25
$\begingroup$

Various mythological creatures have this strange thing where wearing clothing inside out can ward them off, allow them to be outwitted, or be outright defeated? Why could this be a weakness for any magical creature?

Answers should be world-based, not what the creature "would" do. (Humans wouldn’t like clothing inside out because of social standards, or anxieties brought on by OCD, or desire for perfection. However how would this affect a creature that isn’t human or doesn’t have the same cultural build up? Please do not include something alluding to these as a potential answer.)

Here's a link for a quick example I found. I presume it alludes to the clothes being worn with the tag or collar on the wrong side: the Äbädä and the Spriggan

$\endgroup$
1

11 Answers 11

82
$\begingroup$

Totally different perceptual system.

Mythical creatures clearly don't prey on humans because they have to; they do so because they can. They have not evolved with human beings, they often come from a completely different set of dimensions.

While humans are fond of saying, "The cowl does not make the monk", thus proving they can distinguish where the man (monk) ends and the dress (cowl) begins, demons don't think in the same way - they don't even perceive in the same way.

To begin approaching this mindset you might think of an algorithm to model the human from their dress: you start from the "outside" (definition based on physical properties and similar to that of a locally differentiable manifold) and you proceed along the local normals until some specific property indicates a discontinuity. Now, the compact space lying along those normals is the human being.

This is how we might program a robotic surgeon or robo-policeman - that has no "perception" in the human sense - or something like that to "perceive" a human body. And that's very much like how demons "work".

Reversing one's dress completely changes its topology; to a demon, according to the algorithm above, the "wearer" within the dress is now the whole universe, and it is definitely not a human being. For all intents and purposes, the human has just disappeared. This kind of "disappearance" is common in the higher dimensions of demon-space, and is often used to attack. So, instinctively, the demon shies away, since to its eyes the situation has abruptly taken many of the characteristics of a demon trap.

As to how a demon's senses might be so thoroughly fooled this way, this is a characteristic they share with humans. Humans do not "see" what is in front of them, but synthesize a lot of semi-independent cues to infer shape, distance and motion. Not only several drugs can interfere with that process, but even seeing specific things can mess with the human visual perceptual system (sixty seconds of staring at this will give you, for the few seconds it takes the brain VPS to reset, what an alcohol addiction gives permanently - the illusion of something crawling under the skin of your hands or behind the wallpaper). The reverse is also true, which explains why "circles" can, in the appropriate circumstances, keep demons out, or demon-inspired dwellings have angles that are "subtly wrong", like an Ames room.

(This is the reason why some demonic rites mandate that the participants be naked. It allows demons a more "natural" - to them - management of their sensory space. Makes them comfortable, you might say).

$\endgroup$
6
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ 10/10, especially with the integration of (assumed) other lore :) $\endgroup$ – Hobbamok Mar 1 at 9:41
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Makes me wonder what this topologist demon would think of an inside-out mug, would it be a donut that ate all the universe? $\endgroup$ – Kaddath Mar 1 at 13:47
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ cough Klein bottle hat cough. . . . $\endgroup$ – Daron Mar 1 at 15:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ See also Peter Watts's vampires, whose visual cortex cannot process right angles - the "Crucifix Glitch." $\endgroup$ – thirtythreeforty Mar 1 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ I'd never seen that particular optical illusion before. That's weird. $\endgroup$ – Bobson Mar 2 at 17:51
27
$\begingroup$

People are warned against animals that behave oddly, and for good reason. Such animals are often sick with possible infectious diseases.

Humans who do odd things, such as wear their clothes inside out, or even stop in the middle of the woods and turn all their clothes inside out, are very likely mentally disturbed, which can throw plans out of order and even be dangerous to eat.

There's also the chance that the human is a mythological creature that hasn't mastered the art of appearing human, which is even more dangerous.

$\endgroup$
4
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ But if everyone is odd...no one is. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Feb 28 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ Well, you don't turn your clothes inside out unless you have to. Otherwise other people will think you are mentally disturbed. $\endgroup$ – Mary Feb 28 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ If people are diligent enough about it though, most of the people these creatures see will have their clothes turned inside out and thus be perceived as normal behaviour. Then they become the prey while the outside in clothes wearers ward them off. Heh. And if the creatures can think then the cycle won't repeat becuase they will just realize everyone is fair game. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Feb 28 at 19:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Adding to this, in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell there was a superstition (which turned out to be true) that somebody who is mad in exactly the right way can gain magical insights that sane people can't comprehend (but fairies can, hence why they're so good at magic). If this holds in the OP's story, then fairies might be wary of dealing with mad humans in case they're on to them. $\endgroup$ – A. B. Mar 2 at 4:22
21
$\begingroup$

It is not the reversal of the dress that scares the monsters away, it's the exposition of the dress label!

The dress label has a lot of strange symbols. Reversing the dress, the monster now sees that you have this strange leaflet, with what at its eyes seems to be an array of arcane and mystical runes.
Obviously monsters are not very smart, but they are wise enough to avoid fighting what they think could be a dangerous wizard.
Maybe that leaflet could be a seal that banishes them into a dimension of eternal pain... or an enchantment that will transform them in frogs... Better to flee away and look for an easier meal.

Maybe some slightly smarter monsters will start to wonder how it could be possible that there are so many powerful wizards around... But he will answer himself that evidently they have already eaten in the past all of the easy humans and now only mages are left, which is a kind of survivor bias!

$\endgroup$
1
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ That would require this to start with the invention of dress labels. $\endgroup$ – Mary Feb 28 at 16:12
6
$\begingroup$

Its just like eating a fruit with a bruise on it.

Some just don't like it. There's nothing wrong with it. They just have that subconscious opinion of that because if bruised long enough it could become infected and taste bad and could be harmful. But with a just lightly bruised fruit it doesn't affect it for us.

The same thing could sort of apply. They're just so used to people wearing clothes normally that it just weirds them out when they're inside out.

$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$

Aura. The clothing usually has some organic components, which tend to retain some image of a broader whole as per the (mythological!) Kirlian leaf phenomenon. So to the creature, a piece of clothing tends to have a visible aura of prior wearer(s) emanating out of it, in the rough shape of the wearer.

When the clothing is turned out, there is the wearer still in the middle with an aura, and the clothing with an aura like a person inside out extending in many directions around it. The result is that the person has a much larger aura -- and the obvious interpretation is that he is really some other sort of mythological creature pretending to be a person, which only fellow mythological creatures or the very psychically sensitive can hope to avoid by pulling back in time.

The shoes help to complete the ensemble because, due to the nature of their role and the physical force they endure, they create a good impression of the aura of the legs all the way up, which now bends slightly outwards. The larger legs greatly enhance the sense that the larger aura is supported and put together in a believable way.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

Body Odour

Mythical creatures are known from records of past centuries, when people took showers on one specific day in odd years and washed their clothes on even ones. You do the math. If you were a creature from a culture with at least weekly baths you would be stunned too.

Also just imagine nowadays if you had to fight someone in the olympics for Judo and your oponent shows up with their sweaty knickers over their pants. If the referee doesn't disqualify them on the spot I would resign before the match.

$\endgroup$
5
  • $\begingroup$ Worst superman cosplay ever. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Feb 28 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ Based on the false image that people in the Middle Ages were filthy as a rule, which they were not. That image was formed during the Age of Enlightenment, when people wanted to make a point of how enlightened they were compared to the "Dark Ages". $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Mar 2 at 14:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DevSolar Nonetheless, that false image is played as a trope in most medieval fantasy stories, so the argument holds. $\endgroup$ – Egor Hans Mar 4 at 7:30
  • $\begingroup$ @EgorHans Well... there are many false images we have grown out of, I don't see why we should reinforce this one. $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Mar 4 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ @DevSolar True that, although that could be fixed by lampshading the trope at some point (not sure how to bring in reality-awareness in a believable form though) $\endgroup$ – Egor Hans Mar 5 at 9:01
4
$\begingroup$

Mythical creatures are often not exactly the smartest one on the playground.

You might have seen those videos where the dog owner sends the dog away, hides under a blanket and the dog is puzzled upon returning and not finding them there. Something similar is happening here: the monster is used to see humans in a certain way. Any oddity in their appearance confuses them, be it switched shoes, inside out clothes and so on.

$\endgroup$
0
3
$\begingroup$

Very Bad Things

A long, long time ago, in a dimension far away, the long running series of wars between the Sorcerers of Earth and the Monsters of Otherplace was finally brought to an end by the great Piece Treaty. The Sorcerers agreed to return to Earth and take their accursed 'time' with them, and in return the Monsters swore to never attack or interfere with the Sorcerers, Ever Again™.

Of course the Monsters were not willing to extend that protection to all Humans (and the Sorcerers were annoyed enough with their fellows to not press the issue), so a means was devised that a Monster could visually identify a Sorcerer. Maybe it was the wearing of underpants outside of trousers. Maybe it was always dressing in pajamas and a robe and carrying a bath towel. Maybe it was putting a sprig of celery in their lapel. To be honest, the Monsters don't remember anymore, and if the Sorcerers do, they seem disinclined to issue a reminder. As a result, the Monster carefully avoid any Human who dresses too abnormally.

Because, you see, the Treaty was not simply words scribed on parchment by old men and women. No, it was a legally and magically binding contract. Any Monster who attacks or even just bothers a properly identified Sorcerer will immediately have Very Bad Things™ happen to them. Again, the Monsters don't remember what exactly the Very Bad Things are, but no-one subjected to them has survived to give an account. Most Monsters just assume it means disintegration of the body and dissolution of the soul, and leave it at that.

And besides the Very Bad Things, the leaders of both sides are alerted to the breach. The occasional accident or argument is acceptable, or at least explainable. But a large number of attacks would be known and could restart the war.

So yes, if you see a Human wearing their shirt inside-out or a necklace of beer corks, better to just give them a wide berth.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

They think it is our skin

Imagine meeting a creature that rips its skin off bit by bit and then puts it back on again with weird pocket-like organs hanging on the outside. That would put anyone off.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Try reversing it. Clothing inside out isn't their weakness it's a way there are identified. they don't have clothing And don't know how to put on correctly. So while they are able to become indistinguishable from humans physically they don't have the Knowledge to do something even as simple as put on clothing correctly so can be easily identified and dealt with.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

The monster spots human targets by looking for things that wear clothes (that's why it doesn't attack animals). If you turn your clothes inside-out, the clothes are now effectively being worn by everything in the world except you, so the monster can no longer see you.

You could also just take your clothes off, but in cold weather or in the company of others, for example, it is not convenient to walk around naked.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.