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11.18.12: An Author’s Journey: Some Inspirations & Influences in Crafting The Codex Lacrimae, Part 2.1: The Greek & Norse Myths

The Greek Myths (1)

While collecting comic books (https://ajcarlisle.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/ ) and reading fantasy novels (https://ajcarlisle.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/9) were certainly two formative influences for writing The Codex Lacrimae, the Greek and Norse myths were arguably just as important an inspiration.

Greek Mythology: A Literary Counter to Rising Teenage Angst

Mourning for Icarus (Draper)

Thanks to engaging elementary & middle school teachers, by the age of 9-13 years, I’d been well introduced to Greek mythology. I’d found those legends fascinating from first hearing about Icarus, who ignored his father’s warning about soaring too close to the sun, then plummeted to his death when the wax on his wings melted.

Even in those early years, I enjoyed the Greek myths because, message-wise, they seemed straightforward, with meaningful statements on human actions, the power of emotions, and attempts at explaining how things worked in the world.  In many cases, the hubris (overweening pride) that informed the main character’s actions resulted in far-reaching (and usually fatal) consequences that still resonated in modern times.  (“Hey, don’t get too full of yourself, or you’ll crash and burn like Icarus!”)  As with Aesop’s Fables, I found the myths interesting in their own right, but also instructive about how the ancient Greeks perceived the world around them, and how they thought humans should behave in that world.

Crossing the Styx (Gustave Doré, 1861)

For me, the myths were also thrilling because they were filled with so many human qualities and emotions (rage of Zeus, wisdom of Athena), locales of darkness and light (Hades, Mount Olympus), and fantastic imagery (Charon on the River Styx) that all held a certain appeal to an adolescent who was trying to figure out his place in the world!

Hercules & Lernean Hydra

Authority issues with parents? Read what happens to Hercules when he continually defies his stepmother Hera in the “Twelve Labors of Hercules.” Hera hated him because of the liaison her husband Zeus had had with Hercules’s human mother, but — in a feeling similar to what one experiences when stumbling away from The Book of Job — the 12 Labors really showed me that whatever trials I felt I had in life, they could be overcome because nothing I faced could compare to what Hercules confronted. (On a storytelling level, my favorite labors were Hercules’ battles with the nine-headed Hydra and retrieving the three-headed dog Cerberus from the Underworld.) At the end of those labors, Hercules gained immortality and became a demigod when he proved himself to Hera and King Eurystheus in a very twisted kind of penance — that is, she’s the one who’d initially driven him so insane that Hercules had slain his own six sons, then she gave him a wife at the end of his labors!  Tales such as these were bizarre (and often heart-breakingly cruel) but definitely grabbed one’s attention and made you want to keep reading myths to find out what would happen in a different adventure!

Prometheus (Rockefeller Center)

Teenage defiance & certainty of belief?  I found Prometheus’s Theft of Fire instructive because I admired that the Titan defied Zeus and retrieved fire so that human beings could use it.  Of course, when applied to teenage feelings of angst and rebellion, the “tough love” part of that story is Prometheus’s punishment; he had to suffer for his crime by being bound to a rock and endure an eagle eating his liver daily before completely healing again each night. (That’s more eternal torment than even the most rebellious of teenagers would be willing to endure, and I liked the fact that Hercules was the hero who finally freed Prometheus!)

Tired of homework, but knowing you have to go to school? King Sisyphus pushing that boulder every day up the mountain was a reassurance that, even if I felt that slogging through coursework every night might feel akin to the futile actions of that doomed king, unlike Sisyphus, I knew that if I earned a good grade I’d be able to do something else when choosing my classes for the next year!

Besides enjoying those myths in their own right, even back then a fascination with Greco-Roman antiquity was securing a long-lasting foothold in my mind, a foothold that would inform my aspirations to become a novelist and historian.  On the fictional hand, I was enthralled by a bygone way of storytelling that blended supernatural beings and locales with ethical lessons.  On the other “historical” hand, I loved the fact that there was a chronicled and archaeological background to the myths that gave them greater depth beyond the level of simple stories.

More on that next time!

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