Trick or Treat

Finding Meaning In The House of the Tiger Aunt

Eds Note: This post comes to us from longtime WMRW.com observer and commentor “Clio.”  We hope in the coming months to offer others the chance to share their thoughts and expertise on this case, and encourage all interested to contact the editors.

The improbable name of Dylan Ward’s publishing venture — the House of the
Tiger Aunt — may provide a rare glimpse into his elusive worldview and character.

"Story Books" graphic from House of the Tiger Aunt

"Story Books" graphic from House of the Tiger Aunt

Of course, the Tiger Aunt is the villainess who mauls and scares little kids in a variety of Chinese trickster tales. In many cultures — particularly those of the African diaspora and of Native American societies — tricksters would often be diminutive animals (spiders, for example) who outwit more powerful predators.  In Asian cultures, however, the trickster could be a powerful, wild animal who gets beaten at its own game eventually and ultimately by less powerful children or pets.

Tiger Aunt beguiling children

Tiger Aunt beguiling children

Trickster tales, including that of the Tiger Aunt, involve inverting rigid propriety via androgyny; yet, in the Tiger Aunt tales, the “masculine” devious cat usually ends up losing out to those who are far less powerful yet who are more valued by society (children, most frequently, in the case of the Tiger Aunt).  In nearly all of the various renditions, the Tiger Aunt has to deal with usually two or three children, and the second or third child is the one who stands up to the Tiger Aunt and beats her at her own game.

If Dylan identified in some perverse way as the Tiger Aunt, then he may have imagined he had captured two of the three children — Joe and Victor — and had to deal with the difficult third one — Robert, who had to be incapacitated (probably “tricked” — literally and figuratively!) and killed to be conquered. In this inversion which denies the conventional ending well-known to Dylan, the truly small and weak character — himself (in society’s estimation, if not in actual physical strength or size) — outmaneuvers and defeats the larger, more powerful figure — Robert E. Wone — via rape and murder.

"Naughty Jack" by Dylan Ward, House of the Tiger Aunt

"Naughty Jack" by Dylan Ward, House of the Tiger Aunt

Or, in an alternative reading, the Tiger Aunt could be the middle-aged “Bossy Bottom” himself: Joseph Price. In this interpretation, Mr. Price had captured (via sex) two of the three main pawns in his life — Victor and then Dylan — and then directed the “tricking” of his most difficult and third conquest — “friend” Robert E. Wone. In both cases, the Tiger Aunt “wins;” but, just like in the usual narratives, any “win” for the Tiger Aunt is Pyrrhic in being both temporary and extremely costly. One can only hope that this bit of folklore may foreshadow the eventual outcome of this case.

Finally, in a possibly even stranger use of a fairy tale that features deception/tricking at its center, it has been alleged that someone using the moniker of Little Red Riding Hood tried to vanquish an early Wikipedia entry on the Swann Street saga. If that someone was Dylan, then his self-casting as the victim of “the big, bad wolf” of public scrutiny becomes understandable, if not forgivable.

posted by Clio

24 comments for “Trick or Treat

  1. CDinDC
    09/04/2009 at 2:21 PM

    Clio says: “In this inversion which denies the conventional ending well-known to Dylan, the truly small and weak character — himself (in society’s estimation, if not in actual physical strength or size) — outmaneuvers and defeats the larger, more powerful figure — Robert E. Wone — via rape and murder.”

    Interesting info about Tiger Aunt, Clio.

    Personally, I have always believed that Joe was the person to inflict Robert’s deadly wounds, but for sake of discussion and in keeping with your above thoughts, I’ll offer another alternative…..Dylan could have viewed Joe as “the Tiger Aunt” and chose to destroy something the Tiger Aunt loved instead of the Tiger Aunt itself. Inflicting deep wounds, but not mortal wounds. For Dylan to destroy Joe would topple his world. He would be forced to fend for himself. So perhaps he wanted inflict pain and perhaps a controlling blow to the Tiger Aunt’s world, but not destroy it.

    • Clio
      09/04/2009 at 3:40 PM

      Thanks, CD. Your alternative is just as plausible.

      Of course, there are all kinds of pertinent and uncanny applications of these tropes and characters to what may have happened at the Swann, but the predominant insight about Dylan that emerges here may be his possible self-identification as “trickster.” In this archetypical guise, Dylan could be as seemingly small and insignificant as his c.v. and/or personal presence, but, through wit and guile, he could think himself influential, indispensible, and unbeatable. The “trickster” morality across cultures tends to be situational without absolute rights or wrongs; the gender and sexual identities of the “trickster” could be just as fluid to meet (and to be triumphant) in any situation. Pragmatic and Machiavellian to the extreme, the “trickster” is the underdog who does not seem himself as the underdog. In other words, while many commentators have deemed Dylan to be a demon or a loser or a pawn, he does not see himself in that light, if we assume that he identifies as the “trickster.”

      • Clio
        09/04/2009 at 3:49 PM

        Oops! Typo above — the penultimate sentence should read: ” … the ‘trickster’ is the underdog who does not see himself as the underdog.” My apologies.

  2. 09/04/2009 at 3:51 PM

    interesting and thought provoking, clio. a very good post.

    here’s hoping the editor’s will give me the chance to express some of my previously unexpressed feelings toward dylan ward and his keepers. only kidding, craig.

    as time goes by, and more is learned about joe price and nothing is learned about dylan, i am leaning toward the bossy bottom as trickster. perhaps dyl really is the helpless dude ( and blank slate and empty suit) along for the ride, and joe continues to call the shots – not only for dylan but for victor too.

    good holiday, all.

    • Craig
      09/05/2009 at 3:11 PM

      SDI – There is nothing we’d love more than to get a guest post from you. The floor is yours.

      • CuriousInVa
        09/06/2009 at 11:59 AM

        I second that!

        • CDinDC
          09/06/2009 at 3:44 PM

          I would like a post from SDI in SDI-speak. 😀

  3. larry
    09/04/2009 at 5:01 PM

    Holy H. Christ, Clio,
    have ya thought of taking these plot lines to Hollywood!!! Shit, you have a genwine and undenible talent for serious fantasy and intrigue! Do you think you could turn this talent into a Swann St. Choose-Yer-Own-Venture??? Good that the regular authors can pull you in when their own lower colons are empty. Keep up the good work!

    • Clio
      09/05/2009 at 6:19 PM

      Thanks, larry. I am afraid that Hollywood may be tempted one day to glorify Price and Ward as nihilistic, “trickster” rebels dangerously close to menopause — Thelma and Louise without the charm. Nevertheless, I will not be part of that venture. Perhaps, though, it may be an opportunity for you, even if the producers may insist on good writing skills.

      P.S. It is rather risky (and revealing)for anyone on Team Price to be raising the concept of emptying one’s lower colon, which, after all, is an intimate pasttime in itself for at least two of the three defendants. To each, his own, of course — that is, until the pursuit of one’s own eccentric whims ends up in the rape and murder of an unsuspecting friend. Just an observation.

  4. CDinDC
    09/04/2009 at 5:47 PM

    Mr. Ripley

  5. corgivet
    09/04/2009 at 10:07 PM

    Great post Clio and kudos to the Scooby Gang for allowing people the opportunity to contribute in this manner

    • Clio
      09/05/2009 at 10:16 PM

      Thanks, corgivet. I cannot wait for the guest riffs on Joe’s upbringing and Sarah’s whereabouts. Aunt Marcia, don’t be shy!

  6. Denimama
    09/08/2009 at 12:09 PM

    Dylan Ward is a good friend of mine and I’ve got to say that this kind of baseless speculation is really quite abhorrent. You aren’t adding anything to helping solve this gruesome murder through the psychoanalysis of Dylan’s published works.

    • Craig
      09/08/2009 at 1:28 PM

      Denimama – Thanks for the note.

      We’ll let the author (Clio) speak to your criticism, but we will ask for you to help us draw a clearer picture of your friend.

      We’d love nothing more than to yield the floor to you and offer as much space as you would like for a guest post. This could benefit everyone.
      -Craig, editor guy

    • AnnaZed
      09/08/2009 at 2:41 PM

      Hello Deni,

      Nice of you to drop by.

      I have never had a friend who was accused of participating in (at the very least) the altering of a crime scene with an attempt to conceal vital evidence of the sexual assault and cold blooded murder of an unarmed man. I would be very interested to know what that is like. Particularly of interest to me is the slowly dawning realization that my friend must indeed have done something very wrong and is quiet possibly guilty of a sexual crime, a murder and a cover-up and is using me as a pawn in his attempt to get out of suffering any consequences for it.

      How does that feel?

      Thought of as a sequence, I would be interested in your reactions during the several phases of your friend’s manipulation of you as an ally.

      In the first phase your friend told the police and presumably his friends as well that he had taken a pill and was tucked up neatly in bed when elves or some such tip-toed past his room and murdered Robert. Presumably there was a sort of honeymoon phase if you will, where nothing much was known about the crime against Robert and your friend along with his house mates broadcast that he was just as stymied as the police about what may have happened. So, we’ll call that phase one the honeymoon phase. Did you during the honeymoon phase of your friend’s ongoing manipulation of you feel even a twinge of suspicion that all was not right with his story? Did you, before the complete story of what the authorities found at Swann St, have any initial intuitions of betrayal? I would be very interested to know when you first began to intuit that your friend was lying to you and manipulating you and if you sensed it even before the facts were known.

      The second phase, as news outlets made it known that the facts of the situation were not, and could not be, as the house mates have described them; that in fact a massive clean-up and alteration of the scene had taken place and that vital and incriminating evidence was absent the scene and that false and mock-ed up evidence had been created and placed there during the course of a very short time-line. Additional tidbits like the house-mates being freshly showered and the lack of any evidence of the intrusion of elves being in evidence when the medics arrived and such would, I would think, bring considerable pressure to bear on the credibility of your friend. I will call this second phase the dawning phase. As it dawned on you that your friend was lying to you and manipulating you did you begin to have any feelings of disgust, outrage on Robert’s behalf, outrage on behalf of Katherine Wone, outrage on your own behalf that your friend would have such a low opinion of your critical faculties or did you continue to have faith in the elves theory of this crime? I would particularly like to know what you emotions were during this the dawning phase as each new piece of solid and incriminating evidence against your friend Dylan and his house mates came to be known. Would you be willing to share that with us?

      As a third phase, the one that continues to this day, was entered it surely became clear to you that your friend was stonewalling the authorities, lying to Mrs. Wone and lying to you; that in fact elves never entered the Swann St. house and elves did not sexually assault and murder Robert. In addition during this the third phase it must have become clear to you that your friend was now positioning himself behind a wall of representation and that he has no intention of telling you the truth about what happened now. I’ll call this, the third and current phase, the stonewall phase. During this the stonewall phase, how does it feel to know that your friend has lied to you about a very serious capital crime (not some thing insignificant like his drug abuse, though he probably lied to you about that too)? What are your emotions as you read the evidence against the Swann Street residents and you (being able to put 2 and 2 together, I presume) have to live with the ongoing fact that you have been manipulated, lied to and intellectually insulted by your friend and that now all you will get is “my lawyer says that I can’t talk about that”? What are those emotions of being swindled, played, made something of a fool of by your friend feel like? I would be interested to know that.

      All of your myriad reactions would be of interest to me. It might make a good short story. You could submit it to the New Yorker. Maybe they would get Ralph Steadman to illustrate it. Something about what it feels like to cope with the increasingly blatant nature of your friend’s contempt for you and what it’s like to be faced with his lies and yet to, in effect, be asked to continue to lie for him in public. That must really be a mind fuck, to say the least.

    • Bea
      09/08/2009 at 4:20 PM

      Hi Denimama,

      Not much more to say than hasn’t been said – like Craig, I’d love to hear more from you. Part of the issues is that the folks who come here in support of the trio (or one/more of them) post in outrage but then don’t stick around to EXPLAIN why the rest of us are wrong, why they feel inclined to believe the trio (or one/more of them). I am hoping you’re the exception.

      If Dylan is a good friend to you, how do you see HIM in the context of what happened that night? Do you believe the “intruder” theory – or possibly that he’s covering up for Joe and/or Victor (or Sarah, Michael, or someone else)? I am genuinely curious to know your sense of things, and I hope you reply.

      Best-

    • Clio
      09/08/2009 at 10:37 PM

      Denimama, how well do you know Mr. Ward, who apparently has few “good” friends — besides Joe, of course, and maybe Victor (via Joe) and maybe Mac, his kid brother? Do you know him as massage therapist or prize-winning author, as budding diplomat or doting uncle, as man of letters or man of fetishes? He seems to have had many guises and roles yet has left no solid impressions so far (besides the possible self-image of “trickster” coming from his literary endeavours.) Can you help to fill us in on his enigmatic personality? Thanks, XO Clio.

    • Mike
      09/09/2009 at 8:10 AM

      Denimama, thanks for posting. I appreciate your desire to defend your friend. I think the best way to “add” something to our understanding of Dylan’s innocence is to tell us more. What is he like, and what is it about him that makes you think he is blameless? I think we tend to judge him harshly because the evidence seems so damning, but also because we don’t know much about him. You can help.

    • Craig
      09/09/2009 at 11:09 AM

      Denimama – To reiterate, we welcome whatever you wish to share.

      As an example, two months ago we got a comment from another close friend of Dylan Ward’s. ‘MaNonVa’ wrote in detail on his/her relationship with him and his Swann Street housemates.

      The comment set off a flurry of discussion with over 100 comments. It was a very helpful window into the case and principals and we afforded complete confidentiality. Give it some thought.

      -Craig, editor guy

      • Bea
        09/09/2009 at 7:46 PM

        Denimama – I really would like to hear more from you. While it may feel like you’re walking into a room of enemies, I think all of us would benefit from some first-hand knowledge.

  7. CDinDC
    09/08/2009 at 12:54 PM

    Denimama (Denita, I belive it is?)

    An article about Dylan’s writings is far from abhorant. Stabbing the life out of another human being is what is abhorant.

    Was Dylan DIRECTLY involved in the stabbing? We can’t say for sure, but it’s pretty damn clear a cover up ensued, and it’s HIGHLY likely your friend participated in the cover up. A coverup that is protecting a murderer.

    Whether Dylan did it or not, he’s no angel, Denimama.

    • Clio
      09/08/2009 at 2:57 PM

      Thanks, Denimama, for reading my interpretations. Literary criticism can be obtuse or dull, but it never killed anyone.

      I would love to see your thoughts on the real Dylan Ward in a guest post of your very, very own, although I’m sure that we might both agree on the massage therapist’s probable self-image as “trickster.”

    • CDinDC
      09/09/2009 at 10:15 AM

      And Denimama,

      If you care for your friend enough to post “in outrage”, put your care to good use. Counsel your friend to do the right thing. Tell him to be honest about what he knows and to be a man. The kind of man that was killed the night of August 2nd, 2006.

  8. 09/09/2009 at 7:50 PM

    first to call bullshit on the notion of dylan having a good friend; sorry denimama– not buying it.

Comments are closed.