Study of Beelzebub's Tales

CHAPTER 11
A Piquant Trait of the Peculiar Psyche of Contemporary Man

Summary

Beelzebub talks to his grandson about the three-brained beings arising on the planet Earth and whom Hassein called ‘slugs.’ He explains that even though Hassein is a long way off and they cannot get at him and punish him personally, nevertheless, if they should somehow learn, how he had insulted them, he may be sure that their bona fide ‘anathema’ would fall upon him. Beelzebub describes how the beings of the Earth would behave in such a situation, as this could serve as a good example to elucidate the strangeness of their psyche.

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Now let us return to those three-brained beings arising on the planet Earth, who have interested you most of all and whom you have called ‘slugs.’

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“I shall begin by saying how glad I am that you happen to be a long way from those three-centered beings whom you called by a word so ‘insulting to their dignity’ and that they are not likely ever to hear of it.

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“Do you know, you poor thing, you small boy not yet aware of himself, what they would do to you, particularly the contemporary beings there, if they should hear what you called them?

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“What they would have done to you if you had been there and if they had got hold of you—I am seized with horror at the very mention of it.

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“At best they would have thrashed you so, that as our Mullah Nassr Eddin there says, ‘you wouldn’t have recovered your senses before the next crop of birches.’

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“In any case, I advise you that, whenever you start anything new, you should always bless Fate and beseech her mercy, that she should always be on guard and prevent the beings of the planet Earth from ever suspecting that you, my beloved and only grandson, dared to call them ‘slugs.’

11.94

“You must know that during the time of my observations of them from the planet Mars and during the periods of my existence among them, I studied the psyche of these strange three-brained beings very thoroughly, and so I already know very well what they would do to anybody who dared to give them such a nickname.

11.95

“To be sure, it was only in childish na├»vete that you called them so; but the three-brained beings of that peculiar planet, especially the contemporary ones, do not discriminate such fine points.

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“Who called them, why, and in what circumstances—it’s all one. They have been called by a name they consider insulting—and that’s quite enough.

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“Discrimination in such matters is, according to the understanding of most of them, simply, as they express it, ‘pouring from the empty into the void.’

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“Be that as it may, you were in any case extremely rash to call the three-brained beings breeding on the planet Earth by such an offensive name; first, because you have made me anxious for you, and secondly, because you have laid up for yourself a menace for the future.

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“The position is this: Though, as I have already said, you are a long way off, and they will be unable to get at you to punish you personally, yet nevertheless if they should somehow unexpectedly chance to learn even at twentieth hand how you insulted them, then you could at once be sure of their real ‘anathema,’ and the dimensions of this anathema would depend upon the interests with which they happened to be occupied at the given moment.

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“Perhaps it is worth while describing to you how the beings of the Earth would behave if they should happen to learn that you had so insulted them. This description may serve as a very good example for the elucidation of the strangeness of the psyche of these three-brained beings who interest you.

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“Provoked by such an incident as your thus insulting them, if everything was rather ‘dull’ with them at the given moment, owing to the absence of any other similar absurd interest, they would arrange somewhere in a previously chosen place, with previously invited people, all of course dressed in costumes specially designed for such occasions, what is called a ‘solemn council.’

11.96

“First of all, for this ‘solemn council’ of theirs, they would select from among themselves what is called a ‘president’ and only then would they proceed with their ‘trial.’

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“To begin with, they would, as they say there, ‘pick you to pieces,’ and not only you, but your father, your grandfather, and perhaps even all the way back to Adam.

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“If they should then decide—of course, as always, by a majority of votes—that you are guilty, they would sentence you according to the indications of a code of laws collated on the basis of former similar ‘puppet plays’ by beings called ‘old fossils.’

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“But if they should happen, by a ‘majority of votes’ to find nothing criminal in your action at all—though this very seldom occurs among them—then this whole ‘trial’ of theirs, set out on paper in detail and signed by the whole lot of them, would be dispatched—you would think into the wastepaper basket? Oh, no!—to appropriate specialists; in the given instances to what is called the ‘Hierarchy’ or ‘Holy Synod,’ where the same procedure would be repeated; only in this case you would be tried by ‘important’ beings there.

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“Only at the very end of this true ‘pouring from the empty into the void’ would they come to the main point, namely, that the accused is out of reach.

“But it is just here that arises the principal danger to your person, namely, that when they are quite certain beyond all doubt that they cannot get hold of you, they will then unanimously decide nothing more nor less than, as I have already said, to ‘anathematize’ you.

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“And do you know what that is and how it is done?

“No!

“Then listen and shudder.

11.97

“The most ‘important’ beings will decree to all the other beings that in all their appointed establishments, such as what are called ‘churches,’ ‘chapels,’ ‘synagogues,’ ‘town-halls,’ and so on, special officials shall on special occasions with appointed ceremonies wish for you in thought something like the following:

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“That you should lose your horns, or that your hair should turn prematurely gray, or that the food in your stomach should be turned into coffin nails, or that your future wife’s tongue should be three times its size, or that whenever you take a bite of your pet pie it should be turned into ‘soap,’ and so on and so forth in the same strain.

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“Do you now understand to what dangers you exposed yourself when you called these remote three-brained freaks ‘slugs’?”

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Having finished thus, Beelzebub looked with a smile on his favorite.