New Year Wishes
– Public Domain
With a New Year (and decade) fast approaching, perhaps like many of you, I’ve been pondering the past twelve months by mulling over some of the topics that really captured my attention in 2019.
No, not politics, though admittedly there are times I let myself get drawn into a Twitter fray, (a New Year’s resolution is in place to rise above that), but moving on, the truly engaging subject matter I (re)discovered was from that same social media site.
Most of us are familiar with #hashtags and how to use them.
Garden related tags are usually my go-to clicks on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, & Twitter etc., which places that specific subject matter on my radar when I’m seeking horticultural inspiration, via green-thumbed individuals/organizations from across the globe.
For some reason in 2019, I noticed some particular hashtags on Twitter regarding topics that hadn’t previously floated through my feed.
Curious, I took to scrolling through related content people were sharing under several monikers.
Morgan le Fay, by Frederick Sandys (1864) Public Domain
A few of these include:
I’m so glad I clicked them because almost instantly, doors and windows opened to knowledge on a diversity of subject matter that I’d always been keen about, but had yet to invest much time or effort.
Part of that good feeling, (in addition to blogging), includes meeting kind, sharing, and like-minded people out there in cyberspace, while at the same time (re)discovering that no matter how niche/narrow you may think your own particular interests might be, there’s an inclusive crowd for that particular universe open to anyone willing to explore.
A portrait of a fairy, by Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1869). The title of the painting is Take the Fair Face of Woman, and Gently Suspending, With Butterflies, Flowers, and Jewels Attending, Thus Your Fairy is Made of Most Beautiful Things – purportedly from a poem by Charles Ede.
My first discovery was #FolkloreThursday, which led to #FairytaleTuesday and #MythologyMonday.
Not much different from a light being switched on in my head, I found myself wanting to learn more about myth and folklore, especially after reading so much engaging information with other people.
Many of the items I’ve been reading related to stories from my childhood. Instantly I get to travel back through time to The Snow Queen, a favourite tale that I devoured as a young reader. Now, like that and many other stories, they’ve acquired a new depth as I continue to learn more of the history behind these tales. For me, this is extremely exciting!
In fact, many of the stories I/we read as kids, (and still read today), were diluted and smoothed out over time. Much of the original sinister bits have been ironed out via contemporary media, like Disney for example. Not that I’m putting them down by any means… I grew up with Bambi, etc. and still enjoy these representations too, but knowing now that there’s so much more meat to these tales than meets the eye, and that the original author’s who spun them had so much more to say, (certainly a deeper moral or spiritual meaning), is what I find so completely enthralling.
It was wonderful to learn that many a fairy tale was not written with children in mind, but in most cases for adults. That in itself piqued my interest. It made me want to travel back through print to get a glimpse of the mindset of those people who first wrote them down.
“The Deluge”, frontispiece to Gustave Doré’s illustrated edition of the Bible.
To trace the story’s lineage nearer to its point of origin, or at least as far back as I can go in order to learn about the times in which they were written, and to figure out how history may have played a part in shaping those darker bits, is like entering another dimension entirely.
The more I read, the more I started to realize, (naively to most scholars, I’m sure), just how connected folklore, and especially myth, is throughout recorded history. I see many similarities and links between ancient origin and flood myths to Gilgamesh, as well as Egyptian, Greek, and Roman mythology, the Iliad & Odyssey, up to King Arthur and Beowulf, which leads us to more contemporary times, including the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and yes, even Harry Potter!
That’s just a few off the top of my head, so for me, this feels like an archaeological word expedition through the use of storytelling, where one can uncover the layers of tales told by a multitude of voices, who have come to offer us so many beautiful interpretations of many heroic adventures.
“Arturus rex” (King Arthur), a 1493 illustration from the Nuremberg Chronicle
That’s a lot of cake to digest, but there is icing! – Illustrations.
In hindsight, and in keeping with my own arts background, pictures may have been what originally captured my attention, prior to any hashtag.
Not to belittle visual interpretations by any means, as we’re such a visual society these days, but what better way is there to capture the essence and promote fairytales or ancient myths, (whether they’re shared on Twitter today, or contained in a 150 year old book now archived and in the Public Domain), than through the artistic achievements of first rate illustrators?
Many of these artistic depictions sprang from the Victorian & Edwardian eras. I think there was a renaissance-like quality to folklore back then, and many of the best images were created by some of the most prolifically creative people in history, who like many of us today, must have been totally inspired to produce such a magnificent library of art after reading fairy tales.
Tristan and Iseult, painting by John William Waterhouse (1916)
All of this leads me to ask, why is folklore and myth surging once again in popularity?
It can’t be from the pictures alone. Could it be caused by the type of society we find ourselves living in today? Perhaps good stories are not only timeless, but a means of escape from the pressures of modern daily life, a seemingly angry society, peak consumerism, and just a very busy world.
For me, the act of re-reading fairy tales and classical mythology is not just some guilty pleasure with which to pass the time. I’m happy to tell you that as a forward thinking person having reached mid-life, I get to look back and revisit my childhood with fresh eyes.
And despite not having 20/20 vision any longer as we approach the year 2020, I do find some humour in that, but with thanks to hashtags, and the lovely people who linked them, it’s led me here.
If like me you’re interested in learning more about folklore and/or mythology, along with the above hashtag links, these are some great places to start:
In any case, take some time to enjoy the journey of exploring whatever subjects interest you!
Happy New Year and all my best wishes for the coming decade.