Whether it's something to do with being half asleep, I don't know, but it seems that my train journeys to work when I'm on earlies are one of the times when I'm most prone to random and unexpected thoughts and musings. One such happened this morning, and left me, however illogically, shuddering with horror. For no reason I can even begin to explain, a passage from a book I've read more than once, but not for several years, came to mind. The book was The Persian Boy by Mary Renault, the middle book in her Alexander trilogy, a fictionalised treatment of the life and legacy of Alexander the Great, and the passage was the one in which the eponymous boy, Bagoas, is castrated by slave traders prior to being sold as a harem eunuch. The passage isn't in any way explicit, although it does contain a sentence along the lines of 'I remember nothing except the pain and my screams'. While Bagoas, at least the Bagoas of the book - there are some very brief references to a real eunuch of that name in Alexander's household, including the suggestion that he might have been a lover of Alexander, in some of the histories written in the classical period - is a fictional character, and although I'd read the relevant section of the book on a number of occasions without any strong reactions, the idea that such a fate befell countless real boys in the ancient, and not so ancient, past really got under my skin this time. I know I'm judging previous cultures anachronistically, and that's probably a mistake, but I simply can't imagine how anyone could mutilate a boy in that way, then or now. And while, of course, boys are always uppermost in my mind, I feel almost equally horrified by things I've read about female genital mutilation, which certainly is still practised in a number of contemporary cultures, possibly even amongst some groups in this country (and doubtless other 'Western' countries as well). No child, of either gender - in fact, no-one at all - should ever be subjected to that kind of torture, for any reason. There's simply no belief, religious or cultural, that can begin to excuse it.
Love & best wishes to all