Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Response to "Religion In Cerebus - Part Two"

Since I'm also posting these to the Cerebus mailing list, most of the comments and responses I'm getting are over there. This one provoked enough of a response from me that I decided to post it here as well.

--- In, "Jeff Tundis" wrote:
> When was the first mention of Tarim as the minter of
> coins? That, to me, really solidifies the whole "Tarim as Christ"
> idea. The coin maker analogous to the carpenter. Tarim was a "real"
> person, and a God on Earth.

First mention of Tarim as a real historical figure: "High Society," the interview between Astoria and Suenteus Po who's being hired as a speechwriter (this is the Suenteus Po who is presumably the historian writing the text pieces in "High Society"). On p. 434 Astoria says:

"It could be argued that Tarim didn't instigate the Tarimic Disciplines since the sacred texts were not set down for one hundred years after his death . . . "

to which Po responds:

"Or *her* death?"

Astoria stares at him, and he says, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to provoke you . . . "

(Which is of course a lie, since that's *exactly* what he intended, hoping I think to draw her out on the question of her own allegiance, which as we learn early in "Church & State" is a subject of much discussion.)

Anyway, I think this seals it that Tarim is a Christ analog, WAY before we hear of coinmaking in "Church & State." And it also brings up the Tarim/Terim dichotomy by oblique reference -- apparently the Cirinists (and presumably the Kevillists as well) believe that it was a woman, Terim, who walked the earth and was later worshipped as God(dess).

Indeed, the coinmaker thing moves *away* from a direct analogy and makes Tarim sound more like a Pharaonic figure, a deified king rather than a common person (we'll later get hints that the aardvarkian Suenteus Po may have been a Christ-like figure in his coinmaker incarnation that enacted the echo of the Trial, but that person, whatever his name may have been, was a "devout Tarimite" so he couldn't have been the original Tarim).

First mention of Tarim as a coinmaker: "Church & State," volume one, p. 406, Cerebus and Bran in the lobby of the hotel with the piles and piles of sacks of coins and Bran is telling him how you can read history in the coins and picks one up and says:

"Ah! This one."

Next panel: "This one was struck by Tarim himself"

Later, in C&S Vol. 2, in a chapter called "Talking to Tarim," Cerebus encounters a or the) Big Round Glowing White Strange Thing on a platform in space and the BRGWST is recounting previous lives, previous attempts at The Ascension, during most of which, at least, he seems to have been in charge in Iest. At one point, he says:

"Another time I made a hundred thousand little spheres pounded them flat and stamped my picture on them . . . that was how coins were invented . . . " (p. 801)

Combined with the title of the chapter, this *seems* to point at the BRGWST as having been "Tarim" when he invented coins, although the BRGWST speaks of Tarim not only in the third person (after all, Cerebus does that) but specifically as someone else, someone he himself seems to know little about.

This could be just Dave's way of saying "Look, Jesus wasn't God," something he would have believed as an "atheist" (which he never was, but let's let that go) and still believes as a monotheist. If you were to meet Jesus as a BRGWST on a platform in space and talked about going to Heaven to meet Jesus, he might understand that you meant God and use your own language to speak of "Jesus" as someone other than himself in just the way that "Tarim" might be doing here with Cerebus.

On the other hand, Bran doesn't say that the coin struck by Tarim is the oldest of the coins, nor specifically that Tarim invented coins, so this implication could be a deliberate misdirection and whoever it was Cerebus talks to on the platform might have no relation to Tarim.

But then why the chapter title?

In any case, there is no doubt in my mind that by the time Dave Sim first introduced dating into his world (with the account of the election of 1413 in "High Society") he had firmly established in his own mind that the Church of Tarim was at least to some extent analogous to the Christian Church and that a real man named Tarim had walked around about 1400 years previous. Whether he was a king who invented coins or a humble coinmaker like the aardvarkian Suenteus Po or someone quite different from either we will probably never know -- don't bother to ask Dave, because this is the kind of question to which he always gives answers that are at best evasive and at worst downright maddening: "Well, what do *you* think?"