18 January 2008

Library of Mythology

I would like to point out that I actually wrote this post yesterday. Because I forgot what day it was and I thought yesterday was Friday. For once, it turns out that I was a day early! This is important because I don’t always remember when it’s my day to blog. That would imply that I was in any way organized, which, clearly, I’m not. However, I actually put a few minutes of thought into this post and instead of my usual what weird mythology is Sela going to dig up today, I decided to talk about myths on a more …writerly level (Is that even a word? It is now.)

I spent some time over at Teach Me Tonight this week and, aside from discovering a wonderful new blog, I learned a lot about how writers write. See, our brains are “aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.” (Brownie points to the one who can name that movie quote.) Everything we’ve ever seen or read or heard lands on the fertile ground of our imagination, but we only become writers when we take that gigantic mess of stuff and transform it into a story.

Myth is the basis for thousands of contemporary stories – and nobody “owns” a myth. They may own the way they tell it, but the kernel at the heart of their story is free to whomever can write it a new and fresh way.

So where do we learn about myths to begin with? What puts them into our whirling nodes of thought? Where did you hear your first myth, and know what it was?

The first myths I learned were probably Norwegian. We lived in Norway for a couple of years before I started school and I remember tales of forest trolls and tiny, Santa-like “tomtes.” Then we moved to Egypt and the stories of Ra, Isis and Osiris were in the very air I breathed.

That’s when I started collecting books of fairytales and myth. Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a few. From my first East of the Sun and West of the Moon to my most recent purchases – two huge encyclopedias of mythology: Mythology: The Illustrated Anthology of World Myth and Storytelling, and Mythology: Myths, Legends and Fantasies.

I swear, I’m as happy as a mosquito at a blood bank.

Aside from these, I own D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths, Bulfinch’s Mythology, and volumes of Welsh, Irish and English myth. I also treated myself to the New Verse Translation of Beowulf. But I don’t get all my information from these sources. I also have several sites bookmarked online that I use for reference.

Ancient Worlds.net is a gathering place for several different ancient cultures.
Timeless Myths is handy for Norse studies, as well as Celtic and Arthurian legend. Contains some information on Classical mythology.
The Encyclopedia Mythica is useful for looking up gods of all different cultures – if you know their names. It’s not designed to discuss an entire pantheon as a whole.
And yes, I use Wikipedia shamelessly. At the very least, the cross-referenced articles are a gold mine of information.

What’s in the myth section of your personal library?
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