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Literature / Rawhead Rex

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A short story by Clive Barker, which is a part of his third Books of Blood anthology from 1984.

A farmer in England digs up a large stone in his lands, only to set loose a malevolent monster from the past, called Rawhead. Free from the prison that had held him for centuries, Rawhead then proceeds to cause mayhem across the countryside.

This short story has examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: Rawhead loathes women who are on their period, and refuses to touch them. But what he really fears is the sight of pregnant women; in the end he is defeated with a talisman that's carved to look like a pregnant woman, which makes him helpless against a mob that kills him.
  • Antagonist Title: Rawhead is the title antagonist.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Rawhead Rex is an abomination that personifies the male sex drive as a living and malicious organism. Even his head is phallic shaped.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: When Rawhead recognizes the talisman as it's being brandished at him, he voids his bowels in terror.
  • The Brute: Some of it's probably because he's been buried underground for hundreds of years, but generally, Rawhead isn't very intelligent and knows he has little in the way of foresight and planning, preferring spur-of-the-moment mass slaughter.
  • Buried Alive: The people who defeated Rawhead in the past were too superstitious to finish him off, and simply forced him into his tomb where he has been waiting to be free again for centuries.
  • Chest Burster: The offspring of Rawhead's kind is mentioned to have been too much to handle for human wombs, and they tended to burst out on their own.
  • Child Eater: Rawhead is never shown eating anything other than children, both human and non-human.
    • He does eat a horse shortly after waking up. It’s not so much that he eats children exclusively, but he finds the taste of children to be far more delectable than other forms of meat.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Detective Sergeant Gissing has his balls ripped off by Rawhead before being burned alive.
  • The End... Or Is It?: After Rawhead is killed, the narration gives suspicious amount of focus to its bladder emptying of liquids that then flow to the nearest ditch.
  • Eats Babies: Rawhead is a Child Eater already, but he considers babies, newborns in particular, to be a delicacy.
  • Evil Smells Bad: Rawhead’s breath is described by one of his soon-to-be victims as smelling quite terrible. Given that he’s a monster that was buried beneath the ground for centuries and never seems concerned with bathing or cleaning himself, the rest of his body probably doesn’t smell like roses either.
  • Fangs Are Evil: Rawhead has two rows of sharp fangs in his mouth.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Downplayed. After waking up, Rawhead adjusts to his new surroundings rather quickly, he's just not entirely familiar with their terminology, calling cars "boxes", for instance. Part of this may be because he's not very smart.
  • Gothic Horror: A typical aspect considering it's the brainchild of Clive Barker after all. It's basically a gothic monster story with gore galore.
  • Groin Attack: After flipping over a police car, Rawhead drags a constable out of the wreckage and rips off the guy's testicles.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Along with the Achilles' Heel mentioned above, Rawhead is also done in when he discovers flammable liquids and uses them to set the whole town of Zeal on fire; the fire burns out of control so fast even he gets caught up in it and badly burned, including having his eyes damaged, which keeps him from recognizing the talisman for what it is until it's too late.
  • Immune to Bullets: Downplayed as bullets do in fact hurt Rawhead, but they don’t seem to do much besides drive him away. He seems to heal up after resting so unless there was some military-grade firepower involved, small-caliber weapons probably wouldn’t have stopped him.
  • It Can Think: While he’s not particularly intelligent, Rawhead is somewhat cunning and able to make observations about the world around him. Case in point, he knows better than to charge a group of armed police officers head on because of the damage their firearms can cause him; in that instance, he opts to flee to fight another day. As the story nears it end, Rawhead is trying to destroy the town by causing fires with cars he destroyed; he specifically knew to do this after having noticed that cars explode when sufficiently damaged, something he noticed earlier in the story. He’s no great thinker, but there’s an almost human like intellect in that twisted head of his.
  • Karmic Death: Detective Sergeant Gissing is an unrepentant pedophile, so it comes off as karmic for Rawhead to castrate him. Of course, Rawhead most likely didn't know, and if he did, didn't care.
  • Last of His Kind: Rawhead was not the only one of his kind to exist. He recalls his “brothers” in times long past, suggesting that there were a good deal more creatures like Rawhead running around. Thank God there’s only the one left...
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Rawhead has a great many razor sharp teeth in his mouth which he uses to tear his meals apart. His meals typically consist of children by the way...
  • Our Ogres Are Hungrier: Though Rawhead Rex is never explicitly called an "ogre," that's plainly what he is; a big brutal sadistic not too bright humanoid Child Eater.
  • Police Are Useless: Justified in this case as the story is set in a small town in the English countryside. As such, there are only a handful of police officers on call to handle Rawhead and they’re not particularly well armed: against a monster like Rawhead, the best they can do is drive him away. Later in the story it is mentioned that the police called the military to come and help them, but we never see this actually happen because the story ends rather quickly thereafter.
  • Psychosexual Horror: The main antagonist, Rawhead Rex, is an ancient evil creature that personifies the male sex drive as a living and malicious organism, to a point where even his head is phallic shaped and he is repulsed by menstruating women.
  • Scare the Dog: A pony refuses to go into its stall because it could sense the presence of the titular demon waiting inside, and is so terrified that it craps itself.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Rawhead was buried beneath the earth for centuries because the people who defeated him so long ago were too superstitious to kill him. This actually served as a deserving punishment for the monster as his solitude ate away at his psyche; he was forgotten by the world and denied freedom. But then some moron with a shovel comes along...
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Justified and played for symbolism. Rawhead is repelled by menstruating women, even representations of them. This is because he's the personification of the male sex drive.
  • Would Hurt a Child: With vengeance. Rawhead is a Child Eater whose earliest victims in the story include a little girl. Later, he snatches a boy into his jaws as the boy's father can only helplessly watch.
  • Villainous Glutton: The first thing Rawhead Rex eats when he wakes up is a pony and then its owners in the farm.