aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Exegeting comic books

I told folks last week that I stumbled across an old Donald Duck comic book (September 1965) which had a short feature with Goofy encountering the Wicked Witch. He does her a good turn, being the naturally good person he is; in return, the Witch decides to do him a favor. In my youth (I was a month shy of 12 years old when this comic book was published), the Witch's magic formulas seemed to me simply gibberish. When I re-read the story in seminary, I was surprised to find the Witch casting spells in Koine Greek (the language of the New Testament).

The Wicked Witch’s first spell, to make the inside of Goofy’s mountain cabin bigger than the outside, is done by the Witch pronouncing, BLEPPO EIS TOUS OIKOUS ZOOS! Her second spell, to make Goofy’s boat bigger on the inside than the outside, as well as more powerful, is done with the formula, BLEPPO EIS TO PLOION . . . ZAWN! Let’s exegete these spells.



BLEPPO is a misspelling of Greek blepo, “I see.” I can find no evidence of any Greek dialect that spells this word with a double ‘p’. So either the writer/letterer made a mistake, or he wanted to make sure the reader mentally pronounced it with a short ‘e’ -- blep-o, rather than bleep-o. I’m guessing the former. Blepo usually means physical sight, but can be used in a figurative sense, as in perception of unseen realities.

EIS is the preposition “in, into” and normally takes the accusative. TOUS OIKOUS is the accusative plural of ho oikos, “house” – hence, “the houses.” TO PLOION is the accusative (and nominative) singular of to ploion, “boat, ship.” So, loosely translated, we get “I see into the houses, I see into the boat." Only one cabin is shown, so I’m guessing TOUS OIKOUS is a mistake for the accusative singular ton oikon.

ZOOS and ZAWN both seem to be some kind of participle of the verb zao used as an adjective. Zao, contracted to zo, means “I live.” The Witch sees into the house and boat and brings about a change, making the house and boat more like a living thing: “I see into the living house, I see into the living boat.” At least, that’s the nearest I can get. Perhaps the writer was just using whatever words he knew out of a scanty Greek vocabulary. The present participle in both masculine and neuter genders would be zon (with an omega). In the case of the cabin, ZOOS -- with an omega followed by an omicron (zoh-oss) looks like an attempt to make the ending match that of TOUS OIKOUS. In the case of the boat, it looks like ZAWN is an attempt to get the participle right without contracting it – another mistake. (The ‘w’ is a stand-in for an omega, I’m guessing.) In any case, something like “living” is what is probably meant. By comparison, when Jesus announces (John 7:39) that whoever believes in him will have “rivers of living water” pour forth from his side, that is (genitive) hudatos zontos. To the Woman at the Well, Jesus said (John 4:10) he would have given her "living water" (accusative) hudor zon. In any case, I’m guessing that the correct translation of the Witch’s spells would be ton oikon zona, to ploion zon (3rd declension of adjectives ending in -on).

Anyway, there it is until and unless somebody better at Greek than I takes a crack at it. I'm just pleased that I can still do as much as this, forty-plus years after my last seminary course in New Testament Greek.

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