Rawhead Rex: Eating Babies Since Time Began

Finally, a story that hits all the creep, gross and horror buttons for me in one little package. I don’t say a neat package, because if you want to get into the technical side, “Rawhead Rex” is a mess of head-hopping reminiscent of a whack-a-mole machine. But we’re talking about monsters here, and Rawhead is definitely that. The more ancient the evil, the better it is. And Rawhead, bless his ugly mug, delivers evil in spades.

So Rawhead gets unearthed from his prison by some unsuspecting town folk guy, who of course bites it literally moments after first viewing this monstrosity he unwittingly helped escape. Rawhead definitely looks the way a boogie-monster that eats kids should look: inhumanly tall and strong, meaty face that looks like the moon (coincidentally this is happening around the “harvest festival”). Nasty sharp teeth that come out of his gums when he’s ready to eat or attack. For some reason I picture the way a shark’s mouth looks, with all those teeth, and rows of them. Teeth are scary. Teeth made to tear more succulent meat are even more scary.

I’m not going to recap the whole story. You should go and read it, if you haven’t (though of course some of the people reading this blog are along with me in the RIG and had better of read it 😉 ). Needless to say, Rawhead goes on a rampage, and kills a lot of people, before finally being brought down by an equally ancient power, the Mother Goddess. We’ll get into that later.

Don’t judge, but I’m glad that Clive Barker actually shows Rawhead eating kids. That’s what he does right? And not only do we get to see him eat the kids, we get to be in his head while he enjoys it, like he’s dining at a five star restaurant. I know this is probably more in movies than in books, but there’s some kind of rule that you don’t kill the kid, or the dog. We can already thank Richard Matheson for the dog part, but now we get the kids from Barker, with some eloquent details that just make it sound so deliciously evil. And yes, I used delicious on purpose. Rawhead is just doing what he does best, what he was supposedly put on this earth to do, and that’s terrorize us by taking something that is more precious than our own lives, and that is the lives of our children.

Not quite as scary, but still...

Not quite as scary, but still…

I love that we get into Rawhead’s POV and hear him puzzle out this new world while trying to balance his appetite and his need for destruction. He has to learn about cars and their “blood” and uses that knowledge to set a ton of fires. He learns to fear guns as a new weapon, but isn’t overly concerned by them. It’s always nice to hear why the monsters are driven toward what they are doing. In Rawhead’s case, it’s just how he was built. He is the ancient king of his Wild Domain, and humans are there to prey on. And that’s how it should be, in his opinion. I also love that the thing that finally makes him afraid is his antithesis, the Mother Goddess that is the source of life and not death. Even though it’s been a long time since humans worshiped her, her image still has sway over Rawhead, weakening him enough for the humans to take him down.

One thing that definitely grossed me out, even more than the eating of kids, was Declan’s “baptism” by Rawhead’s piss. While pee is not the highest on my list of bodily fluids that gross me out, people drinking said pee is still pretty gross. And reading about it while eating lunch was definitely not a good idea.

Reading The Books of Blood collection is my first experience with Clive Barker, and while the POV-hopping is annoying, the way he uses description in almost a beautiful way, to describe some horrible things, is awesome. Pairing eloquence with dread makes the horror story that much more sublime. “Rawhead Rex” is a great example of a monster that parents would use to scare their children into behaving, never realizing that once long ago, that monster was real, and was only waiting for the opportunity to be free to rule his domain again.

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8 Comments

  1. I liked that we got sections from Rawhead’s POV, too. It made him even creepier. It goes beyond showing us all the terrible things he does and shows us his mindset as he does them. We get to see what it’s like to think like the monster.

    And I agree–Declan’s baptism was pretty gross.

  2. I’m going to agree with Samantha. Getting into a monster’s head (for the first time this semester) was really great. It adds another layer to the revulsion we feel. And I hope we get to see that more often.

  3. You make a great point about Rawhead’s fear being of the mother goddess specifically – I struggled to reconcile his apparent ability to interact (and that’s far and away the most polite possible term) with living women with his crippling fear of a statue representing a woman. It makes much more sense to me now.

  4. Yeah, I appreciate the baby eating in this story, too. That’s the point of scary stories. To scare you. Especially those aimed at children to teach them how to behave. What’s scarier than thinking a monster is going to eat you up? As a 4-year-old that’s a pretty concrete mental image that doesn’t need a lot of clarification.

    What I could have done without is all of the references to piss. Especially Declan’s golden shower. That was quite possibly the grossest thing in the story.

  5. I agree with the Mother Goddess interpretation. Holy water and crosses frighten monitors of the Christian era, but Rawhead is pre-Christian so they have no power over him. I saw the blood and Venus as the holy water and cross of Rawhead’s heyday.

  6. Completely agree with you about Declan’s baptism–the visceral violence didn’t make me squirm, but that scene did. It represented Rex coming from a Pagan time, so this baptism was a mockery of later Christian baptisms. It also further showed Rex as a caricature of maleness.

  7. Clive Barker is horror unfiltered. A lot of it is really tough to get through, but I think the visceral-ness is important, and the lack of the narrative siding with anyone in particular in this story’s case was vital to the reader being able to come to their own conclusions. The POV hopping, therefore, is maybe a poor attempt to convey a kind of neutrality, and by treating Rawhead as neutrally as the humans his actions become even more monstrous when described from his own standpoint.

  8. When I read the scene where Rawhead noshed on Ron’s sons head, and it was in the kids POV, and he totally yarked down the monsters throat before the teeth closed, I put the book down and did a quiet golf clap for Barker. The man has balls carved of granite. I love me some child eating. (You know, in books)


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