The Half Person Motif

This Saturday, a story:

Most people are still taught about the ancient Greek philosophical allegory that people used to be four-armed, four-legged hermaphrodites that we then split apart into separate male and female halves that have yearned to be reunited ever since. This story tells us that we are all merely half beings.

Another set of myths communicates this idea in another way: Through the character of a half person, someone with just one arm, one leg, and half a body.

In the book Cajun Folktales, for example, J.J. Reneaux tells the story of Half-Man who roams the swamps of Louisiana. “It’s Half-Man. He rolls right up to that boy like a wheel, holding his foot in his one hand, coiled up like a circle. He’s blowing thick, smelly smoke rings and hollerin’, ‘Booogedy-booogedy-booogedy!’ He gets up to that boy and unrolls himself, standing up on one leg and glaring out of one red, watery eye. Half-Man was a terrible sight. His half-head was covered with grey, wrinkly skin. His one big eye was bloodshot and squinty. His half-nose was blowing smelly smoke rings, and his half-mouth was full of yellow, stained fangs. Half-Man smelled like a hundred mad skunks.”

The Unitarian Universalist Church of the Larger Fellowship shares another half person myth, retold by Sophia Lyon Fahs and Alice Cobb: The Half Boy Of Borneo.

How, I wonder, do these half people relate conceptually to the many ancient mythological creatures, such as the satyr and the minotaur, that are half human and half animal?


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