Hannibal’s childhood gives clues to future
Every family has their proverbial skeletons somewhere in the past, but rare is the family whose child will eat the meat off the bones creating the skeleton. This seems to be the unique fate of the young Hannibal Lector.
“Hannibal Rising” gives us plenty of the detached gruesomeness we expect from a story with the now well-known cannibalistic serial killer, but the story also introduces us to a time in his childhood where circumstances seem to at least point Hannibal in the direction of the monster he is to become. The original impetus for his murderous desire somehow does not seem as irrational after finishing this book in the Hannibal saga. The characters that know him as a child such as his tutor, Mr. Jakov, as well as his stepmother, Lady Murasaki, begin to experience the emergence of what they describe as an incredible emptiness or detachment that resides deep within the young Hannibal.Hannibal grows up on the border of Lithuania and Russia in the midst of World War II and the Nazi invasion; his family survives by hiding out in their cottage in the woods. After awhile they are discovered by the coldly violent Grutas and his fellow SS officers. This meeting begins a deadly chain of events that will change Hannibal forever. He experiences the death of his mother and many of his family members as a result of the SS troops, only to be later rescued alone and chained to a stone wall. His being alone is key, as he had been held captive along with his sister, Mischa. Her fate possibly contributes to the monster Hannibal will become more than any other event.
The story moves to Hannibal’s time at the Peoples Orphanage, being run in the former Lector Castle, his family’s home for the previous 500 years. It is now stripped of the centuries of collected art, holding on the main wall a portrait of Stalin. Hannibal produces a fake letter alluding to his chalk dust allergy, ensuring his sitting alone in the back of the classroom. This allows him to work on Japanese style ink and watercolor paintings in the style of Mushashi Miyamoto.Somehow he finds in his mind the desire to cultivate his creative side after all the violence, death, and despair he has been exposed to by his 13th birthday. We witness his beginning to compartmentalize aspects of his life.
He has been mostly mute to this point in his life for reasons we do not know. It is not due to a physical inability of any sort. Around the time he begins to kill he finds his voice as though some door in the darker corners of his mind has been unlocked. He slams other doors shut; hiding somewhere the authorities can not find him as he passes a polygraph test and countless interrogations. In this latest novel, Hannibal’s beginnings as a killer do not seem completely random or detached. His victims are mainly war criminals that have some connection to his childhood. In the midst of his actions we experience an eerie change in him. It is not in the killings themselves, but in Hannibal’s emotional response to his actions that give us a snapshot of what he will become.”Hannibal Rising” takes us to a time in Hannibal’s life that takes place before the character we came to know in Thomas Harris’ earlier novels, “Red Dragon”; “The Silence of the Lambs”; and “Hannibal.” At times the story seems to drag in the beginning, but the second half of the novel gives the reader more of the excitement and sense of repulsion we have come to expect from a Hannibal Lector story. If you have followed Hannibal to this point you will certainly enjoy experiencing his childhood, in a curious but creepy way.
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