Once Upon A Wolvog

Stories from the front lines

Hybrids: An outdated idea?

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From the beginning of the novel Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, us readers are exposed to different lifeforms present in the books. We meet the “Crakers” who appear to look Human but don’t act quite the same, we are then presented with the idea of pigoons and rakunks and further on in the book we learn about Giders/Spoats.

Now, you might be wondering what these are. Hybrids would be the appropriate term in categorizing Crakers, Pigoons, Rakunks and Giders/Spoats. The formal definition of a hybrid is: “Any of mixed origin or composition, or the combination of two or more different things” (Biology Online, 2008) In this situation, we are dealing with crossbreeding. In the case of Crakers, they have a Human form with animal-like rituals. Pigoons are a mix of pigs and raccoons, while Rakunks are a mix of raccoons and skunks. Finally, Giders are the result of breeding a goat and a spider together.

The idea of these hybrids seem too advanced for our current time? Well, I am here to announce to you, that scientist have successfully crossbred one of the previously mentioned creatures: the Giders. The following is one of the many news articles that may spark your interest: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-16554357

With all of this information in mind, you should now be aware that the idea of Hybrids have been around since 9500 BC and probably even before that. My first piece of evidence is the Sphynx. The Sphynx is a creature from Greek mythology. The description of this mythological creatures varies, however, the general consensus is that it has the head of a Human, the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle and the tail of a serpent. Another example is the Minotaur. A minotaur is a man with the head of a bull. It was a creature that was meant to be feared. Additionally, we can discuss the Sirens who are also part of Greek mythology. These monsters were said to be beautiful women that were part fish and preyed on sailors.

All things considered, although the animals we observe in Oryx and Crake are from a somewhat distant future, the idea of splicing different species to combine them in order to gain a superior being is far from new. What can be said is that we are not beginning to act on these ideas, which in many ways is exciting and scary at the same time. Will our future be the same as in Oryx and Crake?

 

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3 thoughts on “Hybrids: An outdated idea?

  1. Pretty interesting thinking about how conceptually, hybrids are not a new thing to us if you consider the mythological creatures you mentioned. I suppose you could say that the distinction begins with function, as something like a Minotaur was not envisioned because a bull head was an efficient design, while the genetically spliced animals in the Maddadam trilogy were designed with specific function in mind. Giders for a efficient production of spider silk, rakunks to eliminate unwanted qualities of both skunks and raccoons (smell, aggression), etc. It seems to be a neat little way the story further tries to increase the gap between symbolic/spiritual, and scientific, with sphinxes being designed to give a spiritual and cultural impact, while the gene splices are designed for human use and efficiency.

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  2. Interesting to think about how hybrids can be considered an older concept. Do you think that there’s a cultural aspect as well? The mythological hybrids, such as sphinxes, minotaurs and the rest weren’t designed for efficiency and human use, but to symbolize or inspire. In contrast, in the scientific culture of Oryx and Crake, we see hybrids created to be as beneficial to humans as possible, such as the passive rakunks, or the gider whose silk is anthropocentric. It might just be another way Atwood is trying to distinguish the world of culture/religion (beasts of mythology) and beasts of human use (rakunks, gider, wolvog, pigoon, etc) that we see in the novels.

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  3. Before discussing it in class, I didn’t know that Giders were a real thing in our world and I was glad to be able to read the article you attached in your post! I had never really reflected upon the fact that the concept of splices started a long time ago but mythology definitely proves it. Clearly, the idea of mixing species in order to obtain an ideal creature with a greater amount of qualities is not something that came along with technology. Nonetheless, now that we have that incredibly advanced technology, we are beginning to be able to bring these creatures to life. I don’t know if our future will be the same as Oryx and Crake’s, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it heading there!

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