I’m reading Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology on my Kindle these days. It’s more of a scholarly work than lots of his other things; he researched his favorite tellings of the tales and retold some of the stories of Thor, Odin, Loki and the rest in Neil’s unique way.
I’ve always been a sucker for mythology. What fantasy writer isn’t? Myths tell us where certain beliefs and cultural practices came from. I find this is useful for just about every part of life. It’s like architecture. Lots of our modern architecture comes from copies of other kinds of buildings that looked the way they did because there were only certain materials to hand. But those buildings were the very model of rich and cool for their eras, so younger designers took those older models and built them again.
There are other cultural examples of mythology dictating current doings, such as hysterectomies. Ever wonder why the removal of female reproductive organs is called this? Because the myth propagated about a uterus was that it was the source of female hysteria. Remove it: remove the hysteria. I still wonder why it’s still called hysterectomy. I kinda hate that term. Although, if I want to be honest, here, the source of all my crazy comes from what came out of my uterus. I was more sane before kids. I think.
Myths also point us forward, at least creatively. Some of the best fictional works come from stories that have elements of our strongest, most pervasive cultural myths. Even though the author is basically telling a story over again with this kind of work, it feels fresh because it hits the bone of your very humanity!
What’s your favorite myth?