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VIOLENCE AND INDIGENA – SKIP TO A SECTION
PILLARS OF HERCULES ⎔ GREEK FACES ⎔ SHAME OF BEING WATCHED
FOUR HORSEMEN ⎔ GOLDEN BOWL ⎔ INDIGENOUS CONTENT
Alright, so I should say up front that I’m not a historian or archaeologist or professor of anything. At best I’m a passionate spectator of these pursuits, and besides that, something of a master pattern-recognition machine (if my section on the buried art in the film didn’t convince you of that, please check out my mirrorform or Redrum Road analyses). If your eyes are already glazing, or rolling back in your skull, please note that this first section of this page is the only section that contains a major scientific/psychological speculation, and I’ve tried to keep it at the end. The majority of what I have to unfold for you here derives from what’s specifically in the film.
Around months 5-6 that I worked on Eye Scream, I listened to countless hours of general science podcasts (to cope with the tedious task of making all the visuals for the site), and happened to hear Randall Carlson’s lengthy accounting of his research into what’s called the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis, the event from 12-13 thousand years ago that could be (in Carlson’s view, and in the view of much research, it seems) responsible for many of the flood myths found in early homo sapiens cultures.
Now, before we get into my findings I suppose I should disclaim myself further by saying it’s possible that other people have connected these dots before me (it might even be something I heard in the Carlson interview that I later forgot he said). If they have, I’m unaware of their work (or have forgotten it), and would be happy to point you in their direction, should anyone bring that to my attention.
My main interest here is in observing how this field of study might be being referenced by Kubrick’s The Shining, and possibly many other films and stories (in some or even all cases without realizing it).
I’m also aware that for anyone who is an expert in any or all of these subjects, it might seem like I’m blowing up a tiny network of detail to make a point that ignores the bigger picture. Sort of like how the Scientific American cover seen throughout the film does this with Pieter Bruegel’s The Tower of Babel.
For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to proceed as if I’m the first person to ever notice this constellation of unsettling data points. And while I have some of my own ideas about what this all says about human psychology, again, I’ll leave those to the end. We’ll start with what is definitely observable within The Shining.
First, a little background on the Pillars.
The Pillars of Hercules are a real place (as seen in the above graphics), named for a snippet of Greek mythology. In myth, Hercules punches his way through a mountain (called Atlas, because it literally used to be the titan Atlas) while on his tenth, final labour (until two more got tacked on), to fetch the red cattle of Geryon (either a three-headed warrior guy, or a giant chimera (a mash-up of several beasts), who was considered the grandson of Medusa). Kind of a lame-sounding labour, I know, but it involved creating these pillars out of Atlas by smashing through his mountain-self(?).
Now, the literal landmasses known as the Pillars of Hercules are Gibraltar at the north end and either Monte Hacho or Jebel Musa at the south end (I’m not sure why this is controversial, and I don’t really care). The important part is: the land that stretches north and south from the current divide are continuous. When he displaced a mountain to create these pillars (and the strait of Gibraltar), what, logically, would’ve happened, in the minds of any Greco-Roman mythological literalist of the day? The waters of the Atlantic Ocean would’ve rushed in and created the Mediterranean Sea, right?
In reality, the Zanclean flood is theorized to have reflooded the Mediterranean 5.33 million years ago, only several hundred thousand years after the dawn of Homininae (that’s us), and millions of years before humans left Africa. So, while the sea was created by massive flooding, humans didn’t experience it directly. But if the Younger Dryas Cataclysm hypothesis proves true, and if it indeed lead to massive flooding in the northern Mediterranean 12000+ years ago, and if the floods lead to massive loss of life for peoples living around these shorelines, that could explain how humans living around the area would’ve eventually worked the straight of Gibraltar into their mythology. They knew that that’s where the water came from, and they wondered why.
I’ve always thought one of the most interesting things about Hercules/Herakles was how no one seemed to mind that he murdered his family. I mean, the murders were a major aspect of the ancient understanding of the myth, but in modern times, the representation of Herakles/Hercules in movies and shows tends to overlook his status as a family-killing maniac to favour his image as a beefcake Santa Claus, roaming jolly through the countryside, solving problems and besting foes, bringing peace and happiness.
The story goes that Herc was living an ordinary life as a mortal (under the name Alcides, now known as a type of moth) until Hera found out that Zeus had squirrelled away this bastard son, and then in her wroth went and informed Herc (with the help of her messenger Iris, goddess of rainbows and the sea…notice any rainbows in Sister’s Creek?) he was a demigod, which caused him to temporarily lose his mind, and in his frenzy, he murders his wife and children. He has to perform his ten labours (then two bonus labours) as penance for this, but it’s just always seemed odd to me that people have a generally positive regard for Herc in spite of the fact that his origin story stole some notes from Delbert Grady’s.
He made up for his familicide in part by stealing some cows…
So, in reality, we now know that global sea level rise is a recurring fact of history, and probably a result of ancient climate change and melting glaciers. During the Younger Dryas impact event peoples all over the earth would’ve had to flee inland to survive. The resulting flood myths (if that’s what they are) all involve a hero with prior knowledge of the flood, a la Noah or Gilgamesh.
One more thing before I get to my point: Dante described Homer’s Ulysses as being in the “pit of the Fraudulent Counsellors” in the Inferno, because of how he got his crew to “voyage past the Pillars of Hercules to gain knowledge of the unknown”. They find the mountain of Purgatory while asea, but then a whirlwind sinks them all for daring to approach Purgatory “by their strength and wits alone”.
According to Renaissance tradition, the pillars were supposed to be inscribed with Ne plus ultra: “nothing further beyond”. Which is funny because the Vikings had already been making contact with the Americas for centuries by then.
Anyway, behind Jack in the interview is a picture of the Americas from the first ever Atlas, made around 1570 by Abraham Ortelius, showing, essentially, the results of Christian Europeans having finally defied the old logics, and going where there was nothing further beyond.
And it’s in the shadow of this Atlas artwork that Jack first hears about the murdered Grady girls, who were “about 8 and 10” (whereas the ghosts appear as twins). A few moments later, Danny is washing up back in Boulder, when Tony tells him that his dad already got the job, and a moment later, shows him his first vision of what’s to be feared about this spooky old hotel: a giant, crashing, flooding rush of blood, interrupted by a flickering vision of two twin girls standing sentinel, and a scream face from Danny that will later turn out to be the face he makes as Hallorann’s being slaughtered.
So, essentially, Danny is getting the Noah vision from Tony’s God. Danny is now the one with the foresight to do something about the coming flood (and do something he will). But when he sees the twins in the games room, he doesn’t speak to them, or approach them. In fact, Ullman’s secretary says she found Danny “outside” looking for his parents. So, he fled the pillars…since there’s nothing further beyond (note the side exit visible by the poster for the 1976 olympics; do the olympics have anything to do with Heracles?).
In the same shot as he first sees the twins in the ghostflesh, they stand with a poster above/between them commemorating the Denver 1912 flood, a poster using Frederic Remington’s The Cowboy, and a poster for the ski resort known as Steamboat. The SKI MONARCH poster seems to have a Greco-Roman connection too, but we’ll come back to that.
Later, with Hallorann, he shines room 237 out of Hallorann’s thoughts (it seems), and asks him what’s so scary about it. Hallorann, thinking this is his secret fear, is shocked, but fiercely warns Danny to stay out of there. Ne plus ultra, Danny!
On his first trike ride, going in circles around the Colorado lounge, he encounters nothing supernatural. Then, on the second trip, he passes 237 twice going opposite directions, then we get two shots of Danny seeing the room, and then he gives the door knob two turns. It’s locked. But then he gets a flash of the twins. There’s a connection between them and this place. Nothing further beyond. Or to put it another way, “Nuthin! There ain’t nuthin in room 237! But you ain’t got any business goin’ in there anyway. So stay out! You understand? Stay out!”
On his third trip, he encounters the girls directly, after passing a painting by Dorothy Oxborough.
The girls split from being twins joined by the hands, to splayed out murder victims, one above of the other.
(The first image below refers to how the girls first appear in the ghostflesh while standing between a possible reference to Taurus (the bull) and Sagittarius (the horse man), representing the month Jack quit drinking (May), and the month Jack will try to murder his family (December).
The second image below refers to the way they go from looking like the symbol for Gemini to the symbol for Cancer. These correspond to the months of June and July. July being the month that photo Jack will be trapped in forever. And a month named for a historical figure with many connections to ol’ Jack Torrance.)
The pillars are destroyed, and now there’s blood everywhere. So here we’re joining the concept of Hercules murdering his family (the dead twins) with the idea of Hercules creating the pillars (the live twins).
As a bonus: doesn’t the overturned chair seem to embed the actual constellation for Cancer in this shot? The constellation for Gemini simply resembles two children holding hands, which the Grady twins do.
Also, the telescoping shots of the girls reveal that while they seemed to be in a dead end at first, there is in fact a second left-hand turn that can be made beyond them. Does Danny make that turn? We never see how he leaves the hall, so I suppose that’s up to our imaginations, but the fact is that he could have triked forward without going beyond the spot they appeared on, and he could’ve gone beyond. What’s certain is that his next encounter with the supernatural will involve being invited to go beyond, and Danny accepting the challenge.
In the one scene between the final twins vision and 237 Danny is seen wearing a sweater with Steamboat Willie on it. And in this scene Jack will quote the twins without realizing. “I wish we could stay here forever…and ever…and ever.” But just like the people who dreamed of sailing past the pillars of Hercules, Danny will dream of sailing into 237, wearing a symbol of modern herstory’s success at sailing beyond the borders of earth itself: Apollo 11.
Note the way Danny’s Apollo 11 shirt has a gemini symbol embedded on it, as if he’s carrying in the mark of the twins with him. Apollo was himself a twin with the goddess Artemis. He was the god of the sun, while she was the goddess of the moon. (Actually, while I’m on the subject, Hercules also had a half twin, Iphicles.)
If 237 is indeed some kind of moon room, it would follow that Danny goes there in part due to the horror of the slaughtered twins. He wants to bring balance back to his life, bring the sun back to the moon, Apollo back to Artemis, his father back to his mother. In the last scene, he was seeing his father as a shell of his former self. Here, a pink ball rolls up to him (right through the wall from where Jack is earlier throwing the yellow ball in the lounge 11 (audible) times), and the question he asks into space as he creeps upon 237 is “Mom…? Mom…? Mom, are you in there?” In his last scene with Wendy, she was showing him an 18A film about sexual discovery and war (Summer of ’42).
So in a sense he’s starved for a proper sense of duality. He wants his parents to return to themselves, and he’s willing to go to any length to make it happen.
I also just want to note that the first toy Danny touches before entering 237 is the Matchbox Merc 350SL. And while Merc is short for Mercedes, it could also be short for Mercury. Why is that significant? Well, Apollo famously bestowed the god Mercury’s famous caduceus upon him (a staff with wings on top). A caduceus was also carried by Hermes, Mercury’s Greek counterpart, and the main character in Summer of ’42 is named Hermie, after the screenwriter Herman Raucher, who wrote the autobiographical screenplay.
You know who else famously carried a caduceus?
The messenger of Hera who drove Herakles/Hercules into a familicidal rage, who, as discussed, was the goddess of rainbows and the sea, Iris. Which is also the English word for the part of the eye that opens and allows in the light that lets us see.
Does this mean Herakles was the original eye screamer? Was Iris his Tony/Lloyd? (In another branch of research, which we’ll get to eventually, I discovered that the Greeks had a concept for such infusing spirits as Tony, and called them Genii, or Genius for singular.)
One thing’s for sure: right before Danny gets his first visions, we’re shown that his door has two prominent rainbows on it.
And right before Dick gets the shine from Danny, he’s watching a weather report on Colorado which features a massive rainbow. Note how there’s a red trident-shaped graphic coming out of the rainbow, above a graphic of a storm formation.
And right after Dick receives Danny’s shine, we see him in his living room making phone calls to the Overlook, and then to the US Forest service, and each time he walks past this copy of Car and Driver, which features the name Mercury Zephyr on its cover. Zephyr comes from Zephyrus who was the “west wind” in Greek mythology, and also…the husband of Iris.
And right before Danny gets his first shine, Wendy walks past an album by Stomu Yamash’ta’s East Wind. An “east wind” in the west of Colorado, a “west wind” in the east of Florida. One with a connection to Herakles’ familicide.
When I was looking generally for Greco-Roman symbols in the film, I thought this rainbow abundance might have something to do with Neptune, and check this out. A drawing by Dutch artist Willem Basse called Neptune and the Pillars of Hercules (1634). Do you see the way the “ne” in “ne plus ultra” is now missing? Was this a jab at the falseness of Greco-Roman mythology? Basse also did etchings of Noah’s Ark and the Flood, and The Stabbing of Pompey, and one called Woman Reading, so, though I haven’t found any direct references to Basse in the film, it seems clear that he and Kubrick had similar interests (in case this is the first section you’re reading, Julius Caesar (who was at civil war with Pompey when he was stabbed) is quite important to The Shining subtextually).
Getting back to the 237 sequence: as Danny approaches 237, the paintings across the hall are by John Webber who accompanied Captain Cook’s 18th-century voyages around the Pacific: another example of the cultural advancements resulting from sea exploration. These were visible during the first trike past the room, but A Woman of Unalashka is especially visible here, during the final approach.
(And, of course, a “cook” is who becomes summoned to the Overlook as a result of the room 237 odyssey, a “cook” is who the Overlook wants Jack to murder, and a “cook” is the one person murdered in the film.)
So, it’s only after Danny’s fourth and final vision of the twins that he is invited into 237. He’s going beyond where once there was thought to be nothing. But is this the mountain of Purgatory that Ulysses discovered in his hubris (after five (miserable?) months sailing the Atlantic ocean with his crew)? Or Geryon’s isle (the name of which (Erytheia) meant “red one”) where Hercules slays everything and steals the red cows? Or both? I’m not exactly sure.
Danny definitely pays a price for doing as Ulysses did, and not heeding the warnings from withal. His strangulation by the ghost crone renders him catatonic or silent for the remainder of the film. Also, as Danny’s walking into 237, we fade over to Wendy in the boiler room, where there’s a painting (I haven’t identified) that looks like the brimstone version of a William Blake painting of Jacob’s Ladder (on the three red tubes to the right). For the longest time I thought it was Dante’s Inferno, and maybe Kubrick had someone mock up a version of that painting to give that impression. If so, talk about a direct reference! For it’s in the Inferno (go here and scroll down to Canto XXVI for proof) that Ulysses is eternally tormented for his hubris.
Also, I should mention that on the film’s soundtrack here is a song by Krzysztof Penderecki called The Dream of Jacob/The Awakening of Jacob. It’s about Jacob’s ladder.
A Penderecki song we hear after the final iteration of The Dream of Jacob/The Awakening of Jacob (a song with twin names…) is called Polymorphia, which means “many shapes or forms” or “the same meaning in many different forms”.
Geryon, the grandson of Medusa, who Hercules had to get the red cattle from, has had many different descriptions over the centuries (some said he had multiple bodies, some said he had multiple heads), but most agree he was a monstrous warrior. When Dante worked him into his Inferno, he reimagined him into the total chimeric monstrosity you see below. For a while I thought this was a pretty good metaphor for the Overlook as a general entity. You know, its corridors and passageways, windows and rooms, shift around and overlap and don’t make sense, and Lloyd, Grady and the 237 ghost act as its human face(s).
We first hear Polymorphia as Wendy enters the lounge to face Jack (where it will play for 732 seconds, as my Fibonacci analysis uncovered, in edited-together clumps of 495 seconds (the lounge fight), and 237 seconds (Wendy locking up Jack in the pantry)). The intensity of the song’s passages pair beautifully with Wendy’s discovery of the All Work pages, and with the first appearance of redrum-ready Jack.
Polymorphia is only interrupted once Wendy clubs Jack first on the hand before then cracking his skull. The song keeps playing, but now with Utrenja: Kanon Paschy overtop, which is from a composition Penderecki created to express the entombment and resurrection of Christ. Polymorphia continues right through the sequence of Wendy dragging and locking up Jack in the pantry, only ending when Wendy steps out of the hotel to go find the dead snowcat. It comes on again for a moment while Wendy regards the dead snowcat.
The song reappears only twice more, and much more briefly, after Jack’s killed Hallorann and is arriving at the mouth of the hall that looks down to where Danny is hiding, starting up again when Wendy sees the BJ bear in a moment. As I’ve noted elsewhere, the blood stain on Jack’s hand (from Wendy slashing it with the knife) looks like a red cow or bull, with four red lines running down between his knuckles.
Wendy passes the Moon and Cow painting (on the 23rd of 37 steps), and is now looking in on a bear-faced person, next to the painting of two muskox, and a painting of Mt. Vesuvius (likely (as far as I can see) named after Hercules). This last iteration of Polymorphia ends when Jack reaches the exit of the hotel, which is between another two Oxborough paintings (see below). So, if Polymorphia is emblematic of the Geryon aspect of the hotel, and Jack’s official submersion into the hotel’s forces for evil, the curse is lifted somewhat once characters go outside, it seems.
In fact, in the mirrorform, these two periods are the exact lengths of Danny’s two major shines from Tony…
…and Hallorann (I fudged the timing (for the set below), because the actual cut-off marks are visually unspectacular, and difficult to differentiate). So it’s not just the great outdoors that banishes evil, but also the shines from our friends. Aww… who knew Kubrick was so cute! (Cute-brick?)
(I’ve since discovered the identity of a cartoon poster in the snowcat garage that features a character saying to another, “Why aren’t you shining, Gerhard?”)
Hercules rides across the ocean to reach Erytheia in a golden bowl/cup bestowed upon him by the sun god Helios, and The Shining contains two such golden bowl/cups. One in the spot where Jack’s typewriter will later sit. And one on a table that will later vanish so that a defeated Jack/Geryon can be dragged through the space by Wendy (see below). But while I suspect this is a tenth labour of Herakles reference, I’ve already analyzed this phenomenon through a slightly different lens, which you can read about here.
The last thing to note is that, besides killing Geryon with a bolt through the skull, Herakles also kills Orthrus (aka Orthus), Geryon’s two-headed guard dog, and brother of Cerberus, the two/three-headed dog of Hades, also killed by Herakles. While not specifically Cerberus’ twin, Orthrus has been called his “doublet“.
Anyhow, there’s at least two instances in the hotel of two dog paintings appearing side by side. One in the lounge (where the first Jack-as-Geryon fight happens)…
…and one in the hallways near the lobby, when Jack is stalking away from Wendy, and toward the ghost ball, which is the sequence that transforms Jack into a full minion of the hotel. Perhaps the as-yet-unidentified Franklin Carmichael-esque painting of the bay of islands is meant to remind us of the strait of Gibraltar.
As you can see in the last image above at least one of these dog heads (a German Shepherd/Alsatian) repeats at the 2nd entrance. It’s visible both times Jack and Wendy use this passage, but we can’t see if the Brittany Spaniel is nearby. It’s probably safe to assume it is, but perhaps the loss of the Spaniel means something. Perhaps it means Orthrus is half-dead at this point.
As readers of my mirrorform analysis will recall, I have a theory that this last talking ghost in the film is the real Charles Grady of Ullman lore, and that the disappearance of the dog art and the landscape that should be behind him here is reflective of his murder of his wife and daughters. So if this pattern is intentional, this is a nice way to tie the Grady twins to the dog art, and therefore to Orthrus.
Actually, that could be why we only see the German Shepherd at the 2nd entrance. Jack has slaughtered Hallorann at that point and is gunning for Danny. The missing Spaniel represents dead Hallorann. And Hercules thought that his tenth labour would be his last, but then two more were tacked on, which involved stealing golden apples and slaying Cerberus, Orthrus’ doublet. So it could be that Jack has slain Orthrus, and is heading to slay Cerberus, though I’m not sure why Danny would be that, or how Jack could be both Hercules and Geryon.
Perhaps Kubrick, by combining this idea of western expansion (ne plus ultra) and familicide, is saying that Orthrus/Cerberus were to Herakles what the pillars of Herakles were to humanity. A frightening boundary to be conquered. For Herc this meant twice voyaging into certain death: the Atlantic Ocean and Hades.
This would imply that Western expansion was itself either the red cattle of Geryon or Geryon himself. Or both. Certainly, the Overlook can start to seem like the epitome of Western expansion’s ills and evils (the indigenous genocides, slavery, environmental devastation (which is rapidly heading toward omnicide), and the will to forget these things ever happened are just the highlights), but it’s also the place where Danny undergoes an incredible process of enlightenment (as those who’ve read my section on cycles and patterns will understand better). So it’s not pure malice, this place. In fact, it contains the lessons and keys to Danny’s and Wendy’s survival.
But perhaps that’s a matter of perspective.
One last thing: while I’m not sure if there are many Herculean figures buried around the hotel, there is at least one, and it’s right around the corner from the Orthrus dogs.
As Jack is heading to the ghost ball, he’s passing this Lawren Harris painting, Maligne Lake Jasper Park. Note how it resembles the first shot in the film. More importantly, one of the mountains Harris was painting here is called Samson Peak. Samson was a Nazirite, and is Christian myth’s answer to Herakles, according to some sources. And perhaps this is because he prays to god for the awesome strength to topple a Philistine temple (by collapsing two pillars), murder-suiciding everyone inside in an epic genocide that wipes the Philistine’s off the face of the earth. Not as impressive as Herakles’ 12 labours, maybe, but think of all the people who’ve dreamed of wiping out an entire culture of people throughout history, and realize that one of the bible’s great heroes accomplished this in a single move.
How Samson fell into Philistine hands, though, was through the ceaseless meddling of the harlot Delilah, who he eventually told how to rob him of his strength (by cutting his hair off) for no good reason. She then instantly uses this knowledge to disempower him, and sell him out for 1100 silver coins.
And as Jack is passing Samson Peak, he’s just come from bitching out Wendy for her secret desire to ruin his life by taking him away from the Overlook hotel to get Danny a doctor. So if the rather literate Jack Torrance had any inkling that he was passing Samson Peak, he might’ve spared a thought for how much like Samson he felt in that moment.
He’ll be in the shadow of this art when he comes to kill the radio and the snowcat, and finally when he does kill Hallorann.
Sorry, one more thing. I could’ve put this above, but it didn’t feel right to go there.
So, remember how the Grady girls are “about 8 and 10”? Well, if we read 10 as the 10th labour of Herakles (the red cattle), then 8 would be the 8th labour (the mares of Diomedes). The king of Thrace has these four man-eating horses. Herakles feeds Diomedes to them, which cures them of their wildness, and he capers away with them. These four horses had Greek names that translated to “the swift, the yellow, the terrible, and the shining”. Well, there just so happens to be four easily identifiable horses in the film (among several other not so easy ones).
A swift one…
A yellow one…
A terrible one…? (This one might seem more obscure than the others, but in the big screen version you’re watching Jack move around on this spot, and your eye glances off the horse image every time it appears…I’ve since discovered this might be a famous horse of horse-racing herstory, like Red Rum, or possibly Eclipse, but have had little luck winnowing it down. The closest one to this picture would be pictures of Eclipse’s sire Marske, but I haven’t had a perfect ID.)
And (another yellow) one next to one helluva shine.
That one might be more of a donkey or pony, but still.
It’s possible there’s a much richer network of buried 8th Labour of Herakles clues (Heraclues?), but this was a small point. I just can’t help pointing out when I find something actually called “the shining” in one of these (shallow) dives.
Update: I’ve since discovered a massive code buried in the large pillars that stand behind Jack while he types, so if you don’t know what the F21 Key is, you’ll need to start here, but if you do know, you can skip to here.
Also, I’ve discovered some more Vesuvius (and therefore Hercules) references in the film since writing this section. I could’ve woven these into the above analysis, but I’ll just tack ’em on here.
Actually, there’s little sense in repeating here what I’ve already written in the art section, so, for a complete overview of the secret meanings behind all the birds in Danny’s lesson key, go here, or if you’d prefer to skip straight to the Hercules stuff, go here. And when you’re done that, there’s two paintings of Mount Vesuvius (a name meaning “Son of Ves” which means “Son of Zeus” basically, which everyone understood to mean Hercules) that I’ve discovered so far, and possibly a handful of others. If I can ever verify all the others, I’ll do a special section on how all these pieces relate to each other. For the Vesuvius in Suite 3, go here, and for the Vesuvius in the BJ well, go here. And for the one I believe will prove to be in room 237, go here.
SPECIAL: THE MURDER AWARDS
Believe it or not, it was many, many months between realizing that Hercules and the Olympics were in the film…and my realizing that these two things have to do with each other. It was only when doing my analysis of what I call the Grady Twin paintings that I finally put two and two together.
Hercules, according to mythology, founded the Olympics. Denver was almost the site for the 1976 Olympics, and there’s a poster in the games room that was (likely) designed in anticipation of those festivities.
But, in a truly unique twist of events, Denver became the only city in herstory to democratically undo the agreement. And so the 1976 winter Olympics were moved to Innsbruck, Austria, which happens to be just up the road from the Kaiser Mountains, depicted in the painting overlapping with the games room poster in this moment (21:34) of the film. And as you’ll see below, the reason this is possible is because the Kaiser mountains painting is being reflected in the makeup mirror.
Kaiser comes from the word Caesar, and Julius Caesar, besides being referenced numerous times in the film, died (in 44 BC) exactly 732 years after the founding of the Olympics (in 776 BC). Julius Caesar was considered a “strong man” military dictator, which was part of what lead to his assassination. This painting of the Kaiser Mountains is (very likely) by Alois Arneggar, who famously attended the same art school that rejected Adolf Hitler from inclusion, which has lead many to wonder if this was the reason why the Holocaust happened, or if Hitler’s enrolment might’ve prevented the Holocaust. The poster for the failed Olympics was (very likely) by art professor Gene Hoffman, who taught at the University of Northern Colorado, so there is, at the very least, an art school/dictator connection there.
It’s possible that there’s a bunch of location-based Olympics references in other paintings that I’m overlooking, but the other cool thing, there, is that the 1976 summer Olympics were held in Montreal, Canada, which involved the building of an Olympic Stadium which, among other things, caused the games to be considered a massive economic blunder, which is exactly what the people of Denver were trying to avoid. And the first painting we see in the film is JEH MacDonald’s piece The Solemn Land, depicting the Montreal River. The pieces to either side of it–Winter Landscape, Laval and Log Hut on the St. Maurice by Cornelius Krieghoff probably depict the Thousand Islands and St. Maurice rivers, both of which are just up the river from Montreal. The piece of the Kaiser mountains, while not properly identified yet (Arneggar did many similar-looking pieces of the mountains, and I haven’t been able to find the exact one) could be called Winterlandschaft (Winter Landscape), as some of the available versions are called. And it’s first seen hanging directly across from the three Montreal-approximate ones in the lobby (including Winter Landscape, Laval), and it’s never clear whether the version that later appears in Suite 3 is the same painting having been moved by one of the Torrances, or some magic duplicate by the hotel. In any event, Hallorann is likely murdered while surrounded by these soft references to the world’s most well-known sporting event, founded by mythology’s most well-known family slaughterer.
And Jack dislocated Danny’s shoulder “3 goddamn years ago”, which, in 1979, was 1976. So it’s possible Jack clove his son’s mind in two after coming home from an Olympic Games watching party (making it either the 21st summer or 12th winter games). Just as Caesar was murdered right before the 184th Olympic Games.
But the thing that got me really thinking about this was how, when Wendy sees MURDER, there’s these three lamps that weren’t there during the tour of Suite 3, which appear bronze, silver and gold in this moment (in earlier shots with these lamps, a change in the camera filter, or some sort of colour-correction caused them to look orangier). And they’re in the formation of an Olympic platform, with bronze on the left, silver on the right, and gold in the middle. And each is situated right next to some kind of butterfly imagery. The bronze has that butterfly-style makeup kit at its base, the silver is next to the butterfly art on the wall (which I suspect to be a knitting template by Derwentwater Designs), and the gold is (visually) close to the butterfly mobile on the makeup stand. Since butterflies are most associated to the Grady family, and they’ve got a certain murder connotation to them, I’m wondering if this is meant to be the “Olympics of murder”. (You might even notice the little red Olympic medal necklace thing drooping out of Wendy’s jewelry box, directly below the M in MURDER.)
If so, are certain individuals or forces within the film receiving these murder awards? And if so, who? And why? Or is it as simple as one who and one why?
In the mirrorform, the bronze touches Ullman, the gold touches Jack, and the silver floats near the shadow monster artwork in the front foyer. Not knowing yet who that shadow monster art is by (or even the butterfly painting on the other side), we’re deprived of a perfect concept for everything going on here. If I’m right that the butterfly image is a Derwentwater Design, that would give it a name that connects to the man who owned the hotel in the novel, Horace Derwent (pg. 155). So perhaps the shadow monster will possess a name that will expand on this issue of the hotel’s former, mob-connected ownership, or on the way that novel Jack’s obsession with the secret mob history is how the hotel distracts him from what it’s going to do to him and his family. Hopefully time will tell.
But we do know that Philip Ardery’s Bomber Pilot: A Memoir of World War II is sitting right beneath the “gold” lamp, and that Ullman is wearing a “bomber” jacket, and that Maxi Böhm (very likely) appears on the TV behind Jack and the gold lamp. Is it just a coincidence that “mob” spelled backwards sounds like “bomb” (in English)?
Anyhow, yeah, whole lotta murder awards goin’ on around here. As I make new discoveries on the unknown bits I’ll try to remember to update this section. I suspect we haven’t drilled down to the very bottom of this well quite yet.
Update: I’ve since discovered that the most famous other Jack Torrance was an Olympian shot putter who made world records in the 1930s. He placed fifth in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and our Jack Torrance is said to have been born in Berlin, New Hampshire. Also, that happens to be the Olympics that Leni Riefenstahl filmed, transforming the event into Nazi propaganda for her leader, Adolf Hitler. The doc was called Olympia (1938), and in chapter two of the novel, Watson tells Jack (pg. 22) about an older woman who kills herself in her room near the Colorado lounge after getting wasted all day with her boy toy, on Singapore slings and a bottle of Olympia. Was this Lorraine Massey?
And this is not Olympics-based specifically, but I’ve also discovered that the REDRUM conceit was possibly inspired by a Thoroughbred steeplechaser who won the Grand National, or placed second, from 1973-1977. There’s a painting/photo of such a horse in the lounge, which can be seen most clearly while Jack throws the tennis ball, and while Wendy is backing away from Jack in the lounge fight. The closest thing I’ve yet found to the image in the film is a painting of a horse named Marske, but I think it’s likelier a photograph. This wall also very possibly includes a shot of a woman having just bagged a shark aboard the Wendy II fishing boat. Possibly all the photos along the bottom row here are sports references foreshadowing Wendy’s defeat of Jack in just a few moments.
Other Update: The two Silver Beauty No. 8200 devices (the white-and-teal device beside Watson and Wendy in the first image below, and beside Durkin in the third image below) appear exactly 1200 mirrorform seconds apart (24:00-44:00) and cover 1226 seconds of mirrorform (23:40-44:05) from the first appearance of the first one to the final appearance of the second…
…and 1226 is one of the numbers appearing on the boxes of the store room. It’s on the orange “FRUITS FOR SALAD” box to Danny’s left here, second from the bottom – sorry, I know the mirrorform is making it hard to make out. But I wanted to include the mirror moment so you could see that it’s as this 1226 is appearing beside Danny that the mirrorform makes it look like he’s standing in roughly the same spot of the garage as the Silver Beauty had appeared in before, only now we have a murdered snowcat.
I did a study of the various box numbers, where I explored how these numbers might be asking us to consider what’s happening at the given time code. So 1226 seconds into the film is 20:26, which happens to be exactly the Murder Awards moment. In fact, it’s a touch beyond this image (I’m out of space on the site for new images), where Watson has passed behind Ullman, and Jack’s arm has dropped, but the gold-silver-bronze lamps are all still there. Perhaps that’s significant since Watson is the most “silver” of these beauties, that he would be out of view for the number connecting to the “Silver Beauty”. But what would that mean for a possible Derwentwater Design being right next to the silver lamp? Perhaps it simply signifies that Watson, however much he may represent the hotel having an “angel” figure to accompany Ullman’s “devil” figure, is part of these murderous goings-on.
Okay, so, that’s all what I think is definitely in the movie, so far as Kubrick’s deliberate attention to the Herakles mythology goes, but I just wanted to tack on one extra insight I had (which, I hope you’ll agree, is a little stronger now that we’ve got direct references, and given the nature of those references).
SPECIAL: THE YOUNGER DRYAS CATACLYSM
So, I was hearing in the Randall Carlson episode of the Joe Rogan podcast that before the Younger Dryas Cataclysm, the dominant form of worship was to female goddesses (according to Wikipedia, venus statuettes range from 35,000 years ago to 11,000 years ago, just after the Younger Dryas event), which we know thanks to the relics we’ve unearthed from that period showing predominantly feminine forms. Whether these were actually relating to worship of female deities, I’m not sure, but I believe that’s the conjecture. So I’m going to assume that’s true for the sake of my insight.
So, the Younger Dryas Cataclysm predates all of our modern myths–Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.–by thousands of years. But what it did was put a lot of plants and animals underwater, and this probably included a lot of coastal-living homo sapiens.
So perhaps the reason why Herakles (a name meaning literally “the glory of Hera”) might be attached to both the smashing of Atlas and the murder of his family is because of the unconscious connection people were able to make between the unspeakable holocaust wrought on humanity by climate change thousands and thousands of years ago, and the more everyday murders that people commit against one another (through war, passion, crime or psychopathy).
Like, people have probably always thought that murder was not good. But if they believed that gods were the reason behind everything earthly–women gods–what were they to make of this giant flood that wiped out whole villages, and whole tribes? And which changed the face of the earth as they knew it forever? Even if it spared the lucky ones who had the foresight that something was changing.
So, I’m wondering if the mythology that followed the Younger Dryas impact event was one of shifting power from feminine forces (the bountiful earth, and all its rich, spread-out resources) to masculine forces (the sun and stars, and a more top-down hierarchical approach to life). To put it another way, a shift from x-axis thinking, to y-axis thinking.
But on an emotional level, imagine how hard it would be, if you’d witnessed somehow the annihilation of most of your tribe at the hands of a natural event not ever seen on earth before by homo sapiens (and if every other tribe reported the same thing), to trust in that feminine energy again. Would you be tempted to never trust women and their goddesses again? Would you be tempted to want to never see another woman? Or, if you gave into Lloyd the bartender’s logic (“Women! Can’t live with em, can’t live without em.”) would you be tempted to keep them around, but punish them relentlessly by structuring a society that makes women, as John Lennon and Yoko Ono put it, the n-word of the world? How would you go about that? How would you build that world?
Well, perhaps the Greeks did it by having “the glory of Hera”, part-man, part-god, link to the reason the Mediterranean flooded. That way, it’s a bit like the flood wasn’t a completely godly event (Herakles was a demigod), and it wasn’t a completely feminine event (Herakles is the glory of Hera (in that Hera allowed the strength of strong men to endure), but he himself was a man). Perhaps if you’re an ancient Mesopotamian you have the goddess Ishtar send the Bull of Heaven after Gilgamesh for spurning her advancements (she then sentences Gilgamesh’s best friend to death for killing the Bull of Heaven, which leads Gilgamesh to seek the secret of eternal life–a very Jack Torrance kind of pursuit). And perhaps if you’re an ancient Jew you have Noah be the man, and ensure that no other great flood will ever happen again in a million billion years simply by being The Man. And perhaps you have Eve and Lilith be the reason everything went to shit in the first place.
When Danny starts to see REDRUM in conjunction with the bloodfall this allegory behind all the Great Flood myths becomes completely abstracted from popular mythological subtext. The new context is a man (Grady) who killed his family and then blew his brains out and a man (Torrance) who wants to kill our hero and his mother, both of whom were seduced by a hotel’s promise of eternal life, and eternal inclusion.
The previous warning from Tony about the twins and the eye scream face was “this is what could happen to anyone who stays alone up there”.
The REDRUM warning (which starts just after Jack has been through 237, when he starts making it clear he’s not going to tell the truth about it to Wendy) is “This is going to happen to you“. It might be a natural event, and it might be your own dad who does it. But it’s coming. Get ready.
If all this was an intentional subtext from Kubrick, I love that he somehow figured all this out, that the Great Flood needed to be reappropriated or at least decontextualized for the good of womankind. But my creeping suspicion, as I’ve been doing my own research and connecting my own dots, is that this was somewhat more intuitive on the part of King, and maybe only slightly more intentional on the part of Kubrick, not to be arrogant. I just don’t know if the research I’ve been finding was being discussed in the 70s. I’m definitely not the first person this millennia to notice Judeo-Christian values aren’t exactly woman-friendly.
And I honestly have no idea if anything I’m saying here is scientifically true, anyway–I mean, of this last bit not taken directly from the film. And if I am right, what will it really change? Will men and women who accept this notion, who didn’t previously for whatever reason, figure out a way to preserve the wisdom in it? Is gender parity dependant on people understanding that an ancient flood has coded our psychological DNA with a predisposition against trusting the yins over the yangs (and how would trans, intersex, two-spirited, etc. people affect that overly taoist dichotomy of mine)?
Kubrick’s guiding principle in storytelling was, according to his interviews, “Is it interesting? Is it true?” So I guess just ask yourself if this theory seems either interesting or true. It’s possible we may never know what ancient cultures really felt about their woman gods and their man gods, but ask yourself, if you were a space alien, and you were able to learn all about human mythologies without ever having to interact with us, would you say the post-Great Flood era of myths has been more sympathetic to women than men? More supportive and loving, theologically? Or would you favour pre-Great Flood era myths for that?
Because if these findings do lead us toward a deeper truth, and if this rather epic but misguided concept of feminine evil was created by the effect the Younger Dryas Cataclysm had on male psyches (and probably female psyches as well), and is the reason why some men, for no good reason, hate women…then perhaps that’s what needs to be targeted and undone. Because if that is the root, and we don’t acknowledge that geologic forces play a role in determining our social attitudes, we could just stumble into finding more and more new ways down the millennia (if climate change or nukes don’t get us first) to turn the other into a slave, a subspecies, an enemy. Or as Delbert Grady would put it:
Post-Vesuvius Update: given that we now have art in the film which depicts a volcano named after Hercules, which genocided a town named Hercules Land, I think we can be a little more certain that Kubrick had these concepts on his mind. What’s interesting there is that what I’m attributing to the Younger Dryas Cataclysm basically happened in 79 AD (which is 42 + 37, in case you wondered), but 11000 years after the Cataclysm. Did the ancient Greeks realize what they were doing, naming the volcano, and the town it would likely eradicate if it eradicated any town, after the glory of Hera? I would deem the conscientiousness of that decision unlikely, but I think that almost strengthens the point. Sapiens are brilliant at coming up with ways to codify our experience of the natural world into mythologies and religious narratives that are extraordinarily practical when compared with our environmental/technological standard of the day. So brilliant, we probably don’t even know we’re doing it, half the time.
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Here Comes the Sunken Place, Part 2: The Three (Greek) Faces of Jack
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