Monday, March 22, 2010

Poor Hanuman

I can't understand the lack of Hanuman love in OD&D.

In OD&D’s Supplement IV, Gods Demi-Gods and Heroes, ‘Hanuman the Accursed’ is found on page 46.

“Hanuman assumes a giant ape form when appearing on earth, and strikes as a Storm Giant. His ancient religion of the East requires human sacrifices.”

What?! Talk about alienating your Indian customers. A long time ago, I lived for a while in an intentional community (aka “a commune”*) that had an Indian ascetic guru. He wasn't my guru, me being more of a zenhead hunting after Buddha, but living there for a few years exposed me to a lot of Indian culture. And the good karma seeking yogis were highly enamored of Hanuman. As far as I could tell, they certainly weren’t practicing human sacrifice or even brainwashing anyone. Being a devotee of Rama, Hanuman epitomizes selfless service. Well, at least there wasn’t an accompanying illustration.

It was dropped from the 1st edition “Deities & Demigods” hardback - presumably the PR department set someone straight. Although the presence of other Indian deities there might have hacked off some Indian fundamentalists if they’d existed back in the day.

Not that it really bothers me or anything - I was a big fan of Galloway’s ballsy statting of the Virgin Mary, for example. Not of the stats mind you, just the statting itself. Huevos, I say.

* A commune? I know I know, it's a long story. See, there was this girl there. Oh nevermind...


Stefan Poag said...

I seem to remember 'Hanuman' appearing in some of the Conan (or other books) as a kind of evil monkey god... but my memory is cloudy at best on that subject. I wonder if the 'Hanuman' from "Gods, Demigods & Heroes" was lifted from pulp fantasy (I don't remember any of the gods in the Conan stories as being particularly benevolent and suspect that Howard just grabbed the name of a 'monkey god' out of a book about religon... and probably thought "Monkeys flung poo at me the last time I went to the zoo, so I'll make this Monkey god a real evil sucker).

I have had at least one evil priest of Hanuman as a player character in my D&D career... but I confess to having chosen the name out of ignorance... he is one of my favorite characters, though. He sacrificed people by strangling them... but enough of my BTK fantasies...

I remember seeing 'holy cards' that portrayed paintings of Hanuman holding his own heart in front of his chest --- which reminded me of much of the Catholic iconography of the Virgin Mary I grew up with.

I understand that there used to be a toy company that made a series of plastic figures of monsters that they called "Monster in your pocket." They made some kind of King Kong type ape figure that they named Hanuman. Apparently the Indians were not amused and they soon dropped Hanuman from their line up... at which time collector's prices for "Hanuman" monster-in-your-pocket dolls shot through the roof.

It would be pretty weird if "Monster-in-your-pocket" came out with the "Christ Zombie Monster." I doubt most Americans would laugh, though.

Rusty said...

See, there was this girl there That was my assumption even before I saw your footnote.

Jeffrey Runokivi said...

Hanuman has always been one of my favorite Hindu Deities...I even got a rather large stone statue of Him...who doesn't like a flying monkey god?

ze bulette said...

@Limpey - I thought something similar with regard to the origins of Hanuman in S. IV - big ape = King Kong = bad!? I can definitely see how some iteration in old pulp fantasy might have been an inspiration.

Walter said...

Incorporating real world religions into a D&D campaign is looked upon as potentially offensive by WotC, who apparently don't wish to alienate market demographics nor incur the wrath of fundamentalist protesters. However, I do think the game allows one the freedom look at religions fantastical or otherwise from unconventional angles, potentially opening the door to speculation and experimentation with one's own spiritual side (to some, the brain chemistry of imagination). I've always been curious as to the religious opinions of Gygax and Arneson, but I assumed they were agnostic, despite the seeming implications of favoring the colorful imagery of paganism/magic. In the end there's no divorcing ancient epic fiction from ancient religion.

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