"Do you have a sister…Dr. Lecter?"
" I had a sister."
The moment when you realize what Hannibal meant. If you read Thomas Harris’ book Hannibal, you would know the following:
In Hannibal, Thomas Harris presents us with a dream that Dr. Lecter has when he dozes off during an airplane flight. It’s his memory of an event that happened during World War II. His parents have been killed, their estate taken over by “deserters.” The children are locked in a barn.
The mixed bag of deserters who used the remote hunting lodge ate what they could find. Once they found a miserable little deer, scrawny, with an arrow in it, that had managed to forage beneath the snow and survive. They led it back into the camp to keep from carrying it…
They did not wish to fire a shot and managed to knock it off its spindly legs and hack at its throat with an axe, cursing one another in several languages to bring a bowl before the blood was wasted.
There was not much meat on the runty deer and in two days, perhaps three, in their long overcoats, their breaths stinking and steaming, the deserters came through the snow from the hunting lodge to unlock the barn and choose again from among the children huddled in the straw. None had frozen, so they took a live one.
They felt Hannibal Lecter’s thigh and his upper arm and chest, and instead of him, they chose his sister Mischa, and led her away. To play, they said. No one who was led away to play ever returned.
Hannibal held on to Mischa so hard, held to Mischa with his wiry grip until they slammed the heavy barn door on him, stunning him and cracking the bone in his upper arm.
They led her away through snow still stained bloody from the deer.
He prayed so hard that he would see Mischa again, the prayer consumed his six-year-old mind, but it did not drown out the sound of the axe. His prayer to see her again did not go entirely unanswered—he did see a few of Mischa’s milk teeth in the reeking stool pit his captors used between the lodge where they slept and the barn where they kept the captive children who were their sustenance in 1944 after the Eastern Front collapsed…
Mischa’s horrible slaughter and consumption by the deserters formed the fantasy that shaped Hannibal Lecter, a revenge fantasy. In his dream, the deserters are crude and uncouth. They’re not soldiers but deserters, cowards, ignoble by definition. They take over Lecter’s parents’ property and relegate the young residents to the barn. Their breath stinks. They butcher a deer as Neanderthals would. They screech like greedy vultures when they see the spilled blood seeping into the snow.
When he grows up, Lecter targets men he considered petty and uncouth. Raspail the inferior flutist, Krendler the vindictive bureaucrat, Pazzi the corrupt cop, the census taker, even Mason Verger the former libertine who managed by a miracle of medical science to survive Lecter’s wrath—all of them are nothing more than stand-ins for the deserters who ate his sister.
Obviously he eats his victims because they ate Mischa. An eye for an eye. But why the gourmet preparation? Why serve their organs sautéed in butter and shallots? Why spend exorbitant amounts of money on vintage wines to go with these human entrees? Because Lecter knows he’s better than the troglodytes who killed his sister. He has refinement and a noble lineage. He would never eat meat roasted on a stick. He does it the most sophisticated way possible. His meticulous preparation of human flesh is his way of throwing it in the faces of the deserters who gnawed on Mischa’s bones.