02 June 2010

Mythology as History

While reading Edith Hamilton's book "Mythology", I stumbled across a brilliant little blurb that said (in effect), mythology was science as well as entertainment.

Mythology as science. Interesting concept, but if you think about it, it makes sense. Before scientific research and development, before the splitting of the atom, before Newton got bonked in the head with an apple, people wanted answers to some of life's greatest mysteries.

Where does the sun go at night? Where does the wind come from? What is an echo, a reflection, a thunder clap?

And so they created. They told stories about Apollo and his chariot that towed the sun across the sky, of the chambers of the winds that were opened to let out the bitter North Wind, of Zeus and his hurling of lightening bolts to dole out judgment upon mankind (or just to show off).

The ancients told stories to explain the deeper truths of life. That resonates with me. We as writers do the same. We are post-Enlightenment beings. We have Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene, the Internet :), Starbucks. Our fingertips can put us in touch with more information, more "truth", than the ancient Greeks could have ever amassed in their lifetime.

And yet...we still create stories.

We craft tales of adventure, romance, horror and mystery. We attempt to explain human nature through strings of prose and poetry. Why?

Because we respond, at our most primal level, to the imagination.

I write myth based fantasy. I grew up entranced by the stories of the Greeks, Celts and Native Americans. I still consider dragons when I see mist rising from mountains or hear the grumble of waves against a rocky shore. The world's histories can be told through its cultural mythologies. If you're willing to put aside your contemporary brain and see through the eyes of imagining.

It's easy. Just like finding dinosaurs in clouds.



Mary Aalgaard said...

Clouds, yes, imaginations are formed there. I once saw a whale. It took up most of the sky.

Jen Chandler said...

Mary, I've always seen dragons! I'd love to see a heavenly whale :)

Brian Miller said...

oh, dragons are cool! the imagination is something that is not cultivated as it should be in the young once they hit school age...

Jen Chandler said...

Brian, I totally agree. I think Imagination 101 should be a required class and that it should progress from there. Even math and science need creativity!

Kittie Howard said...

If I lost my imagination, you'd have to imagine me a pool of protoplasm. And I broke into a huge smile when I saw your proverb on the side -- had never heard this one and instantly fell in love with it...yes, yes, perfect for soooo much! Lovely post, Jen, thank you.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...


I want to surf a on a whale one day. Can I?

L'Aussie said...

Imagination - isn't that what it's all and dreaming and writing...:)

Jen Chandler said...

Kittie, I would be in the same predicament. Losing my imagination would be death!

Kristen, I think that's totally possible :)

L'Aussie, thanks for stopping by! Yes, life is made through what we imagine. I believe if you can dream it, you can find a way to make it a reality.

Erin Kuhns said...

My son saw a giant ribcage in the clouds yesterday. I was both impressed and frightened. LOL

Jen Chandler said...

Erin, my neice, when asked to draw a person, asked the teacher, "oh, you mean with a skull and a spinal chord?" She's only four. I was most impressed and a bit concerned (but only for the teacher).

deb said...

I don't imagine the way you do, dragons and such,
but I think creating vital to our spirits, our souls, our calling.

I try to remember to foster it in my children.

great post.