Saturday, December 2, 2023

They are the Eggmen

In connection with my recent posts about Eleanor Cameron's Mushroom Planet novels, both Wandering Gondola and William Wright have drawn my attention to the 2022 film Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The opening scene begins with the words "THE MUSHROOM PLANET" filling the screen, and then -- after a long sequence showing a Rube Goldberg machine used to produce "mushroom coffee" -- we see Jim Carrey in the role of the bald-headed villain, Dr. Robotnik, alias Eggman. His opening line is:

Doctor's log: It's day 243 in this Portabella Purgatory. My only companion is a rock I named Stone.

This morning I checked some blogs and found Francis Berger's latest post "No, You Are Not the Eggman, John . . . I am." Frank is the Eggman because his "henhouse is home to 24 hens that lay 18-22 eggs daily, or about 140 a week." (In The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, the first novel in the series, the main characters save the day by bringing a hen to the Mushroom Planet to lay eggs.)

Frank's reference is not to Sonic's nemesis but to John Lennon and "I Am the Walrus" -- a song covered by none other than Jim Carrey in 1998, 22 years before he was cast as Eggman in the first Sonic movie:

Many years ago, I decided that the line "They are the Eggmen" referred to Castor and Pollux (and, taking They as a proper noun, that They Might Be Giants were symbolically Castor and Pollux, too). In the original video for "I Am the Walrus," the Beatles portray the Eggmen by wearing white skullcaps:

Castor and Pollux are typically portrayed wearing very similar skullcaps, representing the egg from which they hatched, having been fathered by Zeus in the form of a swan:

The Dioscuri of course recently appeared in the sync-stream, in my post "Never mind the Pollux."

These distinctive caps worn by the Eggmen of Zeus were called pilos in Greek, but in English it is more common to use the Latin form pileus. That also happens to be the technical term for the cap of a mushroom:

Instead of saying mushrooms like a normal person, Merrian-Webster opts for basidiomycetes. The Mushroom Planet of Cameron's novels is called Basidium, home to the bald-headed Basidiumites, whose Earth-based cousins, known as Mycetians, all bear the middle name Mycetes.

Just after reading Frank's post and making the above connections, I picked up The Philosopher's Pupil and read this. One character is admiring some Japanese objets d'art collected by another character:

'I see you've set out the netsuke, my old friends.'

'Yes --'

'I especially like that demon hatching out of his egg.'

As a young child I labored under the misapprehension that Castor and Pollux was an obscenity, since invoking their names is characterized as "swearing" in T. H. White's The Once and Future King:

"Turn me and Kay into snakes or something."

Merlyn took off his spectacles, dashed them on the floor and jumped on them with both feet.

"Castor and Pollux blow me to Bermuda!" he exclaimed, and immediately vanished with a frightful roar.

The Wart was still staring at his tutor's chair in some perplexity, a few moments later, when Merlyn reappeared. He had lost his hat and his hair and beard were tangled up, as if by a hurricane. He sat down again, straightening his gown with trembling fingers.

"Why did you do that?" asked the Wart.

"I did not do it on purpose."

"Do you mean to say that Castor and Pollux did blow you to Bermuda?"

"Let this be a lesson to you," replied Merlyn, "not to swear. I think we had better change the subject."

In Time and Mr. Bass, the final book in the Mushroom Planet series, the title character does the same thing Merlyn does in this scene: "Tyco vanished, only to reappear almost immediately." Later in the novel things take an unexpectedly Arthurian turn:

I beheld all that was left of King Arthur -- rex quondam, rexque futurus, the once and future king -- and I tell you, my friends, his bones were enormous!

I will have much more to say about Time and Mr. Bass in a future post.


Francis Berger said...

Good connections. I hadn't heard the Jim Carrey version of "I am the Walrus" before.

Regarding Caster and Pollux, I was really impressed with your revelation of the underlying meaning of "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols" (Never mind the testicles, here's the penises) in the"Sometimes a Banana . . ." post from a few days ago.

It's so obvious once you see you it, yet I never made the connection.

I could add that it was right there staring me in the face for decades but that can be easily misconstrued and, well, just sounds bad and wrong.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Easily misconstrued, yes. It reminds me of that Fry and Laurie "Aussie soaps" sketch. The sketch itself seems to have been taken off YouTube, but the line I was thinking of is still available:

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Speaking of genital references, the literal meaning of Castor is actually "beaver."

Francis Berger said...

That's a funny clip! You're quite the source for great Hugh Laurie clips.

And I did not know that Castor meant "beaver". This whole thing just keeps getting badder and wronger -- which is what makes it fun, I guess!

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

This sketch of theirs is my absolute favorite of all time:

Francis Berger said...

That's very good. This was the sketch that first brought F and L two my attention. I got a kick out of their American accents.

Francis Berger said...

Two? I really must stop commenting from my phone. The auto-corrects is all over the place.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Ha! I successfully predicted which sketch it would be before I clicked. Admittedly, “American accents” narrowed the possibilities a bit.

I was introduced to them through their Jeeves and Wooster series, having been an avid Wodehouse reader ever since I learned to read. I discovered their other work much later, with the advent of YouTube.

Above Majestic (with an excursus on turban jokes)

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