On Thog

See Thog. See Thog run. See Thog shape-shift.

I’m sorry, I was getting Thog mixed up with Spot. Spot we dealt with yesterday, and Thog we shall deal with today. I can only think I got the two confused, between yesterday and today, due to some weird rip in the space-time continuum. It is the kind of thing that happens all too often when having to cope with such as Thog, creatures who occupy the world we might best describe as science fiction or fantasy. Unlike Spot, who is merely an earthy dog, Thog is a being from another dimension, or possibly several other dimensions, most of which you cannot imagine and I would have the devil of a job to explicate. Fortunately for me, I cannot be bothered to do so.

My opening lines were doubly erroneous. Not only did I get Thog and Spot mixed up, but I suggested that one could “see” Thog. Whether this is true is very far from clear. It may be that much of the time Thog is not actually visible to the human eye. The same is true of Spot of course, given that he might be resting in his kennel or hiding behind a splurge of lupins, but generally speaking dogs are incontrovertibly visible. Not so Thog. Being a shape-shifting being from unknown and unimaginable other dimensions, Thog is not so easy to pin down.

Having said that, there is one tale – it is either an Astounding Tale or a Weird Tale, I forget which – where a mad boffin devises a so-called set of “Thog pins” special fantasy science fiction pins expressly designed to pin Thog as one might pin a butterfly, were one a butterfly collector. Duly pinned, Thog effects an escape by deploying “Thog power”. Impressive as this is, it is never coherently defined, so one cannot emulate Thog in one’s everyday life in the way one might emulate one’s other favourite fictional characters. The mad boffin, by the way, comes to a bad end, so one would not want to emulate him, either.

Coherence is not really a quality we are looking for when reading about Thog, and just as well. One of the best stories is also one of the least coherent. This is Thog On The Tyne, a thrilling science fiction adventure set in Newcastle, written entirely in Geordie dialect. For most of us, it is incomprehensible. But it has its special pleasures, and when I have worked out what they are I will tell you.

Because Thog himself – or, I suppose, itself – defeats easy definition, it is no surprise to learn that attempts to film the stories have met with consistent failure. There was a 1967 flick in which Thog arrives, in a spacecraft, at Alexandra Palace in London to take part in the 14-Hour Technicolour Dream. He does a variety of fantastical Thoggish things, and at one point can be spotted just behind John Lennon, but it is all a bit pedestrian. Of more interest, if equally unsuccessful at the box office, was the 1970s series of Thog films directed by Lindsay Anderson. What is noteworthy about them is that all the scenes involving Thog ended up on the cutting room floor. Anderson himself was said to be livid, but then he was reportedly quite a cantankerous chap at the best of times.

Unlike Spot, Thog has never been the protagonist of a children’s television series, though one is long overdue. A cartoon Thog might be quite a hit with the tinies. I am told that someone somewhere is developing a show called Spot And Thog, or possibly Thog And Spot. There are also unconfirmed reports that someone else somewhere else is working on a rival show in which Spot is merely one of the shapes into which Thog shifts, so that Thog and Spot are essentially one and the same.

Alain de Botton has written perceptively about the Spot-Thog dichotomy, if it is indeed a dichotomy, in his book 50 Things You Can Learn From Thog. It is a very thin book indeed. I would like to say deceptively so, but I am not going to. It is just very thin. In my view, for what it’s worth, the things the Swiss brainbox claims can be learned from Thog could equally well be learned by standing in a puddle out on a blasted heath, like Luneberg, in driving rain, on a bank holiday afternoon. I have tried this myself, on more than one occasion, and I learned many, many things, many more than fifty if truth be told. I needed neither Spot nor Thog nor Alain de Botton to help with these lessons. One day I shall impart to you, in resounding prose, exactly what I learned, and you will be by turns appalled, bewildered, cut up, despairing, eggbound, frolicsome, gooey, hysterical, implacable, jinxed, knackered, loopy, and murderous, and that only accounts for the first half of the alphabet. It also summarises only your likely reactions to one of the many things I learned on Luneberg Heath. Imagine, then, the sheer panoply of my emotions you will go through as you learn all the other things, more than fifty of them, and each one more coherent than anything you will read in the astounding and weird and uncanny and unnerving tales of Thog.

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