Friday, February 20

Myths and Fairytales

This book to the left was one of my absolute favorites growing up. You can tell because the cover is falling off, certain pages are coming out, but still it holds a sacred place on my bookshelf. I loved Egyptian lore as well and begged my parents to take me to the Field Museum here in Chicago to see the Egyptian exhibit, but I didn't have a book about Egypt that was as special to me as D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. 

The myth that has always been closest is that of Persephone. I always longed to be wise Athena, but would be drawn back to Persephone. Maybe it's because Stephanie sounds sort of like Persephone, but I don't know, something about the haunting picture of her being carried off to the underworld by Hades, reaching toward the sunny sky, flowers falling from her hands, pigs tumbling into the yawning crevice of the earth (yeah the pig imagery is a little weird, but they're in the picture in the book...). That image both frightened and fascinated me as a kid and as I grew older I really started to relate to it.

There are a ton of interpretations of the myth of Persephone. At it's most basic it's an origin story that explains the seasons. Winter comes when Demeter, Persephone's mother is sad because her daughter is down in the underworld. *Stops to ponder if this might be another underlying reason I hate winter.* But to me it's a metaphor about how quickly we as girls/women lose our innocence/childhood. That's the way I've related to it since I was a teen at least. Often times I'd be in a situation too adult or messed up for my own good and I'd think about Persephone who'd just been frolicking after her mother, picking flowers one day and then the ground cracked open under her feet. Childhood over. Suddenly she's the queen of hell. That is how growing up kind of felt to me. Sad, I know, but true too often.

So I've always related to Persephone. And always really really wanted to write a story about her. My WIP is loosely based on her. I have a character named Persephone (her dad's a rock star and her mom is a model, so they do the crazy celeb baby name thing) who was abducted along with her best friend Cori (after Kore, one of Persephone's other names) when they were five. They were brought back seemingly unharmed, but it seems that every three years something awful happens to them... the ground opens up under their feet, so to speak, and they have to go back to the underworld. I'm still in the early stages of writing this, so I'm equal parts delighted and frustrated with it right now. But the part that delights me is getting to play with Greek mythology.

What about you? Is there a myth, fable or fairytale that you always related to for some reason or other as a kid. Or that you were totally obsessed with? Or, if you write, is there one that you want to draw on or have drawn on in your writing?


16 comments:

Alyson Noel said...

That's exactly how I felt growing up too--thrust into the adult world way before it was time.

I love the premise for your new book--it sounds fascinating! I'm adding it to my virtual TBR stack as I write this!

Annika said...

I love D'Aulaire's Myths SO MUCH! We have that book, the Norse Myths, and their book of Trolls.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thanks Alyson! Hopefully my editor will feel the same and buy it so you can read it *fingers crossed*

Annika, ooh I have seen the Troll book. I want....

Sara Hantz said...

You know one of my fav books when I was young was a book on Greek mythology.... I wish I knew what happened to it... it was big with a dark green cover!!!! So cool that you're writing about Persephone.

Irene L. Pynn said...

That's one of my favorites, too! The cover on mine is completely worn and taped back together.

My favorite myth has always been (and I'm not even sure whether it's in that version) Narcissus and Echo. If you haven't heard of it, check it out. Super sweet and sad. :)

gag01001 said...

I loved going to the Field Museum when I was a kid and still try to go back whenever I'm in Chicago. This summer I also discovered the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago--they have some great Egyptian stuff.

My favorite book in high school was Edith Hamilton's Mythology. You can tell because the cover is more tape than cover and I still refer to it often.

Gerb said...

Oooh. *shivers* I LOVE the sound of your WIP. I want to read it NOW.

I've never thought of the Persephone myth in quite that way - now I'll never look at it the same.

As for me, I love the Kalevala - Finland's answer to mythology. I wrote a historical fantasy incorporating the Kalevala years ago and now that I've learned a whole lot more about writing, I'm itching to get back to it. Someday.

Jessica Burkhart said...

Your WIP sounds *awesome* and I want it. :)

Kelly Parra said...

I've always been fascinated by historical myths and legends, mostly Greek mythology. Good luck, Steph!

Amanda Ashby said...

Stephanie - wow, your new book sounds awesome! The only myths/legends that I can remember being interested in was all the Arthur stuff (and actually, we ended up calling my son Arthur because we thought it was such a cool Kingly name!!!!!)

yusufyusuf said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

I think the new book sounds fabu! In terms of mythology, I love the stuff, so much so that I used to have a game I used to play on various blogs/forums all over the Internet called "Which God or Goddess are You?" It was great fun, seeing how people saw themselves.

Katterley said...

Wow! Your WIP sounds SO cool! I, too, remember the museum, but haven't lived in Chicago since I was eight, so I'm thinking I was there last when I was seven. That and the Oriental, as someone else mentioned. Love D'Aulaire's SO much! Hamilton's, too, in high school.

Please keep us posted on your WIP!

Melissa Walker said...

Adding my excitement for your WIP!

Irene, I loved Narcissus and Echo too! I even played Narcissus in a 5th grade play (we got to choose our own parts--and I thought he was a girl by the name...oops!)

Wendy Toliver said...

Great idea for a book! I also love Greek mythology. In fact, my first YA book, The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren is based on the myth of the sirens. What I think is so cool about myths and legends (and religion) is how similar the stories are in civilizations that had no communication lines whatsoever.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thanks for all your excitement about my WIP guys! And I love hearing about all these myths. I have to look up the ones I'm not familiar with.

Wendy, your thoughts on myths, etc. are the same as mine, the commonalities are outstanding!