Dear Readers of Domus Exsulis.
I don’t know who you are, apart from those who have contacted me and those who have become friends. However, over the past thirteen years of working on this web of interconnected stories, I’ve always thought of you. I thought of you when I decided I was going to create an online, hypertextual playground for my fairytales and poems. I thought of you when, most gratifyingly, the first few of you started leaving feedback, telling me of what these tales meant to you. They made me want to be a better writer. They made me realise that there were other people like me out there, to whom my words were actually meaning something. It got a little heady at first. Within my very tiny corner of a very huge world, I began to feel a little more important, a little more relevant. The world shifted, the stories grew, and grew. Then the web-space in which the world was in was too small for it. So we all moved here in 2002. Then the names did not fit the world, and I searched different lexicons for the right names. It took me a long while, but sometime in 2004, I decided that using Latin would be a smart choice, for after all, was everything not set on that same isle to which Cupid had Zephyrus bring Psyche?
But then, in the process of writing, and unearthing, I discovered different things about the world I was writing about. The web was not enough. Being loose and self-published was not enough. A novel had to be written. And because I can never do things in halves, now we have short stories that connect to the novel and novellas that connect as well. Now, I don’t know when most of these will be done, when they’ll be submitted, and when they’ll finally be published. But Domus Exsulis will always remain independent and free, even if some stories will be taken down, and others written to keep the flow going.
I grew up as a writer on the internet, and while some of you – who are long gone, so I write to the memory of those of you who wrote to me, rather than to actual persons – felt these texts meant something to you, I also knew that my skills as a writer were not good enough. When I reread some of these tales, today, I cringe. They weren’t altogether bad, but they are not representative of who I am as a writer, anymore. In the same way, the isle has grown along with me, and my process of writing these stories has been a process of unearthing things about it.
To come straight to the point – I have finally unearthed a name, which is no longer a hokey portmanteau, no longer latin. And I’d like to share it with you. My plan was to write a story about how the Caretaker discovers this name. It’s fresh in my head, but I have deadlines to keep, and the changes have already been made on the website. So I’ll just, with minimum fanfare, share the name for what used to be StormLight’s Realm, and then Lumen Procellae:
Yrejveree – (ee-REJ-vuh-rEE)
I like it. For years I’ve been seeking the right name, and I’d written down Yraeth, more than once, because it derives from the welsh hiraeth, which was, in one form or other, my nickname on various bulletin boards, MUDs and IRC channels. But I also knew that the isle had autochthonous names and tribes, and I wanted the name to reflect that. There are a couple of those names in the stories some of you have read. The Mishgalaveri Mountains and Old Man Maheeri, the cliff, for instance. So I worked a little on it, and found a name that made me happy, especially since it connects with the system of names I’ve been slowly building. It also connects to the Yrole Triptych. So it fits. The other latin names will remain. Domus Exsulis will always be Domus Exsulis. That fits too. But I felt the actual name of the island should reflect something older, something more indigenous to the isle and I am happy to have found it.
In all these thirteen years of growing, building these stories and making these changes, I’ve always had you in mind, dear, Invisible, Intended Reader. I trust that these changes are made in both our best interests, and I hope that in my process of writing a novel that will hopefully go somewhere, and short stories that will actually sell, I will not let you down, but instead, exceed your expectations.
Because I know for sure, that I’m determined to exceed mine.
Lots and Lots of Love,
The Ninny, the help-bogles, the watermaidens and assorted critters of Yrejveree
(Note: As of 17 November 2012, Yraveri has been changed to Yrejveree because it better suits developments in the novel as it is being drafted)
(c) Nin Harris 2007-2010
There is an intrinsic tie-in between myth and narration. Perhaps, one may say that the very "orality" of the transmission of stories shape myth. In some ways, we try to capture this in the myriad ways of narration today, via media, visual or textual. But what is the relevance? I think in the past few years we’ve seen more and more myth-themed elements entering popular culture via games, movies, series and yet in a certain way the meaning gets diluted. Pretty stories, a feeling of something bigger than you, but nothing much beyond. A need for escape? Perhaps. Perhaps for some these mythic pantheons are nothing more than stories of a fantastical otherworld – a benchmark that people long needed.
But, let’s consider the delineation between the mythologies of established, occidental entities known as countries; with those of newly emerging nations. We see in postcolonial and cultural theory a wholly diffferent set of baggage with regards to myth. These are very much tied into the immediate narration. We could look at older instances: creation myths, stories linked to rituals. Or we could consider the myths that revolve around nationhood, identity, displacement.
Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin in The Empire Writes Back; note that:
The dialectic of place and displacement is always a feature of post-colonial societies whether these have been create by a process of settlement, intervention or a mixture of the two. Beyond their historical and cultural differences, place, displacement, and a pervasive concern with the myths of identity and authenticity are a feature common to all post-colonial literatures in english.
It is here, in these concerns with identity that we will see an overlapping between oral narration and the written word. Many of the myths I read today may be found in these works. Works that deal with the haunting, but never quite <em>despairing</em> feeling of being between cultures, in the overlap not just between oral narration and the written word, but between different mythic structures and pantheons.
As a cultural and biological hybrid, this has been a major concern of mine, leading to a ceaseless search for cohesion, authenticity and integrity. But wait, isn’t the search itself fraught with cultural baggage? The idea of a quest almost seduces one with the idea of a monomyth, of a search for some elusive Grail, held forever out of reach. Perhaps sometimes it is about reconciling disparate parts, or seemingly disparate parts. We like to compartmentalize myth, or culture, talk about dislocation, and displacement.
Perhaps the truth is that it is in the constant shifting and the seeking of equilibrium that a greater pattern may be seen, in the palimpsests created out of overlapping, cultural frameworks. This is more of a daily reality than may be readily assumed. Myth doesn’t grow in a vacuum, neither does culture. It sustains itself with living reality, a symbiosis that is both topical and regional, and yet oddly ephemeral as well.
Much as been said today about the myth of the diasporic, postcolonial hybrid; the strange melancholy of being rootless, shifting and searching for what Homi Bhabha would call the Location of Culture; is a popular (or much disputed) catch-phrase. But what does it mean? Again, cast in the unique role of a diasporic, postcolonial hybrid I begin to learn to navigate this strange melancholy, finding that perhaps it is less prevalent for certain individuals than it is for others. What is the secret ingredient?
I wrote elsewhere that I derive a lot of my sense of belonging; from the internet, that these web presences are as much home to me as any physical manifestation. When I said this, some felt the need to “talk some sense” into me, fearing I was co-opting a more tangible reality for the transience of Os and 1s. The truth is that the feeling of belonging in itself is intangible and while physical reality has many triggers and trappings which may convince one that one is home, there is a more complicated undercurrent here. We’re talking about familiarity, we’re talking about location which is as much a construct of the mind as it is a casing for the body.
One thing I like about myths is that this seamless overlap between states becomes quixotically logical, made even more so when you look at traditional performances which incorporate mythic themes, the stepping in between past and present, physical reality and a magical otherworld. So perhaps cyberspace is our magical otherworld, the strange but familiar place which creates a "time sinkhole" where eight hours can feel like half an hour. But it is basically about our apprehending of different states of being, our way of circumnavigating concepts, whether encoded in binary or in physical lineaments.
We create, within this circumnavigation, our own narrations, our own stories or experiences. And within that creation, worlds are created. Worlds that we may know of as home.
In the introduction to his excellent compilation of Classic French Fairy Tales Jack Zipes noted that Moliere and Corneille’s production of Psyche “played a role in the development of the beauty-and-the-beast motif in the works of Mme. d’Aulnoy”. The tale referred to is “The Green Serpent” (also known as “The Green Snake”), written during the period of the French `salon faerie tales during the reign of the Sun King(Louis XIV) (which in its turn inspired a delightful movement in Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite). However, Laidronette is not the only tale that has been influenced by this legend. The beauty and the beast motif may in fact be found in various folktales. This tale type requires a quest, and an act of redemption via love and/or forgiveness. This includes the different variations of “The Beauty and the Beast” and the Norweigen folktale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”. If we draw the connection even farther then indubitably, my favourite Scottish ballad “Tam Lin” also falls within this category of mysterious, magical lovers in beastly-or not so beastly garb. Coincidentally, all of them needed to be rescued, in some way. Which is probably what drew me in the first place, the very idea that fairytale damsels are not totally in distress. In fact, in an inordinate amount of tales they seem to be the hero!
One of the earliest, if not the first instance of the tale, or rather, allegory of Cupid and Psyche, appeared in Lucius Apuleius’s “The Golden Ass”. In Apuleius’s work, the allegory is related in the manner of a tale within a tale. The allegory here is of the human soul being tormented and then led onto the road to love. Psyche is also the Greek word for ‘soul’ while the Latins call love Cupido. I’ve always found it interesting that the embodiment of the human soul comes in the guise of a woman while love comes in the guise of a man (or an older woman, if you take into account the role Venus plays in these proceedings) — and in my old age I find that rather problematic.
Another haunting version of the myth may be found in C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, a story that resonates deeply with me even though I read it after I had written my eighteen page long “Stormlight” epic poem in 1996, leading to the creation of my hypertext web which in its turn inspired my Watermaidens Trilogy (in progress), a three book long epic fantasy based in part on this mythic/folklore type.
- Amor and Psyche has been categorised as the Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 425B (The Search for the Lost Husband)
- Excerpt from Bulfinch’s Mythology at D. Ashliman’s folktexts.
- Sur La Lune Fairytales on The Search for The Lost Husband (ATU tpe 425). (Note: To a certain extent I subverted this variant in What The Stories Steal, published in Clarkesworld, Issue #120)
- An enjoyable write-up on Madame D’aulnoy’s “The Green Snake”.
Related Books: A Reading List
- Fable of Cupid and Psyche by Thomas Taylor (Translator), Adaurensis Apuleius, Manly P. Hall (Preface)
- The Golden Ass by Lucius Apuleius
- The Golden Ass of Apuleius: The Liberation of the Feminine in Man by Marie-Louise von Franz
- Till we have Faces: A Myth Retold by C.S Lewis,Fritz Eichenberg (Illustrator)
- Beauty and the Beast : And Other Classic French Fairy Tales by Jack David Zipes (Editor)
- Amor and Psyche by Erich Neumann, Ralph Manheim (Translator)
- Bulfinch’s Mythology: The Age of Fable; or Stories of Gods and Heroes by Thomas Bulfinch