The Books Of Blood Advent Calendar
“He’d never been a great thinker. Too much appetite: it overwhelmed his reason. He lived in the eternal present of his hunger and his strength, feeling only the crude territorial instinct that would sooner or later blossom into carnage.” – Clive Barker
The Monster Within..
“Rawhead Rex” by Clive Barker is a seminal horror story. In short, the premise is simple; a small, quiet English town has a horrible monster sleeping underneath, and that monster has a taste for the meat of Children. As the story continues, we see how people both fear and revere this creature. How it’s seen by those in positions of power, and those without power. We’re also shown how power consumes men. Rawhead is a being of absolute power and uses this to terrorize the townspeople. However, Barker is making a commentary on power, corruption, obsession, and masculinity.
The story opens in this small British town named Zeal. There is an urban legend about this creature named “The Tall Man.” it is later revealed The Tall Man to be Rawhead Rex. We’re then introduced to Thomas Garrow, who is working on his farm and isn’t sure what he is doing. While he is working the land he comes across a rock that he wants to remove and after lots of work he awakens Rawhead Rex. Upon awakening, Rex kills Garrow quickly. Here is where we get a description of Rex. “It was huge, like the harvest moon, huge and amber. But this moon had eyes that burnt in its pallid, pitted face. They were for all the world like wounds, those eyes, as though somebody had gouged them in the flesh of Rawhead’s face then set to candles to flicker in it’s holes.” (Barker, 368). Based on this description, you could say that Rawhead Rex is symbolic for toxic masculinity, the kind that abuses, kills, destroys, and ultimately corrupts.
We’re next introduced to the Nicholson’s since Rex hides out in their barn. This is also the first time we learn one of Rex’s weakness. He comes across Gwen Nicholson and we’re let known that Rawhead Rex likes to rape and impregnate women. However, Gwen is on her period, which disgusts Rex. We’re then introduced to the Nicholson family, Ameila the daughter and Denny the husband. Rex kills Denny via being tossed up in the air, then eats Amelia, and that’s how we learn Rex loves the meat of children.
To enter a more analytical lens of this story, Rawhead Rex is like a giant walking phallus and he is killing, eating, and raping anyone in his path. In this story, Barker gives us all the grisly details. This story is disgusting, gross, and interesting. Hell, in 2021 Rawhead Rex is more relevant than it was back in the 80s. Besides Rex being a giant erection. You also have Decan, who is a big name over at the church, and he’s constantly erect, and we’re told that he’s not someone we should trust. Rawhead Rex later baptises him in a ritual where Rex urinates on him. Declan even drinks the urine and makes a bond with the monster.
Like many of the stories in Books of Blood, the monster is a metaphor and that metaphor usually has to do with sex, sexuality, eroticism, corruption, etc. This story is all about power. Male power, the male gaze, the strength of masculinity. But it’s also about how masculinity is a monster. If it’s not controlled, reigned in, or put in its place, it can do horrible things. Rawhead Rex is masculinity as it’s most basic. A horrible creature, doing horrible things to unsuspecting townspeople.
Barker head hops a lot in this short story so that we’re given multiple perspectives. The most interesting of these perspectives are when Barker goes into Rex himself, describes how he sees the world, how he sees humanity. How he hates femininity. We see him and his attraction to children, as well as his consumption of children. We see him as he kills countless men, women, and children. We see individuals are powerless to stop him.
Rawhead Rex only has one weakness, the idol of a pregnant woman. Seeing this idol repulses him. It does more than repulses him. It’s his true weakness. He is set aflame, and he’s burnt and runs away from the idol. The town follows him and surrounds him. He tries to escape the pregnant idol but he can’t. That it’s the exact opposite of what Rex represents. Femininity and life. This idol kills Rex in an ending scene of emasculation. His piss runs down the hill.
This story is one standout in Books of Blood. It has a lot to say about power, masculinity and corruption. If you haven’t checked out Clive Barker’s fiction, this is one of the best places to start. Why not start by reading one of the best short stories by one of the best horror writers who ever lived?
Richard is a writer, reader, and reviewer. He has been a lifelong horror fan since he was a child. Horror is one of his biggest passions. After being a fan from a young age, he has had a journey through the genre inside and out. When not reading horror, he can be found watching movies, and working on his debut novel. He also hosts the podcast Staring Into the Abyss, where him, Villimey Mist, Michael Patrick Hicks, and Matt Brandenburg discuss horror fiction. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok under the username Rudy53088. You can also follow Staring Into the Abyss on Twitter under the username Intostaring. See you on the other side.