I’ve never attempted it myself. Apparently it’s sweet and best served cold. I’ve considered it but always given it up for something more positive somewhere in the early planning stages. A good revenge requires dedication and resources. Most of us have had our seething resentment over some callous hurt melt away over a pint with some friends who are interested more in suggestions filled with humorous irony than serious strategy. The assumption is that we are not psychopaths; that we need a moan and a laugh and then we can accept the vagaries of life, trust in some sort of cosmic balance, and move on.
You do need to be at least a bit psychopathic to carry a revenge through because there can be no half measures, you either need completely unbreakable anonymity and a cast iron alibi or you need to go all out for absolute obliteration of your oppressor. Even with acts of petty revenge the result of discovery is almost certainly going to lead to an escalating needle match. Remember, they were happy to hurt you before you did them harm, if they have even the slightest suspicion it was you then they will come after you. They are not the law and require no proof. Nor will “reasonable doubt” get you off the hook. No, they need to be certain beyond gravity that you were somewhere else doing something else entirely, preferably for their benefit. With witnesses and receipts.
Yet nobody else can know that you did it either or they are a permanent threat, a leak waiting to happen, a cold shudder of fear keeping you awake at night.
It must just be easier to destroy the tyrant who wronged you surely? Except that anything less than total annihilation is simply asking for trouble. Not just total annihilation of your persecutor but everyone connected to them who might consider themselves hurt by your actions or honour bound to bring their own retribution to your door. Every living relative is a potential for reprisal. You would have to do away with the lot, right down to the smallest leaf on the longest branch of the family tree if you wanted the assurance that you have not just started a blood feud. The same is true for every friend, colleague, employee and business associate they have too. Most of us just aren’t focused enough to carry off the necessary degree of despicable thoroughness and thankfully we know it.
You may be wondering what horrible wickedness has been done to me or mine that I am thinking about such things. Fortunately nothing of the sort has happened. I simply had a couple of delightfully gruesome tales in mind for this years hallowe’en period and my autumn tour. When I started thinking about the themes that they had in common I realised they were both stories of retribution and gathered a few more gems that deal with the same topic. From now to mid November I shall be learning and performing these gleefully grim and messy yarns as “The Season Of Revenge”. The big question is: what is it about revenge stories that appeals to us?
As far as I can tell it is that we want to believe in justice as an absolute. We want to believe in a universal law of fairness. We want those who hurt us to know our suffering, preferably by suffering it themselves with a little interest added on. We want bad things to happen to bad people. Stories about revenge make us feel that, somewhere at least, evil actions are met with an equal and opposite reaction. In the stories we see the world as we desire it to be, where crime does not pay and the wicked get what is coming to them. Through the actions of the characters we live out our own reprisals in safety (and without having to notch up an unfeasible body count). They act as a catharsis for us, one that leaves us satisfied that justice has been done and the cosmos is working as it should.
…here’s to living happily ever after, until the next adventure
If you want to learn how to get your own back in style with a selection of backstabing folk tales from around the world the details of The Talesman’s “The Season OF Revenge” Tour are on the giglist at http://www.thetravellingtalesman.co.uk/giglist.shtml