Mythology Archive - The Winsome Scholar

Adaptation Ideas


May 4th, 2011

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Came across this post via Neatorama–might be helpful for the “adaptation” part of your final. In it, the author lays out a few cool ideas for adaptation of Grimm’s Fairy Tales into movies. Note that he briefly summarizes the story, pulling the most important parts, then applies the tropes of a particular movie genre.

[PG-13 language at the link.]

“Do we shape stories, or do stories shape us? After going through much of my mammoth collection of Grimms Fairy Tales, I think it’s more often the latter.  Fairy Tales, in their original non-Disneyesque glory, are dark and disturbing morality tales that have as much relevance today as they did when the Grimm brothers first started collecting them.  Many of our ideas about horror, super heroes, science fiction, and even serial killers come from Fairy Tales.   Some of them are so insightful on how people behave, that it’s simply stunning; but Hollywood doesn’t seem to care much about those stories.  Either Disney gets to take them over and make them accessible for grade schoolers, or Hollywood gives them a cheesy redo that sucks all the juice out of the actual story.”

via Nerd Blerp – 7 of Grimms Fairy Tales That Would Make Great Movies.

Atonement and Epiphany


April 10th, 2011

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To all juniors: have a great trip! (I’m trying really hard to prevent myself from mentioning the hero’s journey.1 )

We began last week with a discussion of your Job analyses, looking over the trials he endured in preparation for his atonement and epiphany. Returning to Ovid, we read the story of Pentheus and Bacchus, which nicely wrapped up our conversation about Campbell’s atonement. The frame story of the Daughters of Minyas continued the theme of refusal and pride while the stories told by the girls highlighted the gods’ (often tragic) intervention in human affairs. In our discussion of final stories of Perseus, we highlighted Ovid’s skepticism of the greatness of the classic heroes and penchant for epic fights underscored with pathos.

Next week will be a little different, as most of the class will be out for the trip. Monday and Tuesday will be a recap of Campbell’s chapter on apotheosis in preparation for the “Ultimate Boon” and the hero’s return. We will also work through comparisons (these are the “Literary Connections” you are making in your journals) in preparation for the essay due Friday after next (April 22nd). These are very similar in structure to the essays you wrote at the beginning of this year, but should reflect your growing understanding of Campbell’s theories. We’ll discuss these further and look at a few examples in class at the end of this week.

  1. Oh well. []

Job-Campbell Update


April 4th, 2011

Quick clarification for those who were on the trip Thursday and Friday:

You should bring your progress over the Job comparison to class tomorrow. The final paper is due Wednesday.

Job’s Journey


April 3rd, 2011

[This weekend’s assignment is after the recap.]

We last left off at “The Crossing of the First Threshold.” We spent this week discussing Campbell’s analysis through the hero’s “Apotheosis.” To sum up our hero’s progress thus far:

  • He1 becomes aware of another world (on the physical level) and of his own ignorance (on the mental/spiritual).
  • He refuses to embark because he is comfy in his home (physical) and knowledge of the world (mental).
  • He eventually acquiesces and decides to give himself over to the journey—not truly knowing at this point what that entails—through the help of a mentor (or other “Supernatural Aid”) who gives him the tools (physical) and advice (mental) to help the hero on his way.
  • The hero crosses the (first) threshold into this other world (physical) succumbing to the will of the other (mental).

I’ll let Campbell, through our readings from this week, take it from here.

The Belly of the Whale

The idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died (83).

The Road of Trials

Once having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials (89).

The Meeting with the Goddess

[S]he is the incarnation of the promise of perfection; the soul’s assurance that, at the conclusion of its exile in a world of organized inadequacies, the bliss that once was known will be known again: the comforting, the nourishing, the "good" mother—young and beautiful—who was known to us, and even tasted, in the remotest past (101-2).

Woman as Temptress

The mystical marriage with the queen goddess of the world represents the hero’s total mastery of life; for the woman is life, the hero its knower and master. And the testings of the hero, which were preliminary to his ultimate experience and deed, were symbolical of those crises of realization by means of which his consciousness came to be amplified and made capable of enduring the full possession of the mother-destroyer, his inevitable bride. With that he knows that he and the father are one: he is in the father’s place (111).

But when it suddenly dawns on us, or is forced to our attention, that everything we think or do is necessarily tainted with the odor of the flesh, then, not uncommonly, there is experienced a moment of revulsion: life, the acts of life, the organs of life, woman in particular as the great symbol of life, become intolerable to the pure, the pure, pure soul (112).

Atonement with the Father

[T]he ogre aspect of the father is a reflex of the victim’s own ego—derived from the sensational nursery scene that has been left behind, but projected before; and the fixating idolatry of that pedagogical non-thing is itself the fault that keeps one steeped in a sense of sin, sealing the potentially adult spirit from a better balanced, more realistic view of the father, and therewith of the world. Atonement (at-one-ment) consists in no more than the abandonment of that self-generated double monster—the dragon thought to be God (superego) and the dragon thought to be Sin (repressed id) (119-20).


Like the Buddha himself, this godlike being is a pattern of the divine state to which the human hero attains who has gone beyond the last terrors of ignorance. "When the envelopment of consciousness has been annihilated, then he becomes free of all fear, beyond the reach of change." This is the release potential within us all, and which anyone can attain—through herohood; for, as we read: "All things are Buddha-things"; or again (and this is the other way of making the same statement): "All beings are without self" (139).

We are taken from the mother, chewed into fragments and assimilated to the world-annihilating body of the ogre for whom all the precious forms and beings are only the courses of a feast; but then, miraculously reborn, we are more than we were (149).

Your Mission

This week we read and discussed the Book of Job through chapter 33, stopping to compare passages to other stories we’ve come across. On Friday you found connection between Zophar’s argument, “The Wicked will Suffer,” and a number of Ovid’s stories, including Tantalus, Minos, Midas, Oedipus. We connected these individuals to what Campbell calls the “Tyrant Holdfast”—the evil ruler who will starve his people to maintain his riches (see “The Hero as Warrior” under “Transformations of the Hero”).

Your goal is to finish reading The Book of Job (here’s where we left off) and record connections between the biblical work and Campbell’s. As I said on Friday, you can write this from any perspective you like (comparing the search for wisdom espoused in Job and Campbell, tracing Job’s hero’s journey, the temptations of each, etc.). Here are the parameters of the assignment:

  • Your thesis should be along the lines of “Campbell’s hero’s journey can be seen in (or contrasts with) the Book of Job in this way…” (don’t use those words; merely the intent).
  • It should be typed using standard format.
  • You should include a Works Cited page citing both works (3/4 down this page are the rules for citing biblical sources).
  1. Campbell uses “he,” he should have used “he or she,” but for the sake of brevity and reinforcing gender stereotypes I’ll continue to use “he.” []

Continuing the Hero’s Journey


March 24th, 2011

We’ve moved halfway through the hero’s initiation—from “The Call to Adventure” to the “Supernatural Aid” that helps move the hero toward the realm of the unknown. Tonight you should read through the “Crossing of the First Threshold,” though “The Belly of the Whale” may be too exciting to leave to the weekend.

The following is a quick highlight reel of what we’ve covered so far. If you haven’t been keeping with your notes, this is a good (if sparse) start. Alongside your explanations should be examples from Ovid and your own experience of literature and pop culture.1

The Call to Adventure

This is an example of one of the ways in which the adventure can begin. A blunder—apparently the merest chance—reveals an unsuspected world, and the individual is drawn into a relationship with forces that are not rightly understood. (46)

As a preliminary manifestation of the powers that are breaking into play, the frog, coming up as it were by miracle, can be termed the "herald"; the crisis of his appearance is the "call to adventure." (47)

The Refusal of the Call

Often in actual life, and not infrequently in the myths and popular tales, we encounter the dull case of the call unanswered; for it is always possible to turn the ear to other interests. Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or "culture," the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved. (54)

Supernatural Aid

For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero-journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass (57).

The Crossing of the First Threshold

[T]he hero goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the "threshold guardian" at the entrance to the zone of magnified power. . . . Beyond them is darkness, the unknown, and danger; just as beyond the parental watch is danger to the infant and beyond the protection of his society danger to the member of the tribe. (71)

For those interested, and excellent translation of the complete tale of Kamar al-Zaman and Princess Budur is here:

  1. We’ve pulled (probably too) heavily from Star Wars in our discussions, but with good reason. (That 45-second clip may not be all that interesting, but check out the related ones; if you’re having trouble with the concept of the Monomyth there are plenty of examples out there. []