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‘Mad Max: Fury Road’: Another Modern Fisher King Myth, Part 4: The Hallows

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Not all contemporary Fisher King stories fold in the four hallows from the feast procession, but Mad Max: Fury Road does. In the classic Fisher King tale, the Grail Knight finds the Grail Castle and goes inside to find a feast taking place. As part of that feast, there is a grand procession that features four sacred hallows. You know what a hallow is thanks to Harry Potter. These are sacred objects, perhaps with magical properties, and, in this case, all have a part to play in the Fisher King’s injury or healing.

Since the Fisher King myth is all about fertility, two of the hallows have phallic shape two have yonic. The masculine hallows are the spear and the lance. The spear is a tool to break the curse. The lance is often the weapon that injured the King, but it’s also crucial to his release/healing/death. The feminine hallows are the dish and the grail. The dish will take many forms, though always flat: a platter, chessboard, or shield. Finally, the grail has the qualities of a horn-of-plenty. It provides sustenance and healing. It is a life-giver.

The way that Fury Road incorporates the hallows is rather ingenious. Rather than making these hallows objects, they are fluids. This didn’t occur to me until I read another film scholar’s take: “Public Seminar: Fury Road” by McKenzie Wark. Part of his analysis concerns four symbolic fluids crucial to the structure of the film: fuel, blood, water, and milk. I’m not doing a structural analysis but an archetypal one, so I’m going to slant the significance of these four fluids to the myth structure at hand.

nux

Our two phallic/masculine fluids are fuel (Guzzoline) and blood. Fuel, as far as it is used to both transport the wives away from the Citadel (and back) and also as a trade for passage, fits the description of a tool for healing the curse. In traditional stories, the spear appears frequently as a magical sword, you know, like Excaliber. Here, since the weapon of choice is vehicular, fuel is a clear symbol for the war-oriented phallus. A character that embodies this is Nux.

Likewise, blood is a masculine-coded fluid and aligns with the lance hallow. Since the lance is often associated with the injury itself, blood makes sense. Embodied in blood-bag Max, we see how he is emblematic of the Wasteland itself through his wanderer status, lack of family, and even shots like his “resurrection” from the sand after the storm rolls through. He initially donates blood to Nux, fueling the War Boys and Immortan Joe’s efforts. Of course, he is also the one who leads them back to the Citadel, and he acts eventually as a healer for Furiousa, who will finally kill Joe and revive the life-death cycle.

maxblood

Moving to the yonic, feminine hallows, we have water and milk. The two are both so strongly connected to fertility, it’s difficult to decide which is the proper dish and which is the grail. Water and milk appear early on in the film, both tightly controlled by Joe. Water is crucial to growing seeds and sustaining life of most kinds. When the heroes’ war rig returns to the Citadel with Joe’s corpse, the release of the water to the people is the great symbol that the injury (his caustic reign) has ended. It is, of course, important to note that the water is released by the wet nurses.

Milk is clearly embodied in the wives and wet nurses–the women who are fertile. The grail is meant to be life-giving and sustaining. A woman’s reproductive system is both. The uterus itself is cup shaped, it grows life when a woman becomes pregnant, and then after birth, a woman’s breasts become the cup that sustains the life with milk.

furiosa and wives

 

All four of these fluids are key to the breaking of the Fisher King’s curse and the returning of fertility to the land.

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Author: Erin Perry

I'm a high school English teacher specializing in AP Literature and Film Analysis. I'm interested in most things geeky, including superheroes, vampires, zombies, teen culture, postmodern philosophy, pop culture analysis, and combinations of the aforementioned. Follow me on Twitter @eriuperry.

4 thoughts on “‘Mad Max: Fury Road’: Another Modern Fisher King Myth, Part 4: The Hallows

  1. That’s a great insight about four fluids. I never thought about the film in that way. In Dune, “He who controls the Spice controls the universe.” In Fury Road, he who controls the water and gasoline, controls the people. I wrote a short post on Mad Max Fury Road called “When Barbarians Rule.” If you would like to read it, here is the link: https://christopherjohnlindsay.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/mad-max-fury-road/

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  2. Brilliant article. Your point of view made a lot of sense about the story line to me. I’m a Mad Max fan in Japan and I want to let my friends read your articles. So if you allow me, I would like to translate your article to Japanese and put them on my blog (my blog is not only about film, but various things I like). I’m not an expert, but I’ll try my best, I promise. Sorry for my poor English. Thank you.

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