Before diving into the main focus I wish to present within this blog post, I would just like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild. I was completely unable to predict where the story would go at any point within this work and that made this reading all the more enjoyable.
What I wish to discuss here is the relationship between the Tlic and humans and whether this connection is mutualistic or parasitic. For clarification purposes, mutualism will be defined as having both parties benefit from the abilities of the other. However, parasitic will be defined as a one-sided relationship in which only one party benefits and has the potential to harm the second party. In the section, Afterword Butler states, “It amazes me that some people have seen “Bloodchild” as a story of slavery” (Butler, Page 16). Here we see that Butler believes that this relationship is not one sided and is therefore mutualistic. On the other hand, Butler does go on to admit that her inspiration for this work is based on her fears of insects called botflies. She then goes onto describe the reproductive cycle of the flies in which they, “lays its eggs in wounds left by other animals” (Butler, Page 16). Since the botfly uses a host to incubate its eggs, from which they will later feed until they can fly away, this relationship animal would be considered parasitic. The animal does not benefit from the fly and is in fact presented with the danger of possible infection.
The Tlic however, are not exactly like the botfly when it comes to dealing with the incubation period and birthing. Unlike the botflies which simply lay their eggs and move on, the Tlic are more compassionate. The main Tlic of the story, G’toi tells her human, Gan, “I’m healthy and young…I won’t leave you as Lomas was left – alone, N’Tlic I’ll take care of you” (Butler, Page 16). Although some humans are left to birth the larva and die due to unforeseen circumstances, those like G’toi try to care for the human housing their young and make sure that they survive the birth process. The Tlic have someone to incubate their young and the humans get taken care of by the Tlic. Though the danger to the humans present is most definitely making this relationship more in favor of the Tlic, they could not exactly be considered parasitic. After all, people die giving birth to their own children. Then again, as Gan puts it, they are still stuck in a preserve.
Here is where things get even more controversial. At one point Butler writes, “T’Gtoi was hounded on the outside. Her people wanted more of us made available. Only she and her political faction stood between us and the hordes who did not understand why there was a Preserve – why any Terran could not be courted, paid, drafted in some way made available to them” (Butler, Page 3). The aliens who are outside the preserve want humans to be made more available to them. Here, it can be seen that many believe humans to be nothing more than cattle. It is not said whether humans are treated similarly to how T’Gtoi treats Gan, but many clearly see humans as property, regardless of any personal ties to humans. That is not to say that many humans have not committed worse atrocities, but that in this situation, there are multiple views of humanity, both positive and negative.
In the end, the relationship between the Tlic and humanity is not exactly parasitic, but could it really be considered mutualistic?