The Fisherboy and the White Horse: a gnostic tale

This esoteric interpretation of Lamorisse’s Crin Blanc is based on the ideas thoroughly developed in A Book to Free the Soul.

White Mane (Crin Blanc) is a short black and white film released in 1953 and beautifully directed by Albert Lamorisse in the wilderness of Southern France. The storyline has the form of a children tale with nearly no dialogue and sparse narration in voice-over: the images speak for themselves. The region of Camargue where the story unfolds, with its vast skies and endless dunes drenched with sunlight, lends itself perfectly to the eerie feel of a serious fable. Indeed, as in many other stories seemingly aimed at children, it is the adults who would do well to listen and ponder.

Screen capture from Crin Blanc, 1953

Folco is a young fisherboy who lives in harmony with nature. He shows kindness to animals and is the caretaker of his only apparent family, a younger brother and an aged grandfather. Folco is a Christian figure similar to the fishermen apostles in the gospels. He is shown carrying and using a fishnet (compare to Matthew 4:18-19), and we know that the fish was one of the earliest symbols for the Christ.

The beautiful boy is about 12, which would be the age of the young Jesus at the time of his first recorded appearance in the new testament. He stands for the purified soul on the path to liberation. The world around him is harsh and cruel, but Folco lives his life in earnest and with simplicity, detached from worldly cares and material concerns.

The Call

When the souls have made enough progress on their long journey, they hear a call in one form or another that reveals their syzygos, the heavenly entity to whom they must be united to free themselves from the shackles of matter. Folco falls asleep and dreams of a majestic, untamed white horse—White Mane—who symbolizes that spiritual companion, uncompromisingly free, uncorrupted, and powerful.

In the dream, Folco and White Mane are friends. They have always been, since they are two aspects of the same being, only until now unaware of each others and psychically separated.

Against the world

The natural landscape surrounding Folco’s home is either the swamp symbolizing decay, or the parched, arid sand dunes representing the desolate earth and state of matter (relatively to the plenitude of the spiritual heavens). Halfway into the movie, a gory fight between two stallions reminds us that suffering and death are concomitant with life. Folco is determined to tame and befriend White Mane in reality as it appeared in ethereality.

First, however, he must face the herders of Camargue, the famed gardians (meaning keepers or guardians) who represent not only a misguided humankind but also the “Archons.” In gnostic thought, those para-spatial entities are the guardians of the cosmos, and their objective is to keep the soul ensnared in the material world through lies and deception. Allegorically, this is shown in the movie when the gardians attempt to capture the white horse and prevent Folco, his legitimate owner, to keep it for himself. Because for Folco—the soul—the white horse means deliverance from the material world.

Reuniting and departing

After some tribulations, Folco wins the trust of White Mane, the mystical companion of his dream, but the gardians are in pursuit. There is a scene toward the end of the movie that most likely escapes the audience’s attention and yet is very important:
Folco has stopped to rest in the shade of a tree and roast a rabbit he had caught earlier. The eating of meat is emblematic of earthly attachments and death (the reason most Gnostic, Manicheans and Cathars were vegetarians). Before Folco has even taken a first bite, the gardians close in and the boy must speed away astride his horse. Metaphorically, the soul is abandoning the world for good, leaving behind her last link to material attachment in the form of uneaten meat.

The flight

Folco and his majestic mount now flee through the dunes until it seems there must not be any escape left, but the will of White Mane—the spirit—is commanding: it is now the new will of the soul, and together, the eternal companions thrust themselves into the sea.

The return

The great seas have always inspired awe, fear, and respect in the hearts of men. They have come to symbolize the great divide between the known and the unknown as well as the uncharted depths of the psyche.
The tale ends when Folco and White Mane disappear into the waves before the eyes of the gardians.

As he saw the youth and his horse carried away by the strong currents of the sea (and seemingly drowning), many a child must have been confused by the ending of the movie. The narrator’s last words leave a rather narrow alternative for parents to explain what ostensibly is a grim denouement. Likely, the grown-ups themselves would not understand the conclusion of the tale:

And White Mane, who was endowed with great strength, carried Folco to a beautiful isle where children and horses are always friends.

In gnostic philosophy, life on the physical plane is but death, and the world is a tomb for the soul. But for the chosen, physical death is the beginning of the true life in the eternal place of light and harmony.

Postscript

While looking up illustrations for my post, I found the following two pictures:

If the similarity is coincidental, this is an interesting coincidence because The Neverending Story (from which the capture on the right is taken) is also one of those children tales with a subtle message for the grownups. The 1984 movie adapted from the book is well worth watching. You may pass on the two Hollywood sequels, which were botched, the last even more than the second. Read the book. Michael Ende was a theosophist who based his story on the esoteric ideas of the philosopher mystic Rudolf Steiner. But that’s for another post.

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