I’ve been enjoying “Raised by Wolves” and had an AHA moment last night. What if Ridley Scott’s title is literal?
In Erykah Badu’s lament about her irresponsible boyfriend “Better call Tyrone,” audiences have assumed that Tyrone was the bad guy for over two decades.
In 2020 Kevon on Stage points out that Tyrone is the responsible guy who cleans up the mess.
“Erykah Badu made me realize we owe Tyrone an apology.”
Sometimes a title can misdirect our perceptions.
And just as Tyrone is not the bad guy, I am beginning to suspect that Lamia in “Raised by Wolves” is not the wolf.
In the previews and the summaries, “Raised by Wolves” is introduced as a clash. It is a clash between cultures on an alien planet—between the theocratic (religious Mithrandics) and the atheist.
The implication is that the title refers to the children raised by androids. The Android is pictured holding a baby with the words “Raised by Wolves” as a title.
But I think that this poster and the introductory episodes have a sleight-of-hand that many may have missed. The title may be literal.
In the first episode, we meet androids “Mother” and “Father” and the six children. “Mother” is introduced as “Lamia.”
In Greek mythology, Lamia is the name of a beautiful African queen from Libya. The Greek God Zeus rapes Lamia. Zeus’ wife Hera murders Lamia’s children as punishment and Laima rips out her own eyes with grief. Then Zeus “helps” Lamia by essentially cursing her by turning her into a child-eating monster.
Many women in fictional history have had transformations occur via curses as punishments for surviving sadistic exploitative misogyny. Another case is Medusa.
The God Poseidon rapes Medusa. As punishment masquerading as a gift for being raped, Goddess Athena turns Medusa into a snake-headed monster who turns anyone who looks at her into stone.
If “Mother” was the wolf, she probably should have called herself “Capitoline” to refer to the legend of Romulus and Remus. In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus are twin brothers whose upbringing tells of the story that led to the founding of the Rome by Romulus and the killing of his twin Remus. Legend states that they were raised by the she-wolf Capitoline.
So, Mother – Lamia is not the wolf. She’s a justifiably angry Mother who responds to an attack on herself and an attempted kidnapping of her son Campion with an asymmetrical response. She retaliates by crashing a spaceship and killing thousands of Mithrandics.
During the first episode, we see “Mother” give birth to six children and watch five seemingly perish … or so we think. This is in keeping with the legend of Lamia.
The first of her children to “die” is Tally, and we are told over-and-over that she is dead. Tally wanders off and is last seen at the precipice of one of the deep wells. But as we have learned in comic books and classical legends, unless you see a blood-stained corpse chopped into pieces, the person isn’t dead.
And if your sister is Isis, even THAT can’t stop you from coming back from the dead.
Like many good pieces of fiction, not everything is revealed to the audience immediately and directly.
If you were closely watching the episodes, you’ve seen lots of evidence that not everything is visible.
The deep wells with their abyssal depths draw our eyes downwards, sometimes missing crucial details. In these deep wells are parallel tunnels. We’ve seen those tunnels once in the third episode. The religious Mithrandics hid from Lamia using those tunnels.
Lamia uses her sonic weapon, and they flee deeper underground. The tunnel ends suddenly at a well, and one of the soldiers falls. We’ve seen the tunnels again in Episode 5 when Paul and Campion watch the “Wolf” creature foraging for the fungus at the well. Nearby is a lateral tunnel, which might explain how the “Wolf” creatures are traveling unseen to Lamia through the landscape.
So we have tunnels, and we have wolves too.
The question that we need to ask is are they trying to kill or capture the children.
We don’t know. They are rendered as ugly creatures, and we assume that beautiful is good and ugly is evil.
To quote Jessica Rabbit, maybe they’re just drawn that way. (Yes, yes, I’ve rediscovered that comment and am overusing it, but it is so useful to think about in fiction.)
Which leads us to Tally. She walked to the edge of a pit, where the wolves forage and climb on the sides like squirrels. Maybe they took her home and raised her. And her home is the booby-trapped shelter that the Mithrandics discovered and briefly explored. It had a map of the local area and the Atheist Colony. Then, a figure all in rough woven cloaks leaped away.
That could be Tally. Literal wolves are raising her. They’re probably more like omnivorous ground squirrels but “Raised by Squirrel Nutkin” doesn’t care the same gravitas. There are probably other creatures out there that we haven’t discovered, which is for whom the traps are intended.
But what about the other phenomena we are experiencing? We know that people hear voices. Marcus heard a direct command in Episode 6 to stop killing Lamia.
Maybe Tally developed powers from the radioactive exposure that allow her Telepathy and the ability to project. (Where IS Ms. Peregrine or Mrs. Zimmerman when you need them to guide Tally’s formative years?)
She’s moving through the tunnels to stay safe and then projecting above. What Tally did to Paul in Episode 3, which was resolved in the beginning of Episode 4 was that she was probably trying to lead him into the tunnel system. It just worked out really poorly.
So yes, I need to watch Episodes 7, 8, & 9. But I think that Ridley Scott has pulled a significant sleight-of-hand that revives a lost child and makes the story far more interesting.
by Jack O’Kent
Jack O’Kent is a freelance writer in Milwaukee and contributor to Public Intellectuals