Candace Y on The Beetle

When I was in elementary school we were provided with the option to order books through Scholastic book orders.  Ordering books through this program was a great option for purchasing books as I am from a small town.  I can still remember the excitement of coming back to the classroom after the final recess and finding new books sitting on my desk.  It was through this program that I found my favourite childhood book series, Animorphs by K.A. Applegate.  An alien race called the Yeerks invade Earth and are working towards global domination and it is the job of six kids to stop them.  Unfortunately, high school came and book orders ended and I was never able to finish this series.

At this point I am sure that you are wondering what any of this has to do with The Beetle, which is a reasonable question as I was side tracked by the nostalgia of Scholastic book orders.  Back to the point.  As I was reading The Beetle, especially the possession scenes, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Yeerks from Animorphs.  The Beetle and Yeerks are both creatures who invade a body and take control.  Yeerks are like slugs and they crawl into the ear cannel of their victims and from there proceed to the brain where they take control of the body.  Likewise the Beetle is some shape shifting creature that invades the body and controls the person through some form of hypnosis.  In both cases the victims are aware that they are no longer in control.  In Animorphs one of the kids, Jake, is invaded by a Yeerk and as the group is escaping he realizes that he is no longer in control.

I felt pain, but it came from far away.  The coat was loose. I looked around. Trees, everywhere.  A panting horse standing nearby. I saw all this, but in a distant way, as if I were watching it all on TV.  My eyes moved left, right.  They moved all on their own.  Like someone else was focusing them. (Applegate 57)

Holt seems to have a similar experience when he is sent on his thief’s mission.

I went to the window; I drew up the blind, unlatching the sash, I threw it open; and clad, or, rather, unclad as I was, I clambered through it into the open air. I was not only incapable of resistance, I was incapable of distinctly formulating the desire to offer resistance. Some compelling influence moved me hither and hither, with completest disregard of whether I would or would not. (Marsh 69)

The Beetle was published in 1897 and the Animorphs series began in 1996.  There is a 99 year difference between the publication dates but the theme of external forces taking control of a body is still a popular one today.  People seem to have a fascination and fear of the idea of losing control of their bodies.  I mean how horrible would it be if you were stuck inside of your head while someone else took control of your body and you became responsible for actions you did not choose to commit.

Works Cited

Applegate, K A. Animorphs: The Capture. Vol. 6. New York: Scholastic, 1997. Print.

Marsh, Richard. The Beetle. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2004. Print.

4 thoughts on “Candace Y on The Beetle

  1. Can I just say, I also remember Scholastic Book orders and book fairs and I loved them as well as a kid! Thank you for the awesome moment of nostalgia.

    But to the possession aspect of The Beetle, I found that to be where the true horror of this novel is. Never mind that the Beetle is some sort of ancient Egyptian creature that may or may not be immortal, the fact that it can get into another person’s mind is truly terrifying. The hypnosis part is bad enough but the fact that it seems to be in Holt’s mind with him is one of the scariest scenes for me in the novel – the idea that two minds are existing in the same body and one mind is there with ill-intent is what makes the Beetle so disturbing. No one wants to think it is possible to have their mind invaded and to be conscious of the invading force would truly rattle you. I felt so bad for Holt during his interactions with the Beetle – he picked completely the wrong house to try and find shelter in and suffered incredibly for it. I think the fear of the powers that the Beetle has is what makes modern demonic possession movies so popular still. It’s that fundamental fear of another force taking control and making you do what you don’t want to that interests and frightens us today as it did in Marsh’s time.

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    • I am so glad that someone made this relation! I was honestly thinking the same thing while reading The Beetle. I loved the Animorphs books as a kid. They were one of the first “supernatural” type books that I read and I was so interested in them haha. The theme of losing control of your body is indeed a consistent theme in works today. There are so many movies about the paranormal and possession. I think a lot of it has become lost in translation since we are so accustom to these things now. I would be intrigued to read a response from someone in the Victorian era of something like this to see their reaction so something so obscure.

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  2. Candace,

    First off, I, too, remember the Scholastic book orders from long ago and book fair during parent-teacher conferences.

    Secondly, do you think that the effect that the Yeerks had on their human subjects was as traumatizing and dark as the Beetle’s possession of Holt and Marjorie? As Camille stated above, the true horror the Beetle’s possession of their subjects is a lot darker than the Yeerks, not just because they’re being mind controlled, but also because they are, to put it in crude terms, essentially raped by the Beetle. From what I remember from the Animorphs series (I also did read it, but I didn’t follow it extensively because I tended to favour Trixie Belden or Nancy Drew), the narrative that Applegate provides us with doesn’t unsettle us as much as the writing that Marsh provides us with.

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  3. Danielle,

    I think that because this series is geared toward a preteen audience that it isn’t necessarily written as darkly as it is in The Beetle. Also, due to the narration coming from each of the kids who are battling the Yeerks, you don’t have a lot of exposure to what a person experiences once they have become a host to a Yeerk. So in order to see the effect that the Yeerk has on the person one of the kids needs to become a Controller (a person hosting a Yeerk) and I believe that only happens in one book. The focus is more on the kids fighting the invasion of the Earth using their morphing abilities.

    That being said, I do believe that becoming a Controller is more traumatic than what occurs with the Beetle. The Beetle does essentially rape Holt and Marjorie but after reading Jake’s experiences in the 6th book where he is not only penetrated by a Yeerk who takes over his body, he is also mentally raped. Once a Yeerk enters a brain they then have access to that person’s thoughts, feelings and memories and this ability then allows them to fit seamlessly into the host’s life. This means the host’s friends and family won’t even notice that anything is different. At least people noticed that there was something wrong with Holt. Jake’s every thought and feeling is absorbed by the Yeerk investing him and to make it worse the Yeerk can communicate with him mentally and continually mocks him.

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