Friday, February 12, 2016

Don't Be So Pig-Headed

I've always been interested in how certain elements enter popular thought. Recently I think I've traced how a peculiar concept entered the field of Fantasy, and this is how I think it happened.

Walt Disney came out with its animated version of Sleeping Beauty in 1959. In that film, the evil fairy Maleficent is served by a batch of "goons" who search for the baby Princess Aurora and imprison Prince Philip.Among the goons and memorable for having a speaking part is a green, anthropomorphic pig-like character carrying an axe (far right).
When the Brothers Hildebrandt come to paint their 1976 Tolkien Calendar, they produce a picture called "Captured By Orcs." The Orcs they depict are not exactly as Tolkien describes them: they are decidedly pig-headed. What I think happened was this. The Hildebrandts, being self-confessedly inspired and influenced by Disney (see The Art of The Brothers Hildebrandt) drew a correlative between Maleficent the Mistress of All Evil and Sauron the Dark Lord, and decide to draw the mooks of one based on the mooks of the other.
This, of course, is pure speculation. What is a fact is that the next year, 1977, saw the production of the heavily Tolkien-inspired Dungeons&Dragons Monster Manual. In this book (which the Tolkien Estate later had them remove references to Ents and Hobbits), the artist Donald C. Sutherland depicted Orcs like this:
From the Monster Manual the idea of the pig-headed Orc was disseminated throughout fantasy fandom.

Another race of green, piggish axe-wielders came along in The Return of the Jedi (1983), the Gamorrean guards. There was some mild controversy among fans that the design had been snitched from Sleeping Beauty.
The pig-headed Orc entered the video-gaming arena with a design by Akira Toriyama for Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen (1990). This version of the Orc (and Orc-kings) descended down to every Dragon Quest game thereafter.
The idea of the pig-headed Orc is now being swept away from the field with closer attention to Tolkien and re-imaginings in the Fantasy area. But it will always be embedded in its history as a strange little cultural deviation.


Dr. Obscure said...

A likely reconstruction. Didn't this also prepare us for reception of the pig-headed orc, having been raised with Maleficent's goons made the orcs seem right? But yes, when I saw RotJ, I immediately thought of them as fat, clumsy orcs.

Nathan said...

Does Ganon fit into this at all?

Brer said...

Ganon was originally known as "Hakkai" during development of the Nintendo Entertainment System video game The Legend of Zelda, in reference to a humanoid pig character known as Zhu Bajie (Cho Hakkai in Japanese) from the famed 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West--from Wikipedia.

Nathan said...

Interesting. I've read Journey to the West, but hadn't made that connection.

Brer said...

Neither had I, until I looked it up. In the one version of "Journey to the West" that I've read (somewhat severely edited, I understand) that character was called "Pigsy." Of course my favorite version for the larfs was the Dragonball-related "Alakazam the Great" where he is called Sir Quigley Brokenbottom and was voiced by the late great Jonathan Winters (American dubbed, of course!).

Nathan said...

He was Chu Pa'chieh in the version I read. I'm not really familiar with Dragon Ball, but I know the character Son Goku has the Japanese name of the Monkey King.