|Raven, artwork by Simon Brooks |
There is much stress is made on the Greek Myths in education. I suppose there is very good cause for this. Many of the places in these tales are real places and can be traced and taught. But there are so many other cultures whose myths and stories we should be exploring and sharing. After my own cultural mythology of the Norse Gods, I discovered the Native American stories. They really spoke to me on a deep, deep level. And I have found the same with Chinese and Indian (Asia) tales. Much of this I want to explore and research more.
The Old Tales were for grown ups, not children. Let's face it, Grimm's stories contain infanticide, murder, theft, cannibalism, and yet more murder, as do many folktales from other cultures. Look at the Baba Yaga stories, and some of Australia's traditional stories. In Australia there are tales where babies are eaten, of people setting fire to each other and the animals killing each other in horrific ways. Many European stories have been watered down over the years, more recently and heavy-handedly in the last 40 years.
I think the stories from former Eastern Block countries were able to keep their strength and power, as they were less touched, as it were, by the French Romanticism and the Victorian era idea of cleaning everything up prim and proper! Some of these are not tales to tell or read to children, at bedtime or other times! But they are great for adults. It irks me a little that the Norse and Germanic pantheon of myths are often overlooked. Huge units are taught on the Greek Myths, why not the Norse Myths and Sagas? Why not the Indian and Buddhist, Hindu tales too? I have nothing against the Greek myths, although if children were taught the full story of Zeus and his philandering, the tricks he played in spite, and fear of wrath from his wife Hera, they may have a little less respect for these gods. And Hera always took out her revenge on the innocent, who Zeus had already mistreated! The Norse gods always held themselves accountable, they seem like real people - "oops, messed up there!" Very human.
I love the older versions of the Old Stories and take great pleasure from sharing them. They are so strong. The messages strike harder and deeper. I love telling these stories. With all the personal stories being told and being listened to on The Moth and the like, there seem to be few kindred spirits in telling folk tales for adults. I think if people took the time to sit and listen to the Old Stories we would find a medium in storytelling that is more intimate than theatre, more powerful than the movies and just as healing at times as a much needed call to your parents, trip to the therapist, or a snuggle with your Gran! As Cassandra Cushing put it in the Bay Express on-line: "...part of the appeal of these stories is how they provide more concrete and straightforward ways for thinking about life's complications."
If you want to explore some of these tales, check out my beginners list of books on folk and fairy tales, myths and legends by clicking here: http://www.diamondscree.com/Booklist.htm