Twin Peaks, Season 2 Episode 9 (1990) & Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase (1982)

I’ve been watching Twin Peaks.  I haven’t written about it until now because I was thinking maybe I’d write about it at the end. But, something’s come up that I want to talk about.

Warning: Spoiler Alert!!!!!

On Season 2, Episode 9, the viewer learns who killed Laura Palmer. I had my hunch when her father’s hair turned white. I was right. But, of course, there are still 3 more discs and a film to get through so clearly the “who” isn’t limited to Mr. Palmer.  Well, we know Bob is involved. We know Bob jumps from person to person.  We just have to find out the more complicated “why,” as the Log Lady says.

And this is where the fun part comes in. What I realized, after watching Season 2 Episode 9, is that David Lynch has pretty much ripped off Haruki Murakami, the Japanese novelist. In 1982 he published A Wild Sheep Chase, which is the third in the “Trilogy of the Rat” series.  Twin Peaks aired in 1990 and 1991.

Now, for any die-hard David Lynch fans:  sit back, relax, and don’t have a cow, man.  Or in this case, a sheep!

In A Wild Sheep Chase, the protagonist is blackmailed into locating an individual sheep in the Japanese countryside. The sheep is special and definitely otherworldly.  The sheep posseses individuals (you have to “let” it in), it then controls and manipulates the individual’s life, and then leaves its host to find a new parasitic human inhabitant when the body of its host is deteriorating.  The thing is, when the sheep leaves you, you die, because in the meantime a huge brain tumor has developed in your head as a direct result of the sheep being inside of you.

Hmm…..

So I realized this was what Lynch was doing: taking the idea of Murakami’s mystical sheep and appropriating it into the idea of “Bob” in Twin Peaks.  Clever, but certainly not original.  When the Sheriff and Agent Cooper have successfully captured Leland Palmer (through trickery), Bob reveals himself and spills the beans.  Then, when Bob leaves Leland, Leland tells the men that when he was young, Bob asked to “come inside of him” and he let him in. Hmmm…sounds sheepy to me!  Before he leaves his host, Bob tells the men that when he leaves Leland, he will remember all of the horrible things he has done “in Bob’s name” so to speak and he will die. And, he does. Same thing when the sheep leaves you: you die.  In Twin Peaks, we do have the character of Mike, who has cut his arm off in order to get Bob out of him; otherwise, he would have died eventually as a result of Bob.  Mike tells us that he killed many in Bob’s name, just like Leland. So we know the “m.o.” on Bob: he jumps from person to person wreaking havoc. Same thing with Murakami’s sheep.  The trick, of course, is figuring out the allegory behind the Sheep, and Bob.

The other clue that Lynch is appropriating Murakami is in the scene when Agent Cooper assembles his suspects in the Road House: Ben Horne, Leland Palmer, Leo Johnson.  Agent Cooper has connections with the mystical other world, and once they’re all assembled, he says one person is missing that he didn’t invite because he didn’t know who to invite.  Nonetheless, the meeting “had been called.” Then, immediately after, the old man from the Great Northern Hotel is brought in by Major Briggs and he is the other, expected/unexpected party.  He is an integral piece of the puzzle, and without him, the Giant wouldn’t have been able to tell him who murdered Laura Palmer.

This is reminiscient of a scene late in A Wild Sheep Chase when the protagonist is “on to” the Sheep Man’s identity and tells him that his friend, known as The Rat, will be coming at 10pm.  The protagonist didn’t know if his friend would show up, but he announced the meeting to the Sheep Man (because he suspected the Sheep Man was The Rat).  This, after The Rat had been eluding him for quite a while. Turns out he was right and the Sheep Man was The Rat.  What ensues, in the dark, is that The Rat tells him the story of the Sheep trying to “enter” him and the only way he could keep from being taken completely over by the Sheep was to kill himself. The Rat was already dead and he was coming to visit his friend using the Sheep Man identity. Keep in mind that the Sheep Man and the Sheep (that possesses people maliciously) are actually different entities.

Anyway, the point is that Lynch has appropriated this scene of suprise identity and a mystical meeting straight from Murakami’s novel.

I’ve taken the liberty of searching online for instances of “murakami and twin peaks” and “lynch and murakami” and I’m sad to report that instead of Twin Peaks being linked back to Murakami, you find many instances of descriptions of Murakami’s books as “the Japanese Twin Peaks” or Murakmi listed with Lynch as an influence.  I wonder if he knows this and is pissed off. I would be because it is clear to me that it’s the other way around.

While I’m really enjoying Twin Peaks, I’m a little dumbfounded by how blatant these appropriations are.  Of course, there is no original art, but you’d think by now (2009), someone would have pointed out that Lynch took some bits from Murakami, NOT the other way around.

I’ve done some research on Japanese “postmodern” fiction and it is a complicated issue to call anything ‘Eastern’ by a ‘Western’ title such as postmodern due to the difference between the cultural and historical definitions of “postmodern.”   In the West, we try to label things based on our own definitions of things. For instance, we have determined that postmodernity, in the historical sense, began post WWII in the WEST, and in the cultural sense, it began in the WEST when we started to become aware of the over-bombardment and discombobulation-effects of our cultural consumption-driven practices. BUT, what we Westerners label as postmodern (let’s just throw out the concept of the simulacrum) has been written about in Japan for more than 200 years, and we can’t forget Plato….  My point is that the actual elements of what the West calls postmodern literature and theory didn’t begin with Don DeLillo or William Gibson or Fredric Jameson.  We have claimed it but we didn’t originate it (albeit Plato is “Western”).

My roundabout point is that we naturally say Lynch influenced Murakami because we closedmindedly see things only from our own perspective without considering true origins.  But, that is not the case. The timeline clearly shows otherwise.  We try to claim everything, but we are late.

Because I haven’t read all of the known literature or watched all of the films in the entire world, I cannot possibly know what other works have elements of Lynch’s work or Murakami’s work in them, or vice versa. I am merely pointing out that 8+ years before Twin Peaks, Murakami had a Sheep.

11 thoughts on “Twin Peaks, Season 2 Episode 9 (1990) & Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase (1982)

  1. But, David Lynch uses the concept of possession in Eraserhead, which came out in 1977, making the possibility of Murakami being influenced by Lynch far more likely. Lynch’s thing with possession, though, is really about how not only can we never really know another person (which is what Blue Velvet [1986] is all about) but we can’t even really ever know ourselves. Possession in Eraserhead is metaphorically the space within ourselves that we don’t know, can’t know or don’t want to know (and, frankly, if I were in Eraserhead, I wouldn’t want to know) and which could actually kill us if we discovered it. Of course, Lynch uses a weird meat-baby thing and not a sheep, but I think it translates evenly.

  2. I’m not saying either one of them has the monopoly on the trope of possession. I’m just saying that it looks like Lynch took those scenes out of Murakami’s novel. But there’s still that little thing called coincidence to take into consideration, and the fact that Murakami’s novel wasn’t translated into English until 1989…. My theory has holes, but then again it’s just a theory.

    I have Eraserhead on my Netflix queue…maybe I should bump it up if there’s a meat-baby involved!!! Reminds me of Videodrome with the meaty-gun-hand-looking thing.

    I’m interested to see how Twin Peaks finishes. We still have 3 or 4 discs, plus the film, to go…..

  3. Y’know … Star Trek has both Lynch and Murakami beat. Dig the episode synopsis for “Wolf in the Fold,” a season 2 episode from 1967 (synopsis lifted from Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki):

    Montgomery Scott is on medical shore leave on Argelius II, accompanied by Kirk and McCoy, following a serious head injury caused by a female crewmember’s error. McCoy believes that the sexually permissive Argelian culture will cure Scott’s “total resentment towards women.” Shortly after arriving, Scott seemingly murders several women. Each time, he blacks out and regains awareness with a bloody knife in his hand, claiming no memory of what happened. McCoy thinks the amnesia could be “hysterical repression” of an event too terrible to recall, or simply an effect of Scott’s prior head injury. The investigation is initially conducted by Mr. Hengist, assistant to Prefect Jaris. Hengist quickly claims that Scotty is obviously guilty. Kirk, unwilling to believe that Scotty is capable of murder, insists on a more thorough investigation over Mr. Hengist’s strident protests.

    The true murderer is revealed to be a malicious incorporeal entity that feeds on fear. It once took the form of “Jack the Ripper” on 19th century Earth and then traveled from planet to planet, assuming humanoid bodies to murder women and to feed on their fear. None of those murders were ever solved. The reason for Mr. Hengist’s opposition to this line of inquiry is soon revealed – he is the current host of the murdering entity!

    The entity is forced out of Mr. Hengist’s body, but it moves into the Enterprise’s computer systems and threatens to slowly murder the crew. Dr. McCoy gives everyone a tranquilizer to deprive the entity of the fear on which it feeds. Spock forces the entity out of the computer by ordering it to compute, at top priority, pi to the last digit – a task it can never complete. The entity repossesses Hengist’s body, and Kirk orders it beamed into space “at maximum dispersion”, spreading it into billions of harmless atoms.

    So there.

  4. Nice! Also, in Season 1 of Star Trek The Next Generation, all the crew get a sexy virus that forces them to get nasty with their shipmates.

    Like I said, I’m not saying either (or any) artist has the dibs on murder-whilst-possessed, but those scenes are uncannily analagous.

  5. I know I’m really late, but I just found this and had to say something… I was actually looking for other people’s opinions about the Murakami/Lynch similarities because, ever since I started reading Murakami I’ve been obsessing over the number of coincidences between his and Lynch’s works. So this was really interesting to read… But, in case you didn’t know by now, it’s actually Murakami himself who has said many times that he admires Lynch very much and names him as one of his main influences. Also, he’s a self-declared Twin Peaks freak (he’s said he was watching the show when he was writing the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and that it had inspired him in many ways), so.. maybe he doesn’t see the similarities between his Sheep and Lynch’s Bob and all that, or, if he does, he simply doesn’t mind…

    cheers!

  6. It’s possible that Lynch has been influenced by Murakami, but much more likely and provable that the influence is actually the other way around. I have always felt a deep connection and a similar ambiance between the art of Lynch and Murakami. I fantasized about Lynch directing a film version of “After Dark” while I was reading it, for some reason. Anyway, for me the most noticeable example of Murakami being influenced by Lynch is in 1Q84, in which the concept of dopplegangers comes up again, in a very similar way to the finale/climax of Twin Peaks. An air chrysalis can “give birth” to a doppelganger, as it did for Fuka-Eri, and there is the question of whether the Fuka-Eri that Tengo knows is her “maza” or the “dohta” (doppleganger). Also, in the segment in which Tengo smokes hash with Kumi, Murakami mentions the owl many times, and here the owl is also the “guardian of the forest,” and Kumi is cryptically advising and making prophecies in a undeniably Lynchian tone. And in 1Q84, there is mention of the Little People in conjunction with the forest, and Fuka-Eri advises Tengo about how to traverse through “the forest” without being caught by the Little People. The Little People are essentially Bob, and their doorways (entrances and exits) must be used at certain places at certain times, just like the doorway to the black lodge in Twin Peaks. Furthermore, I believe there is an intentional connection on Murakami’s part between 1Q84 and Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (largely because of the character Ushikawa, who shows up in both novels; it could be argued that the Ushikawa in Wind-Up Bird could be the “dohta” version of the dead Ushikawa, born of the air chrysalis that the Little People make towards the end of 1Q84.), and this connection has to do primarily with both the literal and metaphorical concept of dopplegangers. See below for more info about that.

    On Murakami (copied from another source): “His career trajectory parallels David Lynch in many ways… (whose ideas he outright copied in Sputnik Sweatheart – someone’s hair turning white suddenly / seeing oneself in two places etc.)…”

    Copied from college dissertation: http://gme.jp/arch/docs/dissertation.PDF :

    “The mention of films in relation to “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” is entirely appropriate,
    since the novel’s atmosphere bears a number of similarities to the films of the American
    director David Lynch, specifically the film “Blue Velvet” and the series “Twin Peaks.”
    The comparison to the latter is particularly valuable, since the novel shares its method of
    composition, which might be described as not so much development, more accurately as
    ramification from a simple initial premise. “Twin Peaks” begins with the murder of a
    schoolgirl in a small and superficially peaceful American town, and goes on through a
    jagged series of developments and twists to gradually uncover the reality of a cryptic,
    evil, supernatural substratum below the mundane, cosy surface. Similarly, “The Wind-Up
    Bird Chronicle” begins with the disappearance of the cat belonging to the narrator and
    his wife, Kumiko, her subsequent disappearance, and the narrator’s lengthy and often
    surreal search for her in an inimical, hotel-like place to which access is only intermittently
    possible and achieved through dreams or rather “acts akin to dreaming” in the same way
    as in “Dance…”. The notion of a search which cannot be pursued through normal means
    – statements from witnesses, clues, and so forth – is shared by the two works, and the
    labyrinthine “hotel” of “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” echoes the similarly disorienting,
    threatening “Black Lodge” of “Twin Peaks”: both are explicitly hostile and evil…
    …It is essential in discussing this novel to introduce the concept of the doppelganger,
    which has been latent in Murakami’s writing until this point and here becomes critical.
    Previously, one might have said that the librarian in both sections of HBW or the Rat and the Sheep Man in WSC were doppelgangers, but this fact had no special significance. In
    “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”, however, the idea of the doppelganger is taken so far that
    one might almost say that most of the cast of characters are facets of the protagonist
    and his wife. The novel’s cast does not link so much as overlap, events which are
    analogous to each other being experienced by people who are different but related, and
    it is through this technique of overlapping that the protagonist’s question early in the
    novel – “Is it possible for one human being ever to know everything about another?”
    finds a kind of answer. Doppelgangers are used partly to express those aspects of a
    character which cannot be stated openly.”

    Also, I’m pretty sure Murakami himself mentioned in an interview that watching Twin Peaks had an influence on Wind-Up Bird (Twin Peaks aired years before Wind-Up Bird was published).

    1. Thanks! I haven’t been on here in a while, but I definitely appreciate your comment. I’ll be posting again starting now. Thanks for the kind words!

  7. … and while on the topic, check out the character Fuka-Eri in Murakami’s 1Q84 and the new Agent Dale Cooper in the recently released Twin Peaks. The similarities are uncanny.

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