As Masha pointed out Wednesday, the blogalectic is taking a bit of a new direction and considering myth. Before I get into that, however, let me remind you to read Masha's lovely piece on the relation of the fairy tale to beauty, and Mr. Pond's short and humorous fairy tale about fairy tales.
The word myth has multiple definitions, so our best hope of starting this discussion on the same page is to get some help from a dictionary. Quoth the Oxford:
1 a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.The shades of definition two are more commonly thought of nowadays, leaving most people with the general idea that myth is the opposite of fact. After all, no one really believes the Greek and Roman myths anymore. But myth, by definition one, doesn't necessarily imply falsehood. Be that as it may, the three of us intend to deal with this concept of traditional stories, tales that—whether true or false in the details they relate—bring something to bear upon our reality.
For this week, our focus is primarily upon the word itself, and what it calls to mind. I think, among other things, of magic. And oddly, I find myself chanting an old Kelly Clarkson song:
He's magic and myth
As strong as what I believe...
Yeah, he's so beautiful
Such a beautiful disaster
The song doesn't have anything to do with myth, not really. It's just a pop tune about a girl in love with a charismatic guy who's too messed up to make a good match. I like the words beautiful disaster, though. Myth is full of that paradox. Examples from the Greeks: Zeus having a little fling—Zeus was always having little flings—by raining down on Danaë in a shower of gold. Artistically appealing, at least if you don't think too hard about it; morally and sensibly disastrous. The sirens, singing music so lovely that Odysseus had to have himself lashed to the mast of his ship to keep himself from sailing toward them, where they would have brought certain ruin.
Of course, the beauty and the disaster aren't always one and the same. Sometimes the loveliness is a reward reached only by avoiding the dangers on every side. But myth always seems to contain both peril and paradise.
How myth affects us, how it fills our lives and stories, and why it matters, are topics strictly reserved for future weeks. For now, it's enough to know that it informs our imagination, becoming the life and breath of our art.