Murderer, Killer, and Slayer

A friend and I were talking about how Jack the Giant Slayer was previously titled Jack the Giant Killer, and I speculated that there are at least three tiers of terms for killing in terms of morality – to murder, to kill, or to slay.

Murder is typically thought of as between peers. For example, most humans consider it to be impossible to murder an ant, due to species bigotry. A human intentionally or otherwise causing the death of an ant is called killing, if it’s bothered to be called anything at all.

While ants and typically non-human animals are disregarded in general by many modern humans, a special word is used when referring to things that “deserve to die”, known commonly as monsters. To slay.

Dragons are slain. Goblins are slain. Zombies are slain. And, now, giants are also slain. As long as the “slayer” is a human, anyway. If a dragon kills another dragon that’s just called “killing”. It’s not called “murder” since only we moral human beings can murder something.

Humans are the only creatures who are so moral as to establish a hierarchy of value at which they themselves are at the top. They are the only ones who can murder. Murder is atrocious only because a human dies. Humans themselves define what are monsters and “deserve to die”, and they happily carry out the killing and celebrate it with the term “slaying”.

When a monster kills a human there’s often not even a word for it. The very same humans who happily abide by the reality I’ve just described are aghast at even the thought of a monster killing a human. The reality of such results in endless tears and anguished cries for revenge.

So – who’s a monster? Do rich people get to define poor people as monsters?  Do poor people get to define rich people as monsters? How about how Zionists define Palestinians? European colonists in America defining native Americans? German Nazis defining Jews, gypsies, and cripples? American soldiers defining Iraqis?

Does the proud law-abiding citizen get to define criminals as monsters? How about murderers – are they monsters?

Is murdering no problem at all if one can redefine it as slaying?

Where do humans really belong if we do an honest evaluation of morality?


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