Article Information
TitleThe idea behind Rork
AuthorRené Vossen
Context Information
Magazine PublicationZozoLala (1995, number 82)
Article Contents
from the article "The idea behind Rork (1995)":
You can't just say Rork is the story of a lost soul from another universe desperately trying to return. That would be too simple, since Andreas Martens has, as spiritual father of 'Rork', let us known more than once, not to do any concessions to his readers. Yet it is all too easy as well to depict Rork as a Faust-story with a modern, silverhaired Cagliostro. If there exists a relationship at all between Goethe's 'Faust' and 'Rork', it goes no further then the passing of the border to another world (death). An interesting world of course, yet one that offers few paths through the entrance.
Rork is not only a personage from a story, he is also a "token, or thought, in the sence of creation", we read in Capricorne, page 24. The adventures of the main character hence are linked to what the thought or the idea has to endure. Where the personage Rork steps from one world into the next, we can wonder through which worlds the idea Rork travels. When the person Rork fights his enemy Mordor Gott, it could be nice to know the relationship between the idea Rork and crime. And when the person unveils the secret of the cathedrales' cemetery, the idea takes on a position against religion.
The Story
Rork is of course in the first place about a remarkable man that has the possibility to travel from one world to the other, or rather to pass. This passing is at the same time restricted: it can only be done when you are initiated and it can only be done twice. Anyone passing more than twice has to face Pharass, the guardian of the secret of passing.
In Passages the inevitable happens: the person Rork passes once to many and is tracked down by Pharass, who takes away the (memory of the) secret, yet cannot prevent that Rork crosses once more and as a result is caught between two worlds. Which implies that there is a Nomansland between two or more worlds.
This is the information we get from the first two parts of the cycle. Fragments and Passages can thus be regarded as an introduction to the rest of the cycle. This separation is confirmed in several ways. As not to divert too much, I recall only two of these ways: from Le cimetière de cathédrales the cycle counts from Rork 1 to Rork 5; and from Rork 1 every part has a clear prologue (Retour has no prologue but an epilogue) and a framework conversation held by two owls.
In Le cimetière de cathédrales Rork appears to be not as lost as is suggested at the end of Passages. He is merely held captive by the 'liers of Vree' who regard themselves as the conscience of worlds or even that of fate. Rork is accused of disturbing the balance in his universe and "a universe that is off balance wavers other universes" (amongst which the one of the liers of Vree. Le cimetière de cathédrales p. 15). Therefore Rork is sent back to his own world to restore order. Once back in his world he engages in several meaningful surroundings and situations. At first he is stranded somwhere in a jungle where he finds his strength back on a cathedrales' cemetery and meets a future allie. In Lumière d'étoile he refinds Low Valley. In Capricorne a confrontation with organized crime follows and an alliance with the astrologer Capricorne, in Descente he finds himself in a spaceship that is hidden under the ice of the polar area. In Retour, at last, a good attempt is made to tie together all loose ends.
When we follow the threads of the story, a number of things that are of interest to the idea Rork return again and again. To start with, there is the generally mythical, that is at one time expressed by underwatermen (Atlantians?) and at another time by extraterrestrial powers or earthly forces.
Furthermore there are passages that curiously always are connected to death. For instance, the first passage starts with the death of a ferryman (markable detail: the captain that shows Rork where to go somewhat later turns out to be dead as well) and the second passage is accompanied by the suffocation of Rork. The third time Rork is literally crushed and when Rork at the fourth time is sent back by the 'liers of Vree', this passage coincides again with the end of a life (that of 'Levec' through the very remarkable detour of the poisoning of Miss McKee who thereby avoids a certain death). Then there is the passage of the emissary of Vree in Capricorne (the man dies directly at arrival) and the passage of Rork in Descente that saves him (of a certain death?). And finally the passages in Retour can similarly be connected with death. It seems obvious that Andreas uses passages to symbolize a kind of controlled dying.
Except for the inexplicable and death we are regularly confronted with all kinds of religious aspects. This starts in Fragments when Rork enters a subterranean temple, in chapter 4. The religious references only become clear in Le cimetière de cathédrales, in which the keepers of the dungeon (Mordor Gott, the criminal from Capricorne?), the liers of Vree (in priest's garment) and the cathedrales are obvious religious elements. But there are further elements. In Lumière d'étoile Low Valley is called a priestess of initiation, in Capricorne we meet Mordor Gott and his cubic temple and in Retour not only some rituals come to the attention, but several other religiocities are repeated partially.
Then there is the theme of appearance and reality. The most concise clue to this is the passage of Raffington Event at page 7 of Passages. The man enters Rork's house to immediately step out of it turn back again by a different way!!! And Rork's comment at page 9 is no less concise: "Let's say that you and your contemporaries are too quick to assume what they see... As soon as one knows what it is you want to see, one can make you believe anything. Be on your guard." And from that moment on it is a great gamble to the attentive reader where Rork is about appearance, or about reality.
What at least appears to be real, is the neverending fight between good and evil that is elaborated in Capricorne as theme of so called pulp fiction novels. By the way, it is in this part that religion is degraded to mafia and the strongest clue is the person Kenton. This Kenton is porteyed in the pulp novel as an aid of the criminal Mordor Gott (in monk's frock) and can furter on in the strip be found on the side of the good guy Capricorne. This betrayal towards Gott costs him time and again a piece of a finger, a ritual that is used in cases of betrayal with the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia.
As a fifth and last theme the theme of time can be pointed out. This theme probably forms the connection between all themes of the Rork-cycle. In Retour this is developed expressly. That is where we learn that a number of places together form the face of a clock and that the grandfather of Wilbur Skiffel had theories about the vibrations of time and consequently designed a gigantic timepiece. One of the mechanisms appears to consist of the places forming the dial and the house of grandad Skiffel that is build L-shaped and thus forms the hands of the clock. When grandson Wilbur starts this special mechanism, vibrations are created that coincide with the release of a gigantic monster, that appears to be the creature that was locked up; in the subterranean temple of Low Valley.
By summing up the different themes we still don't know how to associate these with the idea Rork that all this was about. The answer most likely can be found in the last part: Retour.
In Retour we get for the first time answers about Rork's origin and about the contents of the thought behind Rork. At page 44 we can read for example that Rork comes from a world where quietness rules and from which at a certain moment he is born, without the interference of biological parents, into our world. What eventually is his mission in this world remains rather dark, yet from what Rork says to Dahmaloch at page 53, we can confidently conclude that it is his task to save the world from destruction.
The danger threatening the world is that man could succeed in achieving chaos or perfection. According to Rork it is rather the road from one thing to the next that is the ground for man's existence. Rork states himself as a saviour to a possible drifting off to hell and the devil. Rork the idea, the thought, as it appears from his words at page 53, should actually be seen as resistence against the temptations of the devil (this is of course where Faust comes in).
Remains the question what temptations are presented to us by the devil. At page 45 we get a clue to this. Rork there tells a dying Low Valley: "in what kind of world are we living, that bleeds and dies the moment it comes in contact with reality?! Let's hope, Low, that the dreamer doesn't dream forever! That he wakes up one day and sees things as they are and not as he wants to dream them, under the pretence that life is what he wants, not what he is! All we do here is mere cheap mysticism..."
If everything what we do here is but cheap mysticism that makes us flee from reality, it is apparent that the five main themes mentioned earlier can be seen in that light. The test if this is true looks like this:
- man perpetually tries to find explanations for matters that at first aren't explicable by normal scientific means. No wonder it feels good to think that it is about extraterrestrial business or about Atlantisbusiness
- whereever passages are related to death, we can add mysticism to the images many of us have of dying. Thus, passage appears at one time to be an entrance to the cosmos (Rork in Fragments), the next time an entrance to new life (Rork's escape from the dust), hell (Le cimetière de cathédrales) or the dream (young Rork in Retour);
- next, religion is a very appetizing source of mysticism. In the Rork-cycle the main source of mysticism is the representation of the powers from which religious power is drawn. In Le cimetière de cathédrales they are earth rays, combined with a mystic energy coming from a circle of erect stones (think of the stones of Stonehenge). And Gott thinks in Capricorne he has the religious right to speak by the availability of a cubic temple with certain powers;
- and then: what's the difference between dream and reality? How often we make attempts to unravel the mysteries of dreams. And is it not strange that young rork in Retour passes the passage of the dreamer to end up at Tanemanar's. Tanemanar, who is part of Rork's dream, yet is so real he leaves his traces in the snow. And is not the cheap magazine in Capricorne not an exquisite example of escapism, a flee from reality? But what is appearance and what reality?;
- finally there is the mysticism about the fight between good and evil that takes place at different levels, yet finally culminates in the fight between Rork and Dahmaloch. The question is only whether that fight is not really a fight between evil and evil, since the essence of evil seems to take posession of Rork's body at page 38 of Retour. However it may be, the mysticism of this fight is not very clear, unless one seeks it in the fact that the fight originates in the quest for absolute power by those who want to use the power to their own advantage.
Remains the theme of time that plays an important part in Retour. This time invokes questions, like the other themes have. What is this: time? Is that a solution to the problem of chaos (the liers of Vree form a timecircle at page 11 as a last resort to the upcoming downfall of their universe)? Is it also a passage to other worlds? Is it a carrier of mans road to hell and doom? Whoever knows, may say so.