When my daughter was little, she never liked fairy tales. Actually, my son didn’t like them either, now that I think about it. Is this normal? To me, fairy tales were the windows into the world of unknown danger, suicidal trials and magical surprises. I mean, isn’t it cool to wake up one morning, getting ready for another miserable day in the chain of never ending miserable days, and suddenly find a mysterious godmother sitting next to you, who wants nothing more than to fix your life for you, effectively putting a stop to the general unhappiness? How can you not like it, I ask you? I wouldn’t mind this godmother dropping in on me. Apparently you don’t like it if you have a combination of my and my husband’s genes, with his proteins trampling mine on every turn.
Myths, however, is something my kids and I can actually bond over. In my wenge Ikea book case I’ve got Mythological Encyclopedia, multiple versions of Greek and Roman myths, and the Holy Bible of every faithful anthropological student – The Golden Bough by James Frazer. They are quietly gathering dust, until my loving hand plucks one of them from the shelf and takes it for a wild ride. Since my daughter was about 6 years old, she would fall asleep to the inspirational stories of Gods,Titans and Heroes fighting, falling in love, killing each other and doing much worse things to humans and the whole world in general. My son definitely preferred the fighting myths to the sappy romantic adventures, but to my daughter the classification of the story always meant much less than the story itself. And so, happy to share at least some of my inner world with my offspring, I animatedly recounted for them Heracles’s twelve labors, Eo’s frantic and futile flight from the tormenting wasp, Prometheus’s noble sacrifice, and anything else I thought was appropriate for whatever ages my kids were at the time when they were still willing to listen to the stories. They really liked Odysseus, didn’t care much for the brooding Achilles (I was actually able to trick my daughter into listening to a part of The Song of the Niebelungs, which dovetailed neatly into Ilead), were impressed by Athena’s wisdom and Hermes’s tricks, and repulsed by Agamemnon’s horrible sacrifice. Eventually, the history of the world, Greek style, was imparted on them this way.
Of course, myths and fairy tales are very closely related, but I won’t go into anthropological nuances right now. The three people who are actually reading my blog might just stop doing it, if I bore them to death with comparative analysis :). I was always curious though, why my kids preferred one over the other. Since both of them are not into reading, writing, or anything remotely related to liberal arts, it took me a long time to extract answers from them. Apparently, to my kids the mythical creatures are more real and more relatable than fairy tale characters. I took this confusing statement at the face value and forgot about it for awhile.
Some time ago though, I found that my kids are not the only ones, who are thinking along these lines. Rick Riordan’s mythopoeic novels, Hunger Games and The Maze Runner trilogies, and even Harry Potter and Game of Thrones series are steeped in myths. The characters, ideas and situations described in Greek and Roman mythology are constantly finding their way into our lives. And we are losing ourselves in modern versions of Theseus’s journey through the Labyrinth, Zeus’s fight with his father Chronos, Prometheus’s plight to improve human race (and don’t start me on Oedipus and his weird family); thereby confirming what my kids knew all along – there is a very fine line between myths and reality, and we constantly cross it at will.