Alien: Ian Nathan's Alien Vault and HR Giger's Alien Life Cycle Hieroglyphics


 
 
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Alien life cycle tableau version II (work 384a) (1978) by HR Giger
 
 
 
a)  Mr Nathan's strange revelation

As a caption for the painting in his book Alien Vault, the Mr Nathan writes "Giger's extraordinary tableau of the alien cycle, which was to be discovered within the temple, a place where the Space Jockey's sacrificed animals as alien hosts" which doesn't really sound right when you known that the Space Jockey was only a visitor to the planet.

Perhaps he was trying to merge with the confusion about how the once separate seemingly indigenous pyramid became the egg silo basement of the derelict ship from another planet.   
 
Is it just simply the opposite of the eggs becoming the opposite of the alien spores suddenly always having been the cargo of the space derelict as Ridley imagines?

I'm reminded of an interviewer for Fantastic Films magazine who suggested to Dan O'Bannon that the space jockey had come to the planetoid to spawn . 

That didn't fit with Dan's own ideas but had already surrendered to the alterations in the new version of the story which he admitted was just a sort of a surrealist mystery.
 
There was of course some behind the scenes discussion during the Alien production that the alien species being the Space Jockey's when Ridley had to think what the spores were doing inside the derelict ship.

 
  1. Ian Nathan: Giger's extraordinary tableau of the alien cycle, which was to be discovered within the temple, a place where the Space Jockey's sacrificed animals as alien hosts (Alien Vault. p101 )  
  2. Dan O'Bannon: They combined these two elements, they squeezed them into one sort of uneasy entity.
    Fantastic Film: The idea behind that, I would assume, being that the dangerous aliens were coming back to spawn.
    Dan O'Bannon: No, they were two different races. In my script, it was a space going race that landed on this planet and had been wiped out by whatever was there, And now the Earthmen come and endanger themselves in the same way. In the new version, it's just a sort of a surrealist mystery.  (Fantastic Films 10 p29-30)  
  3. Ridley Scott: The derelict ship was a battlewagon or a freighter, that was carrying either its own kind or a weapon from A to B and something went wrong. (The Book of Alien, p87)
     
 
 
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Page 101 from Ian Nathan's Alien Vault.

 
 

b)  A strange and secret game ?

I've noticed how the film director Guillermo Del Toro scattered word across interviews as far as I can see from 2006 to 2011 about the mystery of the derelict ship in Alien and how it compared to the mystery of the city of the the elder things in HP Lovecraft's "At The Mountains of Madness" . 

He deliberately going to some extreme to merge the two stories together in a strange and baffling performance.

I might wonder if Mr Nathan was playing a similar game by incoherently merging past and present in the development of the Alien script as if he were guilty of chewing the corners of Escher posters during his sleep. 

Perhaps sometimes he even plants deliberate misinterpretations as signs that not everything was supposed to make sense and few people would bother to notice them

Was it something that his unconscious was doing and he was looking to see how far this personal flow of thought would go.

See also: Guillermo del Toro merges Alien scenario with Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness

 

 

c) Confusion over the alien life cycle

In Alien Vault, he states that the hieroglyphics reveal that the alien species did feature two sexes, and the Space Jockeys, the long dead temple builders, would sacrifice animals as hosts on a purpose built plinth.

This would be based upon a quote from Dan O'Bannon in an article from Cinefex #1 where he says "See, these alien beings had two sexes of their own, but they needed a third host animal to reproduce. So they'd bring in an animal, put it up on the plinth with a spore, and whammo!  Then they'd lead the inseminated animal off to an enclosure somewhere to await the birth."

Does Giger's alien life cycle tableau really connect well with Dan O'Bannon's earlier ideas about this alien culture's birthing ceremony ?

O’Bannon wrote his script featuring a civilisation on the planet that were not at all star travelers but then it was hard to say that they were really indigenous to the planetoid they were on. 
 
Ron Cobb had designed the hieroglyphs seen at the right side of the birth temple room in his earlier illustration looking loosely based upon an image of a scene in the Dresden codex. 
 

  1. Dan O'Bannon: See, these alien beings had two sexes of their own, but they needed a third host animal to reproduce. So they'd bring in an animal, put it up on the plinth with a spore, and whammo!  Then they'd lead the inseminated animal off to an enclosure somewhere to await the birth.  ("Alien: Creating an ambience by Don Shay"- Cinefex 1.p48/ Alien: The Special Effects p.20).

 
 
Ron Cobb's birth temple.
 
 
 
 
 
d) Confusion over Giger's Life Cycle Hieroglyphics
 
HR Giger was brought on later and soon he designed the hieroglyphs himself. 
 
His first version had astronaut victims human enough to have come from Earth, and one might wonder what they were doing there.
 
In his painting, he soon changed the astronaut victim to look as if it were of the same species as the remains of the alien dead creature in the derelict space ship that would come to be known as The Space Jockey, and Mr Nathan strangely offered an interpretation based on this changed version.

Perhaps this version with the Space Jockey as a victim served as a warning to be seen in the gangway of the derelict ship with the view that the spores were dangerous weapon-like forms.
 
Still Mr Nathan strangely decided that it was for the earlier pyramid interior, which is what the earlier version of the hieroglyphs with the humanoid astronauts was for.
 
 
 
 
 
e)  Crossfire over the Hieroglyphics: Aaron Percival/Corporal Hicks vs Mr Nathan:
 
Aaron Percival/Corporal Hicks of AVPGalaxy in 2011 asked him about why he mentioned that the unused pyramid scene implied male and female aliens, since Aaron didn't see it in Giger's hieroglyphs at all.
 
Perhaps Mr Nathan didn't specifically say that at all, but mentioned the two sexes, and of course the animals that were 'sacrificed' as hosts

One might assume that the two sexes were male and female, but it might not be so easily stated since they were a completely alien life form.

Well, it was only a slight oversight and I wasn't there to point it out.
 
He admitted to Aaron Percival/Corporal Hicks that he was just following Dan O'Bannon's thoughts, and these would have been the ones mentioned in Cinefex and you would have needed both Dan's exact words next to Mr Nathan's text to see how close he was.
 
However Dan didn't specifically say that the animal brought in to be inseminated was "sacrificed" even if the birth temple with its plinth was based on a place to hold a sacrifice.

But this animal was surely just part of the temple builders' parasitic life cycle rather than a blood offering to a nameless god.
 

  1. Ian Nathan : H.R. Giger's depiction of those hieroglyphics is breathtaking, an impossibly intricate occult tableau of the alien life cycle.  Pre-empting Aliens, they reveal the alien species did feature two sexes, and the Space Jockeys, the long dead temple builders, would sacrifice animals as hosts on a purpose-built plinth. On why this version was nixed, Ridley Scott explains, 'It was a matter of pacing. It would have been an hour and a quarter before things got going.' There was also the sheer expense of building such a complicated set. 'I would love to have shot it,' he admits, 'but I realized it would have been wonderful in a three-hour version. What finally cracked it was the budget. We had to get rid of it. (Alien Vault. p101 )  
  2. AvPGalaxy : Several times throughout Alien Vault you mentioned that the unused pyramid scene implied male and female aliens. Admittedly it’s been some time since I read O’Bannon’s draft but I just don’t see it in Giger’s hieroglyphs. I was hoping you could elaborate on this?
     
    Ian Nathan :  Good question, although Giger might be the best man to explain. Not to put too finer point on it, I rather take the exterior leg-like element to be the female – the top of the triangle being the vagina so-to-speak – there is a female like quality about the hand on the bottom right. Mind you, it could all be crazy Giger stuff: I was following O’Bannon’s thoughts.(https://www.avpgalaxy.net/website/interviews/ian-nathan/) 
 



f) Mr Nathan interprets Giger's Alien Hieroglyphics
 
f.i) Talking to Aaron Percival/Corporal Hicks back then, Mr Nathan decided talk about how the rationality Dan's words applied to Giger's painting although it was not in the way that Dan said at all really
 
The exterior leg like element that Mr Nathan took to be female
 
 
f.ii)  Words about the female bodyparts
However he pointed out that he took the exterior leg-like elements to be female, the top of the triangle to be the vagina so-to-speak, and that there was a female like quality about the hand on the bottom right.
 
 
Mr Nathan felt that there was a female like quality about the hand on the bottom right.

 
f.iii) No word about an Egyptian goddess
Certainly there was a female figure stretched across the painting based on the Egyptian goddess Nut and perhaps this was where these alien spores were coming from.
 
Mr Nathan took the top of the triangle to be the vagina so-to-speak

 
f.iv) Mr Nathan didn't have anything to say about the Egyptian goddess, and perhaps his last words at the time were that "it could all be crazy Giger stuff".
 
  1. AvPGalaxy : Several times throughout Alien Vault you mentioned that the unused pyramid scene implied male and female aliens. Admittedly it’s been some time since I read O’Bannon’s draft but I just don’t see it in Giger’s hieroglyphs. I was hoping you could elaborate on this?
     
    Ian Nathan :  Good question, although Giger might be the best man to explain. Not to put too finer point on it, I rather take the exterior leg-like element to be the female – the top of the triangle being the vagina so-to-speak – there is a female like quality about the hand on the bottom right. Mind you, it could all be crazy Giger stuff: I was following O’Bannon’s thoughts.(https://www.avpgalaxy.net/website/interviews/ian-nathan/) 
 
 
 
g) Dan O'Bannon's early alien life cycle not really connected to Giger's painting 
 
Whatever Dan O'Bannon had actually said which would have applied to his early script since that how he kept thinking about the film story when interviewed and I wouldn't go as far as to claim that Giger's hieroglyph worked well with the O'Bannon quote from Cinefex at all.
 
It might have been great if Dan expanded on what he has said earlier, but what was printed appeared to be a quote with perhaps some of the context lost
 
Perhaps he had much more to say but little space for so much was there in the magazine article which was a good long article anyway.
 
No further discussion with O'Bannon about this has been revealed to the public
 
Mr Nathan's point of view at the time was that he would have been interested to hear about other people's explanations of it.
 
Were there any?

  1. Ian Nathan :  I’d be fascinated to hear other people’s explanations of it.(https://www.avpgalaxy.net/website/interviews/ian-nathan/)

 

h) A final thought

Never the less, the whole pyramid idea really interested Mr Nathan and he hoped that Ridley's film to come at the time, Prometheus, would possess some very weird mythological material like this.

  1. Ian Nathan : The whole pyramid idea fascinated me. I’m hoping Prometheus might possess some really weird mythology stuff like this! (https://www.avpgalaxy.net/website/interviews/ian-nathan/)
 

4 comments:

  1. I've always had the impression that this was a visual record of how ANY being would be attacked by a facehugger, using the Engineers as examples the way humans would of course use humans as examples. This is a case where there's less than meets the eye; it's an Engineer (as we know them now, but obviously Giger didn't) instruction manual/warning sign/religious icon.

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    Replies
    1. That did seem to be the intention when it was an egg silo merged with the ship indeed. It might be like a chemical store warning sign where you see the tube of liquid pouring onto the hand eating the flesh away.

      The human like astronaut one seems to have been roughly a warning sign as well with Egyptian mythology context, but who the warning was from and for who is another question. I don't know to what degree Giger would have thought about the use of a human, but in his interview with Dixieme Planete, it looked as if he started off with an Alien type alien as the victim which we haven't seen, changed it to a human and then we see the change in the final version to a Space Jockey, and Giger just didn't mention about the latter in his brief word about it to the French magazine.

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    2. I hope that Mr Nathan shares some more points of view about his explorations into Giger's paintings, and I might be eager to document what he says.

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  2. Paragraph that read "Perhaps this version with the Space Jockey as a victim served as a warning to be seen in the gangway of the derelict ship with the view that the spores were dangerous weapon-like forms, but still Mr Nathan strangely decided that it was for the earlier pyramid interior with the earlier version with the humanoid astronauts was for.."

    has now been corrected and divided into two sentences -

    "Perhaps this version with the Space Jockey as a victim served as a warning to be seen in the gangway of the derelict ship with the view that the spores were dangerous weapon-like forms.

    Still Mr Nathan strangely decided that it was for the earlier pyramid interior, which is what the earlier version of the hieroglyphs with the humanoid astronauts was for."

    ReplyDelete