlike most stories, the first character we meet dies shortly thereafter. He isn’t our protagonist and that’s okay because he seemed like a bit of an ass to me. We meet Ron, who becomes our hero, early on but I read over him, thinking he was just an example of a city guy out in the village where he didn’t really belong. He pops up here and there, talking with more people who died. It introduced us to him before we actually needed to focus on him, which actually worked surprisingly.

Rawhead as a character was gruesome and disgusting. First off, he is a giant, standing like 9 feet tall. He is also described as having a mouth that opens like a cavern in which he eats men and children. Rawhead is a gruesome guy who I definitely wouldn’t want to run into in a back alley. But what was really great was how intriguing Rawhead was. We were able to get into his head and see how he thought. We saw how destructive he naturally was, how arrogant he was and how inferior he felt humans to be. It put a new spin on the monster that we haven’t actually seen yet. While we certainly don’t like Rawhead, he was definitely given more depth than other stereotypical monsters we have seen so far in the course. And I think it was easier to identify with certain characteristics Rawhead exhibited, like greed, anger, fear, and power.

Another great aspect of the story was the use of the feminine as Rawhead’s weak point. Early on, he won’t eat one of the women because she is on her period and it seems like that repulses him. But in fact, he can’t because it is what he fears. By the end, we see that it was the ancient fertility goddesses that were able to frighten Rawhead into submission so he could be buried in the earth. (Although he is killed at the end of this piece.) This is cool because we see Rawhead as an exhibit of the masculine. We see him urinating on a man at one point and masturbating in another. To be defeated by the feminine was very believable for me as this monster’s weakness.

Finally, I wanted to talk about beginnings and endings. First off, the opening line of this story was fantastic. “Of all the conquering armies that had tramped the streets of Zeal down the centuries, it was finally the mild tread of the Sunday tripper that brought the village to its knees.” This line was elegantly written and drew me in, making me want to read more to find out how this worked into the Rawhead Rex myth.

The ending of this was also done well. We don’t know what happens to Ron but, unlike “Breeding Ground”, here it is okay. We don’t need to know because we are a) not overly attached to Ron and b) used to death by this point. The last paragraph was also interesting, showing the union between Rawhead and the earth. In a way, he was returning to the earth where he was imprisoned. But also, in another way he was mating with the female. His penis ejecting fluid to enter into the womb of Mother Earth. Just an interesting connection that I may or may not be reading too much into.

Overall, I think this story worked well as a short story but definitely couldn’t be extended into a full length novel.