Hannibal Rising




THE DOOR TO DR. HANNIBAL LECTER'S memory palace is in the darkness at the center of his mind and it has a latch that can be found by touch alone. This curious portal opens on immense and well-lit spaces, early baroque, and corridors and chambers rivaling in number those of the Topkapi Museum.

Everywhere there are exhibits, well-spaced and lighted, each keyed to memories that lead to other memories in geometric progression.

Spaces devoted to Hannibal Lecter's earliest years differ from the other archives in being incomplete. Some are static scenes, fragmentary, like painted Attic shards held together by blank plaster. Other rooms hold sound and motion, great snakes wrestling and heaving in the dark and lit in flashes. Pleas and screaming fill some places on the grounds where Hannibal himself cannot go. But the corridors do not echo screaming, and there is music if you like.

The palace is a construction begun early in Hannibal 's student life. In his years of confinement he improved and enlarged his palace, and its riches sustained him for long periods while warders denied him his books.

Here in the hot darkness of his mind, let us feel together for the latch. Finding it, let us elect for music in the corridors and, looking neither left nor right, go to the Hall of the Beginning where the displays are most fragmentary.

We will add to them what we have learned elsewhere, in war records and police records, from interviews and forensics and the mute postures of the dead. Robert Lecter's letters, recently unearthed, may help us establish the vital statistics of Hannibal, who altered dates freely to confound the authorities and his chroniclers. By our efforts we may watch as the beast within turns from the teat and, working upwind, enters the world.

Chapter 1-2


This is the first thing I have understood:

Time is the echo of an axe

Within a wood.

- -Philip Larkin


HANNIBAL THE GRIM (1365-1428) built Lecter Castle in five years, using for labor the soldiers he had captured at the Battle of Zalgiris. On the first day his pennant flew from the completed towers, he assembled the prisoners in the kitchen garden and, mounting his gallows to address them, he released the men to go home, just as he had promised. Many elected to stay in his service, owing to the quality of his provender.

Five hundred years later Hannibal Lecter, eight years old and eighth of the name, stood in the kitchen garden with his little sister Mischa and threw bread to the black swans on the black water of the moat. Mischa held on to Hannibal 's hand to steady herself and missed the moat entirely on several throws. Big carp stirred the lily pads and sent the dragonflies soaring.

Now the Alpha swan came out of the water, stumping toward the children on his short legs, hissing his challenge.

The swan had known Hannibal all his life and still he came, his black wings shutting out part of the sky.

"Ohh, Anniba!" Mischa said and hid behind Hannibal 's leg.

Hannibal raised his arms to shoulder height as his father had taught him to do, his reach augmented with willow branches held in his hands. The swan stopped to consider Hannibal 's greater wingspan, and retired to the water to feed.

"We go through this every day," Hannibal told the bird. But today was not every day and he wondered where the swans could flee.

Mischa in her excitement dropped her bread on the damp ground. When Hannibal stooped to help her, she was pleased to daub mud on his nose with her little star-shaped hand. He daubed a bit of mud on the end of her nose and they laughed at their reflections in the moat.

The children felt three hard thumps in the ground and the water shivered, blurring their faces. The sound of distant explosions rolled across the fields. Hannibal grabbed up his sister and ran for the castle.

The hunting wagon was in the courtyard, hitched to the great draft horse Cesar. Berndt in his hostler's apron and the houseman, Lothar, loaded three small trunks into the wagon box. Cook brought out a lunch.

"Master Lecter, Madame wants you in her room," Cook said.

Hannibal passed Mischa along to Nanny and ran up the hollowed steps.

Hannibal loved his mother's room with its many scents, the faces carved in the woodwork, its painted ceiling-Madame Lecter was of the Sforza on one side and a Visconti on the other, and she had brought the room with her from Milan.

She was excited