Monday, June 13, 2016

Misunderstanding the word Myth

Quotes from this one:

The Importance of Myths and Fairy Tales for Christian Children
Crisis Magazine, May 7, 2015

The ancient myths, for my children, fall into the same category of fairy tales, the Chronicles of Narnia, or the Legends of King Arthur. They would love to be in the same world that these things are true, but they know that they are not and will never be. When it comes to their Christian faith, they know (already) that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ, they talk about becoming nuns, they willingly pray for people, and have devotions to their favorite saints. My four year old preaches to the monsters that she believes are under the bed, “Jesus died so that we can go to Heaven.” But they do not confuse the imaginative world of nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and myths with the revealed truths in Scripture.

Distinguo, Sir!

Fairy tales like Puss in Boots are, like Narnian Chronicles, like Lord of the Rings, like Taran the Wanderer, like Sherlock Holmes and like Miss Marple, like Tintin and like Spirou and Fantasio, like Superman and like Batman (whether Dark Knight version or Dynamic Duo version), and like Mary Poppins, Father Brown and the Man who was Thursday the kind of things God thought of but did not decide to create as physical reality, but rather allow human authors to show some "creativity".

Hesiod's Theogony and Voluspá are things God allowed demons to fool people with.

Canons of Navarrone, Iliad, Odyssey, King Arthur, Sigurd, Beowulf, Skioldungs and Ynglings are more like somewhat blurred memories of what really happened some time ago, when things became exciting. Canons of Navarrone being closest in time in subject.

Greek myths do not fall into one category, but into two, since Hesiod and Ovid's Metamorphoses on the one hand are fairytales by Hesiod but no longer by Ovid mistaken for religious truth.

A few of them do reflect historic truth about Flood or about Nephelim, but in a theologically blurred way.

While, on the other hand, Iliad, Odyssey, Greek Tragedy are about real people, or mostly so.

It would be easier to pinpoint a certain departure from history in Canons of Navarrone than in these Greek sagas. Partly of course, since records of more clearly trustworthy nature, like very sober and even boring accounts, are lacking.* But partly also because the trustworthy sources we do have are less trusted than they should be.

There is a vague disbelief in Odyssey, or in Oedipus. For a Christian, it would be somewhat difficult to pinpoint any specific event which was certainly not true than for an atheist what he could not believe true. Only, the theological interpretation of events is certainly false - as is also the case when an atheist or shintoist says how no God at all or shinto gods operated during World War II - this does not necessarily mean they were not eyewitnesses and very accurate such to visible events. And, excepting Communists, not necessarily that they are lying either.

My children love to imagine that they are in fairy tales, have found the way into “princess land,” or that the imagined wardrobe in the wall will take them to Narnia. But they are really longing for Heaven, and in desiring the magical, imagined land, they are exhibiting their desire for fulfillment in union with God.

That was not necessarily what Tolkien was saying.

He says that fairy tale at its highest has a quality which is included in the pleasure we take in the truths of faith, not that all longing for faerie is in and of itself a longing for Heaven.

However, whatever children long for when reading made up stories (except when it is clearly Hellish), I think they should be allowed to read enough of that but also enough of what might be called docu-fiction - Canons of Navarrone, Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, Beowulf, Sigurd and Didrik sagas, Njáls saga and so on, so they can tell the difference.

I will never forget how I was very clearly reminded of how Richard Coeur de Lion was a real person:

Robin Hood legend has him as hero, while Austrian legend has him as, if not outright crook, at least the kind of stormy character who will ruin the getting along between people who should cooperate.

Even if the Austrian Duke (or were the Babenbergs still Counts?) was, in his turn, somewhat vengeful.

Or, like when the Hunde von Kuenring have very different moral status in Nether Austria and in the not so far off Liechtenstein.

When people disagree over whether someone was a goody or a baddy, that is for one thing a sign it is usually a real person.

When German labels a thing Sage rather than Märchen, it is usually also historic, more or less.

And if, in some cases not, that is also the case with other kinds of fake history, which are not labelled Sagen.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
St Anthony of Padua

* Not quite. Iliad, song II, contains a ship catalogue which is famous for being as boring as the genealogies of the Old Testament. I think including Corinth in it was a joke, Homer poking fun at Corinthians without culture, but apart from that, I think it is pretty factual./HGL

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