Category Archives: myth

The Last Battle as “End”…or “Beginning”

This is the end. The Last Battle wraps up our review of the literary genres that inspired C.S. Lewis, who died 50 years ago this month.

Ragnarok
“Ragnarök,” George Wright illustration from Norse Stories Retold from the Eddas, by Hamilton Wright Mabie (1902).

It would make sense to write about the final Narnia book—the one where the world ends—in terms of eschatology, the study of “last things”. Most religions have ideas, teachings, or mythologies concerning the end of humanity, the world and the universe. Some believe everything will end in cataclysm, while others view history as a series of recurring cycles: birth-death-renewal.  Lewis’ conception of the end times in Narnia was certainly influenced by several eschatologies, as David C. Downing notes in Into the Wardrobe—

“The closing chapters of The Last Battle offer a seamless blend of Greek philosophy, Christian eschatology, and Norse mythology, […] great beasts devour the landscape, and the world ends in a rising sea and a blast of cold, as in the Norse Ragnarok. But this is only the end of the time-bound Narnia. As Digory explains, quoting Plato, that created world was only a copy or image of the eternal Narnia, as our earth is an image of the new heaven and new earth mentioned in the book of Revelation. Night may have fallen on the created Narnia, but there will be no twilight, only eternal morning” (55).

Yes, it would make perfect sense to examine The Last Battle as an example of eschatology.

But I’m not going to.

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The Horse and His Boy as “Orphan Tale”

The Horse and His Boy
illustration by Pauline Baynes

Our November celebration of the literary genres behind C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia continues with The Horse and His Boy. The story’s hero, Shasta, is a classic example of the mythic figure-type known as “the orphan child.” According to Dr. Verlyn Flieger, the orphan tale begins when a mysterious waif arrives over the water. He is adopted by those who find him on the shore, and grows up to be a great leader. Figures of this type appear in folklore and mythology from many cultures and time periods: Moses, Perseus, Tennyson’s King Arthur, and the Northern European Ing (Yngvi /Ingui), a figure related to the Danish hero, Scyld Scefing, whose story is recounted at the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf.  Flieger notes that even Tolkien’s Frodo Baggins fits this motif. Frodo becomes an orphan when his parents die in a boating accident. He is subsequently adopted by his older cousin, Bilbo, and brought to live at Bag End in the Shire.

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The First (Annual?) Mythgard Institute Webathon

The Mythgard Institute was founded in 2011 to bring rigorous, dynamic and interactive educational experiences to students around the world through the latest online course tools while also boasting challenging and engaging classes taught by world-class teachers and leading scholars of literature and language. The Institute’s courses welcome both auditors and students working towards an M.A. degree. Now, two years after this unexpected journey began, Mythgard’s students would like to give something back to this groundbreaking organization.

On Sunday September 22nd, Tolkien Day, Mythgard will host its first-ever student led webathon to support the Mythgard Academy Indiegogo campaign. The Mythgard Academy offers free content on literature and language to everyone in the form of courses, lectures and podcasts. You know how these things work: The more they raise, the more free stuff we all get! There are great perks for the various donation levels, including votes towards what course topics will be offered.

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Harry Potter & The Hunger Games: Part 1, The Hero’s Journey

Aside from being mega-hot, bestselling fiction and film, there are actually quite a few similarities between J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, both on the surface and deep within their structural and thematic cores. These similarities might account for the reason fans of one series often become fans of the other, and also why these books are worthy of study as literature and not to be dismissed as merely “children’s stories” (as if children’s stories weren’t some of the most profound works ever written…but that’s another essay). Hogwarts Professor John Granger has examined some of these similarities at his blog site, including the literary alchemy of both works, their ring composition, and underlying morality. But there’s still a lot of ground to cover. This series of essays will compare Harry Potter and the Hunger Games in three areas:

  • Part I.            Harry, Katniss & the mythic Hero’s Journey;
  • Part II.          Hogwarts, Panem & the Dystopian Literary tradition; and
  • Part III.        Blood Sport in Panem & Hogwarts.

OK. Onto Part I.—
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Around the Common Room: November 23, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving to all American Pub members!

The big news story of the week is Utah paper boy Jaxon Gessel’s getting chased one dark morn

ing by a goat named Voldemort. Now dubbed “The Boy Who Lived” by the goat’s owners, and less flattering names by his school peers, Gessel seems to have taken the event philosophically and with a fair degree of bravery as well, preventing other passers-by from likewise getting treed. After all, whatever Aberforth might say, a male goat can be an odd and rather frightening creature, especially in the dark.

In more serious discussion, Fantasy Faction’s Ryan Howse suggests a moratorium on Campbell’s monomyth. He criticizes it on several principles, from its influence on definitions to its overall masculinity. “Campbell’s monomyth is important to know,” he says, “but as writers we need to be willing to push against its boundaries and break it. We need to criticize it with a thousand cuts and let it lie fallow in the earth.” Do you agree? Disagree? Discuss.

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The Hunger Games: Gifts of the Gods

[This is the second essay in a two-part series on classical influences in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. The first –“The Hunger Games: How Glorious Fall the Valiant (‘Careers’ as Spartan Warriors)” — was published on May 28, 2012.]

Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins has acknowledged that her series was significantly influenced by classical mythology and history, especially the Greek myth of “Theseus and the Minotaur” and the gladiator games of ancient Rome (Collins, “A Conversation”). But there are other classical stories that bear a striking resemblance to the events in the Hunger Games arena. In the timely descent of those little silver parachutes – each one delivering life-saving food, medicine, or tools – readers can see an echo in the gifts and aid the Olympian gods sent to their chosen heroes in Greek mythology. Likewise, the manipulation of the arena’s environment by the all-powerful Game Makers is reminiscent of the way the gods used weather and other natural elements to help or hinder mortal champions. Two famous classical tales particularly illustrate these ideas.
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Advanced Potions – Sixth Year Lesson- 1

Advanced Potions / Sixth Year N.E.W.T. Potions class

buy viagrastyle=”font-size: medium”>Professor Horace Slughorn

Lesson 1- Draught of Living Death – Preparation and brewing.

I– Using your herbology text book, One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore, read, become familiar with, and pay special attention to the cautionary remarks for the following herbs:

Herb # 124 – Asphodel

Herb # 722 – Sopophorus Bean

Herb # 836 – Valerian Root

Herb # 874 – Wormwood

II– Read the instructions for brewing the potion The Draught of Living Death in Advanced Potion-Making by Libatius Borage beginning on page 10.

III Ponder these questions for class discussion:

1– Under what circumstances would it be acceptable or unacceptable to give this potion to someone?

2– What are the rights of the person who is given a dose of this potion?

3– What are the responsibilities of the person who makes this potion in order for another to use it?

4– What are the responsibilities of the person who gives a dose to someone?

5– Consider the following, unsubstantiated, times the Draught of Living Death was used & the results.

  • Juliet Capulet used this potion, brewed by Friar Laurence, in order to convince her family she was dead. The plan was to run off with her new husband, Romeo Montague. Alas, the plan backfired. Romeo received news of his brides death before a messenger arrived to inform him of the plan. Romeo raced to Juliet’s tomb and committed suicide. When Juliet awoke from the potion, she found her husband dead. Juliet was so grief struck she killed herself using the same knife Romeo had used to end his own life. Friar Laurence was never punished for the parts he played in this tragic story

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“Finding Joe”–A Hero’s Journey Film

A new movie is out (directed by Pat Solomon) at a limited number of theaters: FINDING JOE, a film based on the wisdom of famed mythologist Joseph Campbell. The film explores how Campbell’s work is relevant and essential in today’s world and how it provides a narrative for living a fully realized life—or as Campbell would simply state, how to “follow your bliss.”

Just watching the trailer can give one the kind of courage that allows Neville to draw the Sword of Gryffindor from the Sorting Hat!