Saturday, 16 March 2013

Creativity and myth

I have been thinking about what I do and how in the end all creative pursuits are partly about telling stories - the need to make, tell and re-tell stories is such a fundamental human need. I'm a keen novel-reader, but I also like reading myths, folk-tales, fantasy and science fiction.

Turning into stone: Medusa, stalagmite, and fossils. From the Natural History Museum, London.
  • Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is currently being serialised on Radio 4/Radio 4 Extra. Having both seen the TV series and read the novel before, I think it's far better than the TV series and at least as good as the novel. It deals with "the people who fall through the gaps" - covering issues such as homelessness and mental illness, but in a metaphorical or mythical sort of way. This version has excellent casting and production and is highly recommended. If you've missed any of it, you can catch up on-demand until 29th March.
  • I have enjoyed reading The Hobbit to my five-year-old son. He often pretends to be Bilbo. Usually I get to be Gandalf, which I quite like. He is particularly fascinated by the Arkenstone and what the book calls the "power of gold". I don't think this is a concept he has been able to verbalise before, but he well understands it, telling me about "the power of sweets" and "the power of chocolate" - something that I can also relate to!
  • At the moment I'm reading him the Usborne Greek Myths for Young Children. It is beautifully-illustrated, and very much toned down and age-appropriate; there do remain a few unavoidable mentions of people killing their family members, however, which is very different to the cheery benevolence of modern children's TV. However, he loves all the mythical creatures, Atlas holding the sky up and trying to trick Heracles into doing it, and (best of all) King Eurystheus hiding in his big brass pot. I was also highly impressed that he remembered Medusa from our visit to the Natural History Museum at Christmas-time (see picture above).
What, if anything, has all this got to do with what I do? Well, I think it's that creativity isn't trivial, or some sort of time-waster for people with nothing better to do. It's part of being human and is a basic need we all have. If we ignore it, we are in danger of losing something of ourselves.

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