Ted Hughes introduces “Wodwo” in the “Poetry in the making”:”Here is another poem of my own about some goblin creature-I imagine this creature just discovering that it is alive in the world. It is quite bewildered to know what is going on .It has a whole string of thoughts, but at the centre of all of them you will see is this creature and its bewilderment. The poem is called “Wodwo”. A Wodwo is a sort of half-man half animal spirit of the forests.”It is the titular poem of the collection published in 1967.The Wodwo, according, to Wikipedia, “was a link between civilized humans and the dangerous elf-like spirits of natural woodland.”Therefore, the term Wodwo is indeed emblematic as it stands for the state of Identity Crisis as the Wodwo stands between two worlds, as he is in quest for his roots. As the proverbial ‘Wodwo’, he is caught between instinct and reason, myth and reality, freedom and rootedness. It illustrates the irresolution that Hughes stood for after the ‘Lupercal’ poems that portrayed instinctive violence and
The Wodwo probes his roots at the very outset as he asserts “What am I?”Note that he uses “what” instead of “Who” pointing to animal and vegetative qualities. He seems to be “nosing” here or rather meddling with affairs that are not essentially his. Therefore, he feels to be divorced from that particular place. The action of “turning leaves over” is also a pursuit in search for himself. It follows a faint stain to the river’s edge with the hope of locating something meaningful.
The Wodwo does not hold the sure stance or the arrogant stand of the Hawk in Hughes’s “Hawk Roosting”. Neither does it possess the single-minded killer-instinct of Hughes “Pike “It is confused ,and has no feeling of belonging: “Who am I to split”. It views things from two from two perspectives:
The glassy grain of water looking upward I see the bed
Of the river above me upside down very clear
Note that first it finds itself unrelated to the river bank; then to the river (Who am I to split/The glassy grain of water),and then he finds himself divorced from the air too(What am I doing here in mid-air?)Further, he feels himself to be separate from the ground ;he is not just rooted, but dropped. The action of not being rooted signifies that he did not belong to the ground even in the past. He seems to be “dropped” as if out of nowhere. It seems to have no threads to link him. It appears as though he has been given the freedom of the place; however, it is this freedom that lends him disorientation-as he does not know where he belongs to,he cannot explore his roots. The ‘rotten stump” comes across a metaphor for his base: picking off bits of bark gives him no pleasure.
Even if he does coincide somewhere, it seems to be a mere coincidence and queer. As part of his state of being-neither is he a perfect Man nor Animal. Neither does he belong to the vegetative world:
Do these weeds
know me and name me to each other have they
seen me before do I fit in their world?
He endeavors to judge himself based on certain attributes-name (But what shall I be called),precedence(am I the first),tenure(have I an owner) and size(am I huge).He continues on his way on and on, till he realizes that he is tired, and discerns a sign that he exists-‘touching one wall of me.”All he finds is roots, roots and roots like a maze where he has to locate his identity; and the water gives him a blurred reflection. Nevertheless, he goes on looking.
© Rukhaya MK 2010
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