Myth, Folklore & Fairytales
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
Since the internet slowly became accessible to many in the 1990’s, there has been an explosion of sites dealing with Faeries. It evolved into a culture of its own, splintering into different groups as diverse as the Gothic to the Wiccans. There are also those interested in the Faerie stories of their youth, associating these entities with benign, angel-like spirits representing innocence and goodness. This list is by no means exhaustive, as I have only picked out what I considered to be the most relevant for this list, as well as those providing the most information.
Articles, Essays and Other Relevance
An essay by Jeremy Harte about faerie abduction. It is a relief to bump into articles and essays such as these which actually cite sources and sound like some thought has been put into it considering the pages upon pages of poorly researched sites I’ve had to wade through! Other essays by Harte found on the `Net include Hollow Hills which is about the fabled dwelling places of Faerie, the intriguing Dark Green – Some Disturbing Thoughts about Faeries and Medieval fairies: Now you see them, now you don’t.
An article linking faerie belief to the landscape of the mind: inclusive of Jungian psychoanalysis, by Elisabeth Oakland. Also an essay which contains citation, which gets this site’s nod of approval.
The Faery Tradition
Another essay highlighting a wholly different aspect and kinds of believers in Faerie.
Article about Tumuli and faerie linkage.
Article by Donald E. Simanek about the ever-controversial and ever-discussed Cottingley fairies. I like it because it contextualizes the affair with the interesting Spiritualism movement which arose at the end of the 1800s.
E-texts and other valuable resources
Translated by D. L. Ashliman who is arguably the `Net’s most valuable source of information on folklore and fairytales with his exhaustive library of texts.
The complete e-text of Croker’s hard to find book.
Another e-text: an ethnographical study of the Fairy Faith.
Subcultural Visuals: The Professionals
Much of the current craze in Faeries is fueled by the work of fantasy and mythopoeic artists who have made their vision of the Otherworld accessible to the masses. This section lists the more popular “usual suspects”, who are also the largest victims of copyright infringement. Fame, apparently, is a mixed blessing.
The art of Brian and Wendy Froud. Brian is perhaps one of *THE* most influential figures in so far as conceptualizing Faeries in this current age is concerned. His art and art derivative of his vision can be found everywhere on the `Net. A beautifully designed site. For more information read Faeries and The World of Froud, an article by Terri Windling.
Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s site is more than just Faerie pictures. Mythic contexts abound, and is a true feast for both the eyes and the mind of mythopoetically inclined visitors.
Subcultural Proponents: Examples of Faerie Subculture online
One of the first sites that incited the formation of an online Faerie Subculture. This site created a networking system for those Faerie-inclined and brought forth the idea of humans somehow being Faeries. This made this site very popular (as well as much-imitated).
In the Twentieth (and 21st) century, it seems as though belief in faeries encompasses so many different arenas of thought and practice. I have included this link to illustrate another facet, Faerie Wicca or Faerie Shamanism.
One of the most intriguing things I’ve seen develop over the past decade or so is the rise of costumed events and costumed subcultural proponents which combine a steampunk aesthetic with fey aesthetic. A lot of this is connected to the gothic subculture, but only to a certain extent. The Faery Balls and conventions that occur worldwide are a prime example of this phenomenon.
Faerie Websites of Note
Sites which are a happy marriage of attractive design, interesting information, and that something extra which makes them worth revisiting.
A well designed and comprehensive site detailing several denizens of the irish faerie pantheon. Interesting and intelligent write-ups coupled with lovely art.
One of the oldest resources on faeries on the web, dealing with Puck and other tricksters who have made their way into popular culture via folklore and literature.
Providing a glossary of the Italian Faerie Pantheon.
Since the World Wide Web went “public” in the mid-to-late 1990s, there have been a plethora of sites dealing with myth and folklore that have come and gone. This list combines and connects resources related to myth as well as folklore and fairytales. While the ontological structure and behavior of a myth differs from that of a fairytale, there are enough cross-overs between the two storytelling forms. Some of the sites listed below appear to have realized this as well, as their purview straddles both types of tales.
One of the oldest resources online- still the place to go if you’re looking for quick mythic reference.
A fairly straightforward resource dealing with Greek, Roman and Celtic mythology.
A comprehensive encyclopedia and resource for world myths.
Godchecker – your Guide to the Gods
Boldly proclaiming that they have “more gods than you can shake a stick at” and that they provide “mythology with a twist”, Godchecker is an exuberant resource that provides a look at different mythologies, gods and spirits from different parts of the world. Also check out their official twitter which tweets you a different God per day so you can read up on the relevant mythic entry.
A comprehensive directory of Mythic links with annotations.
Like the title promises, a resource page for online references in mythology, comparative spirituality and anthropology with a bias towards Joseph Campbell.
Cultural and Regional-Specific Myth Essays and Guides
An excellent resource for Hindu mythology, especially with regards to iconography.
An article by the Myth Encyclopedia about themes, motifs and roots in African mythology.
A thoughtful resource on Indian Mythology, connected to Indian spirituality and the meanings behind mystical icons and signs.
An offshoot of pantheon.org, this page seeks to provide a comprehensive list of Gods in African mythology from different parts of Africa.
A thoughtful and critical essay on Creation Myths and African concepts of creation
Intriguing glimpse into the world of the Anasazi.
The Theoi Greek Project provides an in-depth look not just at the themes and characters in Greek Mythology but also instances of these themes in classical literature and art. It also provides the reader with a much-welcomed Theoi Classical Texts Library so background reading into the featured myths may be done. Goodies include the Orphic Hymns and various fragments and poems by Hesiod. Well-designed site which provides a valuable resource!
A helpful educational resource for students and teachers.
Mythology, Folklore and Cultural Contexts
C.G. Jung, Archetypal Psychology, Cultural Mythology and more.
Information on Joseph Campbell, his work and other resources.
A remarkable endeavour that looks for mythic (as well as mystical) contexts in history and culture.
At the forefront of the drive towards interstitial arts, Terri Windling’s site features thought-provoking articles on both myth and folklore, galleries and interviews with proponents of this “movement”.
Featuring the “Journal of Mythic Arts”.
Exhaustive Folklore and Fairytale resource- a *MUST* visit if you’re actively pursuing information.
A site devoted to “devoted to cultures, living and ancient, and the promotion of world communication and world peace”
Magazines, Journals and Semi-prozines for Academic Writing, Essays, Articles and Fiction/Poetry
Literary Journal for Fairy Tale scholars and other academically inclined folklorists. One of the best resources available for contemporary peer-reviewed articles on folklore.
Now discontinued journal which is an offshoot of the Endicott Studio for the Mythic Arts, this trailblazing journal is still a valuable archive of posts, articles and resources for all things pertaining to the mythic arts.
A magazine and blog which features stories and poems written in the grand tradition of revising and revisiting fairytales. Host to critical and well-thought out reviews on books, anthologies and other literary contributions to the genre as well as critical essays on fairytales.
A fairly established recent independent online quarterly journal which features poetry written with mythic and fairytale themes in mind. The poetry and recordings of poetry are all of literary quality and the site is a delight to navigate.
This magazine is unique in that it reaches back into something that not many realize today. Apart from retold folktales which contain mythologems, fairytales can also be literary tales with certain qualities. As a site that encourages the germination of newer fairytales and fables, it sits nicely in an overlooked niche not just in the online fairytale market.
An online magazine accepting submissions and publishing critical and non-fiction articles on fairytales, as well as news about current literary offerings in the genre.
Dante’s Heart is a mixed genre/medium online Journal which accepts submissions for mythic art, poetry, fiction, theatre, flash presentations etc and is committed towards the active creation of myths and reclaiming it within an artistic venue. It combines the traditional expectations of text with the potential for online venues for performance spaces and is therefore something to watch out for!
Good place to start for students/seekers of myth, anthropology, comparative religion and spirituality.
One of the oldest and most comprehensive online repository of faerie tales, myths and other relevant texts and links.
Need to brush up on your Greek myth? Forgotten exactly which classical text an allusion comes from? This library is an invaluable resource for the student or enthusiast of Greek mythology.
Complete E-text of the novel by Apuleius, featuring the first recorded instance of the Legend of Cupid and Psyche.
An invaluable resource containing PDF files to historical and fictional accounts of the Malay Archipelago, linked to the myths, legends and folk tales found in the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals)
Newsletter of the Mythic Imagination Institute which is supports the
Mythic Journeys conference.
Atmospheric and welcoming resource for mythopoets and fantasists online.
Joseph Campbell Mythology Group Newsletter
Aquafemina’s newsletter, brought out every moon. Exploration of myth, spirituality and art
It’s been well over two years since the last installment of this series of posts that used to be known as Anansi’s Trail, and there have been some pretty good reasons for that long gap in-between posts. However, I shall resume this series, and it seems a no-brainer that the next installment should be about Mermaids. Ever since the Discovery Channel’s programme on mermaids earlier this year (in May), there’s been an interesting amount of press and feedback that even resulted in an official statement from the U.S. National Ocean Service to reiterate that No, Mermaids Do Not In Fact Exist!
I greet this with a mixture of intrigue, a teeny bit of resignation and a healthy dose of hilarity. People have been looking for proof of mermaids for as long as there have been people. From Columbus, to the various Youtubers who keep posting evidences (simulated, artistically contrived or otherwise) that mermaids exist.
Mermaids are a powerful draw and exist as a symbol for the intersection between the known and the unknown. As beings that are inherently liminal, they haunt, and will continue to haunt many of us. Perhaps this may explain the rising popularity of Mermaid YA novels this year*; one hopes this interest will help strengthen efforts towards the conservation of our marine life, because, need I remind you, there are countless denizens of the deep that are in danger of being fished or poisoned into extinction, even if we do not take into account climate change.
Heidi Anne Heiner of SurLaLune Fairytales has said a great deal concerning mermaid culture on the internet and concerning the rising interest in Mermaids due to the aforementioned Discovery “mockumentary”. Quoth Heiner:
“After all of my mermaid research and studies a few years ago, I have to admit I am firmly convinced that mermaids do not exist in our reality. But they are magical, wondrous beings along with their many related iterations across cultures.”
The SurLalune Fairytales Blog is always a delight to visit, and if you’re interested in developments in the scaly world of mermaids on the internet, I’d suggest paying attention to the mermaids category on her blog.
In Mythical Mermaid:The Missing Link Between Man and Fish, Greg Laslo opines:
“The more cynical, and probably more correct, take on the whole mermaid thing was that the mermaid became a symbol of empire and domain, a creature that demonstrated one’s ability, in a national sense, to travel to disparate parts of the world and, of course, come back again. Mermaids were common figureheads on sailing ships from many countries for hundreds of years, and there are mermaids on the bridge supports in St. Petersburg, Russia, along canals that lead out to sea.”
Laslo’s strongly worded article traces the aftermath of travel and colonial influence, citing for instance, the case of the mami wata and makes for a fascinating, if not entirely unproblematic read. Still, much food for thought.
Mermaid culture on the internet is not merely about scholarship or in the belief of whether these water-based visions are real or if it really matters whether or not they exist. A lot of it has to do with the idea of beauty, of what we hold to be beautiful, or otherworldly. I could make an argument that the image of a siren on the rocks, combing her hair, baring her upper body to the world while her lower regions remain safely tucked within glittering scales has very much to do with the male gaze. I could, but for my love of mermaids, and for my love of the water. Besides, I suspect most daughters of the sea would scoff at you should you decide to claim that they adorn themselves for the benefit of those supposedly amorous onlookers.
I posit that mermaids are a duality. And duality is always about choice. You could choose to be lovely, or watermaidenly, you could choose to bedeck your hair and your arms with ornaments, or you could indeed, chose to be a snarky, spinsterish type of mermaid. Whichever version you choose to be, there are plenty of venues for visual inspiration, whether dodgy or legitimate.
More articles that are reasonably researched, and coupled with beautiful visuals may be found in the following two venues:
The Mermaids and Mythology magazine, for one, which focuses more on a mermaid “lifestyle”, with fashion shoots and interviews:
Here’s the somewhat more scholarly Mermaids which is from the same people who brought us the Faerie magazine. They have articles from the likes of Ari Berk, on various diverse aspects of mer-lore, inclusive of the mami wata.
* I suspect that by the time Watermaidens is ready to be sent off to an agent, this fad will be over, and this is not necessarily a bad thing! For it is not chiefly concerning mermaids, and is far too gnarly and snarky to be about visions of loveliness alone.