CHAPTER III --MYTHS
(Tolkien believed that myth = truth. What did he mean?
How is the "Trojan horse" myth true?)
I. Sophie's next letter discusses the mythological world view. Note the historical progression:
A. myth to
B. religion to
C. philosophy to
Will Sophie, and you be comfortable with this progression? Notice her reflection at the end of the chapter, (p. 29). Check on the stipulated definitions of two terms essential to the meaning of philosophy: nominalism and realism. Each will generate synonyms as the novel progresses.
A. Sense of life: a pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics (Rand). Consider also the reflections of Tolkien, Frye and Campbell:
B. Result of imaginative reflection; the precursor of science, striking on natural phenomenon and religious belief.
C. Transmission of cumulative knowledge and experience and universal truths consistent in human experience through symbols.
D. Stories told about man's relationship with nature, localized in time / place: Anthropomorphic. (Tolkien)
E. Imitation of actions near or at the conceivable limits of desire.
F.The first function of a mythology is to waken and maintain in the individual a sense of wonder and participation in the mystery of this finally inscrutable universe...the second function is to fill every particle and quarter of the current cosmological image with its measure of this mystical import...the third function...is the sociological one of validating and maintaining whatever moral system and manner of life- customs may be peculiar to the local culture...the fourth, and final, essential function of mythology, then, is the pedagogical one of conducting individuals in harmony through the passages of human life, from the stages of dependency in childhood to the responsibilities of maturity, and on to old age... The principal method of mythology is the poetic, that of analogy.. death by sleep, or vice versa; and the experiences of sleep then as the (supposed) experiences of death; the light of the sun as of consciousness; the darkness of caves, or of the ocean depth, as of death, or of the womb...
1-CONSIDER THIS EXCERPT FROM XII OF THE ILIAD. HOW DOES ITS COMMENTARY ON THE HONOR CODE EXPLICATE THE ABOVE DEFINITIONS:
Sarpedon fain to attack the wall and break down its battlements.
Then he said to Glaucus son of Hippolochus, "Glaucus, why in Lycia
do we receive especial honour as regards our place at table? Why are
the choicest portions served us and our cups kept brimming, and why do
men look up to us as though we were gods? Moreover we hold a large
estate by the banks of the river Xanthus, fair with orchard lawns
and wheat-growing land; it becomes us, therefore, to take our stand at
the head of all the Lycians and bear the brunt of the fight, that
one may say to another, Our princes in Lycia eat the fat of the land
and drink best of wine, but they are fine fellows; they fight well and
are ever at the front in battle.' My good friend, if, when we were
once out of this fight, we could escape old age and death
thenceforward and for ever, I should neither press forward myself
nor bid you do so, but death in ten thousand shapes hangs ever over
our heads, and no man can elude him; therefore let us go forward and
either win glory for ourselves, or yield it to another."
III. THE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION OF MYTHOLOGY: WHAT IS OUT THERE, AND HOW CAN I COME TO UNDERSTAND IT? CLICK HERE FOR ADDITIONAL ANALYSIS.
IV. Example of the development of a man - nature link using the sea, obviously important to Greece in the "Golden Age." What are the sea's characteristics?...
A. WARM INVITING MYSTERIOUS BEAUTIFUL
B. FOAMS WAVES ANGRY
C. EXAMPLE: Iliad, XXII, ll. 355....
"DELUGE ALL YOUR CHANNELS
FROM ALL YOUR GUSHING SPRINGS--MUSTER ALL
RAISE UP A TREMENDOUS WAVE, RUMBLING
BOOMING WITH TIMBER
BOULDERS CRASHING--WELL ALL STOP THIS WILD
V. Stories of the sea become localized in time and place, and personified;
A. THE GREEK WORD FOR FOAM IS APHROS...
Ill never go back [to Paris]. It would be wrong
disgraceful to share that cowards bed
Dont provoke me--wretched, headstrong girl
or in my immortal headstrong rage I may
just toss you over...
I might make you the butt of hard, withering
Helen the daughter of Zeus was terrified...
THE DANGER OF MYTH IS ITS POWER
I. MYTH UNDER ATTACK GOT SOCRATES IN TROUBLE--SHOULD PHILOSOPHY MODIFY / REPLACE RELIGION? HAS IT? (Check the Apology--see Supplementary Readings)
A. reason vs. faith--is a synthesis possible. Click here, and check out Dan Brown's Angels and Demons.
B. What is reasonable to believe?
II. EVOLUTION OF TRAGEDY:--See Aristotle and the Poetics
A. RITES OF APOLLO AND DIONYSUS
B. WILL LEAD TO PLATOS SOUL
III. ON WHAT MUST PHILOSOPHY RELY BESIDES MYTH?
IV. WHAT SEEMS TO ASTONISH SOPHIE AS THE CHAPTER CONCLUDES (p. 29)?
Homer--Examine The Iliad and The Odyssey, and Hesiod--The Theogony (PROJECT PERSEUS) offers a comprehensive account of the Greek view of creation
J.R.R. Tolkien--SEE THE LORD OF THE RINGS, ESSAY ON FAIRY TALE LITERATURE, and especially his MYTHOPOEIA.
N. Frye--see his On Shakespeare.
Ayn Rand--see Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead and The Virtue of Selfishness. Her philosophy is called OBJECTIVISM. CLICK HERE FOR THE AYN RAND INSTITUTE.
J. Campbell--see The Power of Myth
R. Graves--The Greek Myths (in two volumes) offers not only a detailed retelling, but also provides the cultural and philosophical base from which the myths originated.