Tuesday, August 30, 2011
ogre: a giant or monster from myth that eats humans; a brutish, savage or cruel person. I follow this path from yesterday's word, gremlin, to a real mythological being. Ogres enjoyed a long history in myth. They popped up in Arthurian legend, in the French versions, and from there spread into English. It's a word I greatly like because it can apply to almost any big humanlike beastie out in the wilds of myth or fantasy. What makes an ogre is that it is a brute, cruel and heartless, hungry for the flesh of weak and feeble man; but beyond that it can take many forms. The word is thought to come from the Latin name Orcus, a god of the underworld, who punished oathbreakers and was perhaps he who oversaw the treatment of wrongdoers in Hades in general. Certainly one can follow the path from the one to the other. Cruel the punishments of Hades must have been, and little liked the god Orcus. And so from a name scarcely whispered out of avoidance to a brute hunted by knights of legend.