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I really believe that myths, fairy tales, religious stories and invented myth cycles all come from the same place inside us, the need for narrative, the need to make sense of our place in the world and the cosmos, to pin us in history, to make sense of our history and our future. but also to help us work out our emotions our personal connections, they are often human emotions writ large with broad brushstrokes, they become a vicarious way of dealing with and understanding our own life events.

one of the most memorable, powerful events of my life was when one of my lectures told me the Greek nightingale myth

philomela )

she was an excellent storyteller and she told it vividly and powerfully and it rocked my world, i was going through a hardcore healing phase at that point in my life and this story held so many truths for me, about the power of men to rape women and then silence them, about women supporting each other (and i think the servant woman is often overlooked in this story but to me she is the lynchpin, without her there would have been no transformation) about the use of art to reweave fractured wounded narratives, about the absolute necessity of reweaving fracture wounded narratives for transformation/healing to be able to happen. And at the end how everything doesn't get mended, how not everything is savable, but transformations and some measure of healing is possible

and it doesn't matter that it didn't happen, or that if some of it did happen, it didn't happen the way it is told, like it doesn't matter that there never was a hobbit called frodo who went on a long perilous journey, and that fiver and hazel never crossed the landscape I grew up to to find a safe place to live, it doesn't matter that red never walked through the forest to grandmas house. Going out on a limb here, I dont even think it matters weather Jesus did all the things he is said to have done, whether he actually rose from the dead physically or not. All these stories contain types of truths for me because they help make sense of my experience and emotions and give me frameworks to hang my own life naratives on. Truth in story telling is not the same as truth in history or science. Truth in story telling is about symbols and metaphors that resonate with us about having places to pour our pain and anxieties, having places that help us explain being human, having communal narratives that help us understand the shape of the world as we live in it
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This is the third time I read this book but the first time I really enjoyed it. The first time I was too young and the second time I was too rushed. Going back to it was prompted by the films, I love them but I know that they meander away from the original story. I read it slowly and really luxuriated in it.

This book is criticised a lot because of its lack of characterisation but its supposed to be part of a myth cycle. Myth cycles have never been big on characterisation, they are all about archetypes and overarching narrative. To me it reads as if its not supposed to be an actual journey but a metaphor for a psychological one. I feel that a myth cycle that contained lots of characterization and lots of personal angst would be flawed in itself.

I do have issues with the gender and class relations in it but i took in to account while reading not only was it set thousands of years ago but Tolkien started writing it in 1937 when unequal class and gender relationships were seen as normal.

It also seems like an elegy in some places, a meditation on loss, on how what has been can never be again whatever the outcome of the journey, which may very well have been the effect of the wars on Tolkien's subconscious although he denies that that's what it was consciously about.

I love that parts of it are so dark, I love the scenes in the mines, just for themselves, their darkness and claustrophobia, but also because they can be seen as metaphors for the darker more frightening parts of who we are.

Tolkien is also often criticised for lack of pacing in his narrative but I thought the juxtaposition of the slowness of the narrative with the urgency of the fellowships journey set up some interesting tension for the reader

I also love some of the gems of wisdom

I wish it need not have happend in my time'said frodo
'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'

He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom

Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens

After having read it again it is obvious where the films differ from the book, but I really like that because that's how cultures treat myth cycles, they foreground and mutate the bits that are culturally relevant and background the bits that aren't


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October 2010

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