Evil Little Goat

Photo by Peter Scholten on Unsplash

A recent Italian film has furnished us a perfect Wednesday Word: chimera.

La Chimera, written and directed by Alice Rohrwacher, stars Josh O’Connor (Prince Charles in The Crown) as a thief who, with fellow gang members, raids Etruscan tombs and fences ancient artifacts. That prosaic description comes nowhere near the fantastical experience this movie creates. The title itself is a better representation.

A chimera is “an illusion or fabrication of the mind, especially an unrealizable dream.” This word describes the strange and wondrous mental state of Arthur, the protagonist tomb raider. It’s also the mysterious, meandering movie itself, as experienced by you, the viewer.

In everyday usage, a chimera might be world peace or your dream job or the ideal mate–something you imagine that will never materialize. In science, a chimera is a creature with more than one genotype, created when two zygotes merge.

That scientific usage gets us closer to the word’s root. Imagine a creature composed of a goat, a lion, and a dragon. Oh, and she could breathe fire. According to Homer’s Iliad, she was  “of divine stock not of men, in the fore part a lion, in the hinder a serpent, and in the midst a goat, breathing forth in terrible wise the might of blazing fire.”[The Greek roots seem to mean “she-goat” and “winter,” because the monster somehow personified winter. The word came to denote any monster which combined different creatures; it later generalized to any illusion, any imaginary creation of the mind. (I.e., world peace and ideal mates.)

Fortunately for all of us, the Greek hero Bellerophon, with the help of the trusty Pegasus, slew the actual Chimera. You can rest easy. At her death, she was banished to Hades, where I trust you will never go.

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1 Response to Evil Little Goat

  1. Sarah Becker says:

    Alice Rohrwacher also made a strange little film called Le pupille, nominated for an Oscar in 2023. It involves a nun with a moustache and a cake made with 70 eggs. See what you think!
    And about the ideal mate–I thought you already had one!

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