Hobbes: Tiger-Fylgia of the Suburban Forests

“Van Gogh would’ve sold more than one painting if he’d put tigers in them.”

The fylgia is sometimes described as an animal-self or a form of the soul, sometimes as a Norse version of a “spirit guide” or a fetch, sometimes as being akin to the daemon in His Dark Materials. It’s an animal-spirit that’s intimately linked to your soul, whichever is ultimately the best description. Traditionally, of course, they tend to be wild animals that can protect or guide you.

In the modern suburban world, as small children we are surrounded by images of animals – or I suppose I should say Animals, in the Narnian or Ozian fashion, as they are clearly sentient and often humanoid, talking and going about their days. Aside from a housecat or dog, and the occasional trip to the zoo, this is how many of us understand animals.

Is it any wonder, then, that the fylgia, the animal-projection of the self, would take the form of a talking animal for a suburban proto-practitioner?

Hobbes is the best example of this in modern media, in my opinion. As a tiger, he is running that line between civilization (tuna fish sandwiches, warm fireplaces on cold days) and wildness (mauling Calvin). The strip firmly refuses to address the relative reality of Hobbes’ existence, but it’s clear that only Calvin can see Hobbes as anything more than a stuffed tiger. So it goes with anyone’s interaction with spirit guides, though – like Calvin, we need to put our stock in our own perceptions and experiences. Discernment is important, (especially if you don’t want to get grounded for calling your mom a disgusting alien) but ultimately, nobody knows what you see but you.

That idea of the overlap between “reality” and “imagination” gave me a framework for understanding the astral when I was young, so in a way I guess I could call Hobbes one of my own spirit guides. It turns out you can learn a lot from a tiger.

0 thoughts on “Hobbes: Tiger-Fylgia of the Suburban Forests

  1. Vaguely related in regards to objective reality: When I was a child and Santa was real, one Christmas Santa was wearing what was obviously a cardboard Santa mask. As a child, I knew something was wrong, but everybody was saying this was Santa and I was expecting Santa and also Santa, as a magical being who ALWAYS appeared at Christmas, had a stronger reality than physical reality. I believed in Santa more than I believed the evidence of my own eyes. That’s how I understand shamans in masks becoming the God who embodies them in trance to the onlookers. I never had “imaginary friends”, but I could see some variation of this in Hobbes’ realness for Calvin.

    We still have the mask at home. It really is nothing like a real face.

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