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5 Times Characters Ate Organs
by The Mary Sue Staff | 12:34 pm, April 4th, 2012
The work of Ursula Vernon’s that is probably best known online is the LOL WUT pear, which is now used as a basic “picture unrelated” image by many people. Vernon’s okay with that, so long as nobody’s selling Biting Pear merchandise. But her other contribution to the internet is the Eisner nominated webcomic (now complete) Digger.
Digger follows the big adventure of its titular main character, a wombat in a vest. Secondary characters include a hyena with no name, a newly born being made entirely of shadow, and oracular slugs. And what all of these characters (a decent chunk of the whole number of characters in the story) have in common is that they are not visually sexually dimorphic. That is, they don’t have an immediately obvious gender, and such things are eventually explained through the course of the story once it actually matters to a character or the narrative to know whether a person is male or female. Digger is a female wombat, the shadow child has no gender to speak of, and Ed (that nameless hyena) is male. Hyena society itself is simultaneously gender neutral and gender-flipped (each character is individually visually gender neutral, but in comparison the females generally larger, stronger, and more violent; and take on many leadership and fighting roles).
And Digger’s need to become part of hyena society is where we get to the organ eating. It’s a bit complicated, but basically what it comes down to is that if the proper traditions aren’t observed, a hyena who gave her life for Digger life is going to have to be, though it pains her tribesmembers, considered a no-person, unworthy of burial and remembrance. And the only way to square that with hyena traditions is to adopt Digger into the tribe. Inducting a wombat into a hyena tribe turns out to be the lesser stretching of tradition than twisting the rules to honor Skull Ridges. This process, though it involves intense debate and the shortening of a three day ritutal to about ten minutes, is actually Digger’s smoother interaction with hyena culture. The problem is Skull Ridges’ funeral, which happens directly afterwards and in which, as a hyena, Digger must fully participate.
Which means eating a bit of Skull Ridges’ raw liver. Hyenas ritualistically consume the liver of their fallen comrades, in order that their strength and ability in life be honored and returned to the tribe. Fun fact: many ancient societies associated things that we generally associate with the heart with the liver instead, like courage and strong emotion! Anyway, aside from the idea of eating part of someone who saved her life, Digger’s lot is complicated by the fact that she’s not only a vegetarian but a a herbivore. She literally can’t digest meat.
But she doesn’t have to digest it, after all, just swallow it in front of the rest of the tribe so that she doesn’t deliver a grave insult to Skull Ridge’s memory. Which she manages, though she describes it as “like eating a blood-soaked rubber sponge.” Then, stumbling home later with a bellyfull of mead and a kindly and quietly provided ipecac, she horks it all up into some bushes and feels much better.
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