Monday, November 02, 2015

Mything in Action

Every fictional book, regardless of subject matter, invites the reader to step into an alternate reality.  Sometimes, however, that otherworld is so powerfully depicted, so wondrously realized, that writers and readers have been pleasurably lost in fantasy for a life-time.  Some insist on bringing that alternate reality into the real world by incorporating it into society’s universal mythology.

That is the purpose of the genre of modern literature known as mythopoeia, a 20th Century word for an old tradition, popularized by J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and others, continues to embrace readers. 

The Mythopoeic Society, the preeminent organization promoting the genre, describes mythopoeia “as literature that creates a new and transformative mythology, or incorporates and transforms existing mythological material. …This type of work, at its best, should also inspire the reader to examine the importance of mythology in his or her own spiritual, moral, and creative development.”

Some of the best known practitioners of the mythopoeia are:

•    William Blake, who used The Bible, Dante, and mysticism in painting and poetry presenting an invented mythology that was critical of technology and materialism.
•    H.P. Lovecraft, who used New England folk tales about black magic and monsters and created stories about sleeping monsters who will awaken, after centuries, to mankind’s doom.
•    J.R.R. Tolkien, who used Northern European cultures and a love for inventing languages to create the myth cycle of Middle-earth known as The Silmarillion that culminated in  The Lord of the Rings.
•    C.S. Lewis, who used Christianity and a blend of European fantasy creatures in his Space Trilogy and the Narnia series.
•    Ursula K. Le Guin, who uses a background of modern languages, world literature, and popular  fantasy to create stories showing the intricacies of alternative beings and the consequences of wizardry.
•    Neil Gaiman, who uses a background in classic and popular literature to create adult and juvenile literature that includes mythic beings living in the contemporary world.
•    Terry Pratchett, who used fantasy literature, world mythology, and British humor to create a wide-reaching and intricately plotted parody of the fantasy genre in more than 40 novels.

See the book display showcasing works of mythopoeic literature on the first floor of the Al Harris Library.  All books displayed are available for check out.
Accept the call to explore what J.R.R. Tolkien termed the “perilous realms” of fantasy.  But, reader, beware, you may find yourself mything in action.

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