Doppelganger by Yaroslav Gerzhedovich (2012)
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
“I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1886
Doppelgänger Week is a "for fun" internet meme in which users of social networking websites change their profile picture to that of celebrities, athletes, historical figures, or friends with whom they share a physical resemblance. But in traditional folklore, the doppelgänger is a non-biologically related look-alike or double of a living person, sometimes portrayed as a ghostly or paranormal phenomenon and usually seen as a harbinger of bad luck. In one of the most famous literary examples, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Henry Jekyll is a man conflicted with his inner, darker self, and decides through a series of experiments to let that side run free in the form of Edward Hyde, a sinister creature who is barely a man, and fully evil. Eventually, Hyde becomes so strong that Dr. Jekyll is unable to control his transitions, so he poisons himself to prevent Hyde from committing any more murders in the city!
Double Trouble Triangles
Doppelgänger week is a light-hearted game on social media which is played by replacing your own profile image with that of your nearest celebrity doppelgänger. There are image matching tools to help you find a lookalike from the universe of cartoons, historical art, or famous personages.
The German word Doppelgänger means “double goer” and refers to a wraith or apparition that is a replica of a living person. Doppelgängers were generally considered omens of bad luck or even signs of impending death.
The 'evil twin' variation in doppelgänger folklore tells of doubles attempting to provide misleading or malicious advice to the person they shadow. They may also attempt to plant sinister ideas in their victim’s mind or cause them great confusion. For this reason, people were advised to avoid communicating with their own doppelgänger at all costs.
Celtic folkloric versions of doppelgängers are the Irish "fetch" (a supernatural double or apparition of a living person) and the Orkney Island "trows" or "drows" (fairy-like creatures who steal healthy human babies and replace them with their own sickly children as ‘changelings’, who transform into exact replicas of the stolen children).
Some well known examples of doppelgängers in literature are:
The ghost of Hamlet’s father in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” - revenge is put in Hamlet’s mind by the apparition of his father who reveals that he was murdered.
“William Wilson”, a short story by Edgar Allan Poe - William, the protagonist, meets another boy in school who had the same name and looked surprisingly like him. This doppelgänger haunts William all his life.
Joseph Conrad uses a doppelgänger theme in his short story “The Secret Sharer” - in the story, “Laggatt”, ex-skipper of a ship, acts as a doppelgänger of “The Captain”.
Robert Louis Stevenson explores the theme of doppelgänger in his classic novel “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” - Hyde is the evil double of the honorable Dr. Jekyll.
To see this vigorous dance performed by the RSCDS in 2016, click the video (filmed and edited by Red Barn Studios).