Sobran Column -- Musidorus the Cannibal
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Musidorus the Cannibal

January 20, 2000

Long ago there was a bitter war between the kingdoms of Scythia and Bohemia. It began when the Scythian king, Lobo the Bold, claimed by ancient right some lands on the Bohemian seacoast, which he invaded, slaughtering the Bohemians who had lived there peacefully for many generations.

The Bohemian king, Clement the Just, raised a great army and defeated Scythia, not only reclaiming the disputed lands but at last killing all the Scythian warriors, including Lobo himself.

[Breaker quote: A 
parable]Bohemian soldiers, returning home, reported that they had found that the barbarous Scythians had practiced cannibalism, eating the bodies of some of the gentle Bohemians they had killed on the seacoast. In time this story grew worse and worse, until the Bohemians believed that the Scythians had eaten more than a million of their countrymen. Lobo himself, it was said, had eaten 50 Bohemians at one sitting!

Musidorus, a philosopher, spoke to the Bohemian senate: “These stories are impossible. No more than 80,000 Bohemians lived on the seacoast; and though Lobo was undoubtedly a savage, even the cruelest and most ravenous cannibal could not eat 50 men in a year, much less a single meal.”

At this the senators were exceedingly angry. “Musidorus has insulted our dead!” they cried. “He defends Lobo and his cannibals! He is spewing hate against Bohemia! He is a traitor!”

“Not so,” said Musidorus. “I do not deny that Lobo committed great evil; I only doubt that he performed miracles.”

The senate was not assuaged. Some said that Musidorus was subversive of Bohemian patriotism; others demanded his death for treason. He was fortunate to leave the senate unharmed, though with a stern warning against propagating his opinions.

Soon it was rumored among the common people that Musidorus had favored the Scythians during the war and mocked the memory of the Bohemians who had been devoured. Many said he denied that cannibalism had occurred at all; others held that he actually applauded it. Some held both opinions at once.

Finally King Clement himself summoned Musidorus. “I am sorry to hear these reports of you, Musidorus,” he said, “for I have always esteemed you as a wise philosopher and a loyal Bohemian.” Musidorus replied modestly that whether or not he deserved to be called wise, he was indeed a loyal Bohemian, but merely questioned whether Lobo and the Scythians could have performed such prodigious feats of cannibalism as they were accused of.

But all in vain. “Your words,” the king said, “can only comfort our enemies and call in question the justice of our heroic war. Our brave soldiers have not shed their blood in the struggle against cannibalism so that idle philosophers, sitting safely at home, could mock their sacrifice, spew hate against their country, praise Lobo, and encourage men to eat each other as the Scythians do.” He banished Musidorus from the kingdom.

By royal command, the Bohemian chroniclers were to speak no good of Musidorus in their annals. His books were destroyed, his disciples dispersed, his house razed to the ground. He died in exile, protesting to the end that he abhorred cannibalism and loved Bohemia.

In time Musidorus’s reputation became even more odious. It was said of him that he approved of cannibalism and had been secretly in the pay of the Scythians. Some even said that he was a cannibal himself. His memory was reviled, and nobody dared to take his part. The official chroniclers wrote that under the guise of teaching philosophy he had craftily tried to introduce cannibalism among the Bohemians. Succeeding generations recalled him as Musidorus the Cannibal.

From then on Bohemian philosophers, in order to teach at the National Academy, were required to curse the names of Lobo and Musidorus, and to take a solemn oath that they would never preach the detested doctrine of cannibalism. Yet the common people continued to suspect that philosophy inclined men’s minds to secret sympathy with cannibals.

Centuries later, Bohemian scholars discovered copies of Musidorus’s books that had escaped destruction. They were puzzled to find that these books neither preached cannibalism nor indeed made any mention of it. They concluded that Musidorus had been afraid to set down his true opinions in writing.

Thus was Bohemia, by ceaseless vigilance, spared the scourge of cannibalism for all time.

Joseph Sobran

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