Mythology with Erin

Adventures in storytelling

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Week 12 Reading: King Arthur, Part A

What is the beginning of this text saying about human nature and leadership? I think there’s a lot of “divine right of kings” philosophy in this myth, that a chosen one has to be the leader in order for goodness and chivalry to reign. Still, it’s a very good set up and presents a fallen world for a hero to save.

I love magical, sacred items like the Sword in the Stone. The idea a of a “chosen one” is an old trope, and one that doesn’t really fit into modern philosophies, as we now much prefer stories where anyone, even the low-born nobodies can be heroes.

“Kay shall not be without a sword this day. I will take that sword in the churchyard, and give it to him,” Arthur is a pure hero with such perfect behavior and ideals that it’s almost unbelievable. How would this story be different if Arthur displayed some kind of flaw, like pride or a bit of selfishness?

How would this story be different if Arthur realized what he was doing when he pulled the sword out? I don’t really like that he does it in such a casual, ignorant way. I feel like that could be a really epic moment.

I don’t think I had ever realized that Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone were different swords. That’s so interesting.

“Sir,” answered Merlin, “what you say as to her beauty is true, but, if your heart was not set on her, I could find you another as fair, and of more goodness, than she. But if a man’s heart is once set it is idle to try to turn him.” Yeah, I know the whole Lancelot incident, but every other time I’ve read about Guinevere, she’s been portrayed as perfectly good and wholesome. This is the first time it’s been implied that she might not be a good person, even when she’s young. I kind of like this angle; it makes her a much more interesting character that would be fun to explore. 

Sir Tor sounds like a really interesting character since he was born a commoner and then made a knight. I wonder how that affects his actions and relationships with the other knights.

I don’t really like Merlin in this version of the story. He comes across as a controlling old dude and doesn’t seem to be very loving or respectful of Arthur. He almost seems to be scheming, with the way he says things without explaining them.

Morgan le Fay throws the magic scabbard in the lake; I wonder what would happen if someone found it in the future. That could be an interesting spin.

Morgan le Fay reminds me a lot of Loki and other mischief gods and trickster characters. She never seems like a true formidable villain; just a jealous, scheming sister.

The Chapel of St. Augustine can only be found by “adventure.” I like settings like this because it turns travels into Quests. Just like the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur, Arthur has to go on an adventure in order to find what he’s looking for.

It’s definitely interesting that the Holy Grail is seen as a bringer of doom in this story, not a holy and good artifact.


King Arthur: Tales of the Round Table by Andrew Lang. (1902). – Web Source.

Image 1: Sword in a boulder. Source – Pxhere

Image 2: A sword-in-the-stone pewter figurine that I got at Norman’s Medieval Fair last year! Source – My photo.

Image 3: King Arthur by Charles Ernest Butler. Source – Wikipedia.

Week 10 Reading Notes: Blackfeet Stories, Part B

The Smart Woman Chief:

WHOA. This story starts really sexist and then has a total twist ending where the women make the men look like complete fools. 

I hereby propose that we solve all our problems by turning the perpetrators into pine trees. There would be fewer annoying people AND more forests.

Bobcat and Birch Tree:

Judging from this and the previous story, Old Man is really foolish and kind of a jerk, especially when he kills all of the prairie dogs. It’s interesting that his persona is also tied to the Blackfeet creator god, which is usually a wise and benevolent character.

Kut-O-Yis, The Blood Boy:

Kut-o-yis literally comes from the blood of a bison, which is one of the wildest origin stories I’ve ever heard. 

Respecting and helping elders must be a strong value to the Blackfeet since Kut-o-yis is born to help the old people overcome their cruel son-in-law.

Bears, like wolves, are also some of my favorite animals. We saw a few of them this summer, and the general opinion was do NOT mess with bears. They’re no friendly, and they have been known to cause trouble with humans. Obviously that Blackfeet share that opinion of the bears, as in this story, they are stealing human food.

It’s interesting that in all of these stories, there is a tyrant who is taking food from the people. Many times it is animals. I guess that represents the struggle that the Blackfeet may have had with nature.

“Kut-o-yis’ was glad to know that there was such a person, and he went to the mountains.” This is Kut-o-yis’s response to finding out that there is someone who may be able to kill him. The man is obviously a folk hero character with great skills and benevolence, but maybe that response is a sign that he’s also reckless and a bit arrogant, which are common flaws of heroic characters.

“The ground was white as snow with the bones of those who had died. There were bodies with flesh on them; some who had died not long before and some who were still living.” More scary images that might inspire my Halloween story. I wonder if bones and skeletons hold a special significance to the Blackfeet people as they seem to be a common motif in the more gruesome stories.

Kut-o-yis wants to visit “all the people.” There are several small groups within the overarching Blackfeet Nation, and I wonder if this is alluding to them being separate but unified under one language and culture. Since they share language, it makes sense that they would also share mythologies and legends, so maybe Kut-o-yis is a common figure in each group’s folklore.

“Now, really, this was what Kut-o-yis’ was looking for. This was what he was doing in the world, trying to kill off all the bad things.” What a heroic guy!


Blackfeet Indian Stories by George Bird Grinnell (1915). Web source.

Image 1: Chief Mountain on the Blackfeet Reservation. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 2: Blackfeet warrior by Bodmer. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 3: Map of Blackfeet land and Glacier National Park. Source – Wikipedia.

Week 10 Reading Notes: Blackfeet Stories, Part A

I decided to read this unit this week because during the summer, I visited northwest Montana, which is where the Blackfeet people live. We were on their reservation for a brief time, and many areas of Glacier National Park are part of their history. I was especially inspired by the story of Running Eagle, a female warrior of the Blackfeet Nation from the 1800s. She’s similar to China’s Mulan or even Joan of Arc. We hiked to Running Eagle Falls and learned all about her importance to the nation.

Here is some more information about the Blackfeet Nation, as they are known in the United States: Wikipedia.

The Wolf Man:

Wolves are one of my favorite animals! The Blackfeet people characterize them as clever and strong and possessing of special powers. This legend is almost like a werewolf story, since the man is partially turned into a wolf. 

I wonder why the man chooses to turn his back on his people by stealing their food after the wolves save him. Was his anger at his wives extended to his entire tribe?

The Dog and the Root Digger:

“This happened long ago.” This opening sentence sounds like it may be another version of saying “Once upon a time.” It immediately engages the imaginations of the audience and the mystery of the upcoming story.

“In those days the people were hungry. No buffalo could be found, no antelope were seen on the prairie. Grass grew in the trails where the elk and the deer used to travel. There was not even a rabbit in the brush.” I love the short sentences used here. It sounds like someone is reading aloud, telling a story to a group of listeners.

What is a root digger? —After Googling, there doesn’t seem to be an animal that is regularly called a “root digger,” but I think I can safely assume that it’s some type of small rodent, like the ground squirrels we saw in Montana this summer or even a gopher.

“Soon after this the woman and her son went off to pick berries…” I wonder if they’re out picking huckleberries, which grow in the wild in Montana, where the Blackfeet are from!

The Camp of the Ghosts:

It’s interesting that the idea of journeying to the underworld is such a key part of so many mythologies. There’s one in the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, which I learned about in a Crash Course video. There are scads of them in Classical Greek mythology, from Orpheus to Cupid and Psyche, which I read for a unit. There was even one in Japanese mythology with their creator god and goddess! Humans seem to need to find ways to describe and explain death.

“If you should open them and look about you, you would die.” Serious Orpheus vibes.

“They will try to scare you; they will make fearful noises and you will see strange and terrible things, but do not be afraid.” I’m really looking for some material to help me write a scary Halloween story, so I hope these things really are frightening!

Ah, to the Blackfeet, the best way to overcome fear is by being “strong of heart” and resolute. 

It’s interesting that the ghost village has a similar structure as a human village: there is a chief and citizens. The ghosts can smell, and they seem to have the ability to talk and reason. They’re not just floating, scary zombie types.

There are a lot of rules in this task! He must keep his eyes shut, obey the ghosts, clean himself in a sweat-house.

“Not long after this, once in the night, this man told his wife to do something, and when she did not begin at once he picked up a brand from the fire and raised it — not that he intended to strike her with it, but he made as if he would — when all at once she vanished and was never seen again.” What an interesting ending to the story. Did the entire Blackfoot Nation have a stigma against domestic violence? Or was it commonplace and this story so happened to warn against it? Was it told or adapted by women? There’s a whole sociological conundrum in this one paragraph!

How the Thunder Pipe Came:

“Are you brave enough to enter the lodge of that dreadful person?” asked the Raven. “He lives near here. His lodge is of stone like this one, and hanging in it are eyes–the eyes of those he has killed or taken away. He has taken out their eyes and hung them in his lodge. Now then! Dare you enter there?” This sounds a lot like a haunted house!

Cold Maker’s Medicine:

This is some spooky stuff, similar to Hansel and Gretel. The old women is definitely reminiscent of a witch. She tricks Lone Feather into thinking she’s friendly and murders him.

It’s terrifying to hear what she does to Lone Feather’s body: she cuts it up, cooks it, and eats it. Then she throws his bones out, and there’s a huge pile of bones! How many people has this old woman killed?

“‘My bow is broken. I cannot,’ said Broken Bow sadly.” HA!

“Medicine” seems to be somewhat equivalent to magic because Cold Maker’s medicine allows him to stop the smoke and start a snowstorm.


Blackfeet Indian Stories by George Bird Grinnell (1915). Web source.

Image 1: Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 2: Running Eagle Falls, just east of Two Medicine Lake. Source – Personal photos

Image 3: A trailhead sign near Running Eagle Falls that tells about the Blackfoot warrior woman. Source – Personal photos

Image 4: A yawning wolf. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 5: A ground squirrel in Glacier National Park. Source – Wikipedia.

Week 9 Reading Notes: West Africa, Part A

How We Got the Name “Spider Tales”:

It’s interesting that Anansi (Spider) isn’t really personified as an atual, eight-legged spider. It’s almost as if he has a human form but represents spiders. How else could he take “an earthen vessel” with him on a trip? 

The clever way that Anansi traps the bees reminds me of the story about the Tiger, the Jackal, and the Brahman that we read in the first unit. I like that it plays off the pride of the targets; it’s always clever to use your enemy’s weaknesses against them rather than using brute force.

I really like how this set of stories begins with the “main character” forcing himself into being the main character. It’s actually very comedic to imagine!

How Wisdom Became the Property of the Human Race:

This sounds like it will be a Pandora’s Box kind of story.

I wonder if Anansi’s character traits will change in every story as it seems they have changed here. In the first story, Anansi was clever, cunning, and perhaps a little vain. In this story, he’s less of a mischievous trickster and more of a wise old man.

Thunder and Anansi:

I wonder what kinds of foods Anansi got from the pot. I’m not very familiar with African foods, but food seems to be a central part of the culture, as it has appeared in nearly all of the stories.

In this story, Anansi is very selfish and doesn’t seem to care much for his family. I wonder why his family isn’t described much at all. His wife is not given a name, and we don’t know anything about his children. 

Kweku Tsin has appeared in two stories now as Anansi’s son, so there is some consistency to the stories. Kweku is as clever as his father but seems to be wiser about using that cunning.

“Anansi returned, ready for his supper, and, as usual, went into his room, carefully shutting the door. He went to the hiding-place—it was empty.” The narrative pace slows down here as Anansi looks for the pot. This helps to build the tension in the story.

Why the Lizard Moves His Head Up and Down:

I’ve always liked the trope of names being an important part of a person’s identity, so I like seeing that in the naming challenge in this story. 

Tit for Tat:

Kweku has caught onto his father’s antics, and it’s kind of amusing to imagine such a father/son relationship.

These stories always describe in great detail the traps and methods that Anasi uses: he coats fruit in honey to surprise the princesses, he fills Kweku’s bag with ashes. He’s also very good at persuading people to listen to him, such as in the first story, he persuaded the snake to get near the stick and the tiger to want his eyes sewn up. He also convinced Nothing to trade clothes with him. I like the details, as it makes the stories more realistic and easy to imagine.


West African Folktales by William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair with drawings by Cecilia Sinclair (1917). Web source.

Image 1: Landscape from Guinea in West Africa. Source – Pxhere

Image 2: A common spider from Gambia. (Also, Googling “African spider” was a big mistake. *shiver*) Source – Wikipedia.

Image 3: A big lizard. Source – Pxhere

Image 4: A map of West Africa. Source – Wikipedia.

Reading Notes: Japanese Myth, Part B

I really enjoyed reading about the Japanese hero Yamato today! I can’t believe I haven’t heard of him before. He’s certainly a hero that deserves to be among the ranks of Hercules, King Arthur, Achilles, and other great heroes.

The Grotto of Love:

The idea of a haunted/enchanted cave is pretty cool. I haven’t included a magical setting in any of my pieces yet, so maybe that would be fun to play with.

It totally sucks that Yamato is basically cheating on his princess.

Yamato has to search for a special prize, which is a common quest in many other mythologies.

The Demon Boar:

The fact that the boar can only be harmed by a certain weapon and only on his tail reminds me of video game bosses. Maybe that would be an interesting way to twist this story.

“But Yamato, undaunted, drew the Sacred Sword, and with an agile bound springing clean over the boar’s head, he bestrode the astonished creature and, grasping his tail, severed it suddenly from the spine. Blind with pain the demon plunged over the precipice and was dashed into a thousand fragments upon the rocks below, while Yamato, sliding dexterously from its back, remained in safety upon the brink.”

I love the action writing in this passage. It’s dynamic and exciting. It’s filled with motion and vivid words.

The Grass-Cleaving Sword:

Tacibana suddenly appearing in the fire is certainly a crazy plot twist!

The Sacred Sword:

“Again rang the siren’s song in the ears of Yamato and his former madness fell over him.”

I think this passage is trying to attribute Yamato’s unfaithfulness to Tacibana to the siren’s song, but I didn’t really get that the first time. It is a better explanation of why he leaves her, though I wish his heroic acts had a more noble cause behind them.

Oh, I see, the siren really is evil and has been trying to trick Yamato this whole time. Another plot twist!

“…thus amid its wide-spreading antlers rested the Sacred Sword!” That’s a really unique and cool image! 

I like that a lot of the labors in the story are framed as hunting. Hunting was obviously important in Japanese culture, and their heroes were good at it.

The Dragon:

Tacibana rescuing Yamato (again) is a really sweet moment, and I think it redeems this as far as a love story goes.

“Suddenly her voice was whelmed in a terrific uproar. The Thunder God Raiden beat furiously upon his drums; great leaden clouds shut out the sky. Futen, the Wind God, unloosed his tempests, while with a flash of forked lightning, from a rent in the midnight sky, hurtled Susa-no-wo, Dragon of the Sea.” This is another really epic moment, and I like that it gives us a glimpse at some other Japanese gods that we haven’t heard of before.

“His head was like a camel, his horns were like a stag, and his eyes were glowing coals of fire. Scaled like a crocodile, he brandished a tiger’s paws, armed with the talons of an eagle.” There’s the classic description of an Asian dragon, except this dragon is evil!

I’m not a fan of sad endings, but I do like the twist of Tacibana sacrificing herself to save Yamato.

The Quest of the Jewel:

The Empress’ transformation into a warrior kind of reminds me of China’s Mulan. 

The Jewel of Heart’s Desire is a neat relic with magical powers. It’s kind of like a crystal ball and a genie lamp rolled into one. It reminds me of a pearl, particularly the pearls of power that are found under the necks of many Asian dragons.

“Can it be that some great star hath fallen into the sea?” I really like the idea of the Jewel as a fallen star.

Takeuchi’s sacrifice is another heroic moment that I really like, though I’m sad that she died.


Romance of Old Japan by E.W. Champney and F. Champney. Web source.

Image 1: Japanese swords. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 2: Enoshima, an island that Yamato visits. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 3: Yamato combating the fire. Source – Wikipedia.

Reading Notes: Japanese Myth, Part A

Izanami and Izanagi:

I like that the story starts at the very beginning, like most cultural mythologies. I wonder how it would be different if these myths started in media res.

Izanami and Izanagi have similar names probably because they’re married to create a visual connection between them.

I think the way the prose describes the formation of the Sun, Moon, and Earth is beautiful, and I love the natural imagery.

The part where Izanami and Izanagi have to reintroduce themselves because the first time, Izanami, a woman, spoke first, seems pretty sexist, but it also may allude to the strong cultural norms of respect and honor that exist within Japanese culture.

In both the poem and the prose, the celestial bodies and land formations are depicted as “children” despite not being people. 

In the myth, Amaterasu and Susa-no-wo seem to be instantaneously full grown. I wonder would be like as children.

It’s interesting that there is a rivalry between the humans and the gods, which is different from some other pantheons. 

I like the idea of duality in this origin myth: Izanami matches Izanagi, Amaterasu matches Susa-no-wo the God of Fire matches the God of Water.

Ooo, an underworld descent (katabasis) which is commonly found in classical mythology. I’ve already written one this semester, but I’m interested in seeing how the Japanese one is different from the Greco-Roman underworld.

This story ending is very sad and hopeless, but it establishes a firm dichotomy between the worlds of life and death.

The Miraculous Mirror:

I love the image of weaving the tapestry of Doom with conflicting images of Life, Death, Peace, and War.

I wonder why Susa-no-wo drove Amaterasu away in this story. I love their sibling rivalry, though, and that they are opposites of Sun and Moon.

The story ending here is a clever twist to get the Sun-Goddess to return.

The Heaven-Descended:

I like the idea of a bird acting as a messenger in this story.

Even a deity in Japanese myth can be killed, which is an interesting change from the immortal and invincible gods of classical mythology. The gods can also “sin” and be considered evil.

Uzume seems to be the Venus of the Japanese gods

It’s funny that they decide to send the pretty one—not the strongest or fastest one—to check out the giant.

The Fortunate Fish-Hook:

Ho-wori and Ho-deri are another example of duality in Japanese myth. I can definitely image a set of rival twins being a part of these stories.

Descending into the ocean is a fascinating change of setting! I wonder what other settings are not often explored.

I wonder how this story would be different if Prince Fire-Flame was still mad at his brother…

The Labors of Yamato: The Rescue of the Princess

Judging from the note at the top of the page, Yamato is like the Japanese version of Britain’s King Arthur and maybe even Greek Heracles. 

“I am called by the name of my country,” cried Yamato, as he dealt the avenging death-stroke. 

That is the most epic line of dialogue I’ve read all semester. It’s something that belongs in a Hollywood action movie! I love it!


Romance of Old Japan by E.W. Champney and F. Champney. Web source.

Image 1: Japanese pagoda in front of Mt. Fuji. Source – Pxhere

Image 2: Izanagi and Izanami searching the seas. Source – Wikipedia.

Reading Notes: The Voyages of Sindbad, Part B

Fifth Voyage:

“Not even all that I had gone through could make me contented with a quiet life. I soon wearied of its pleasures and longed for change and adventure.” What is it that makes Sindbad so restless? Is this a positive attribute or a negative one? It could be said that he’s reckless, or maybe it’s good that he refuses to be lazy and complacent. He definitely has a level of complexity about him.

Sindbad is shocked that the merchants kill the baby roc. He must have an appreciation for nature, even scary, dangerous nature. Or maybe he just knows that the mother roc is nearby.

In the other voyages, the crewmembers who die seem almost innocent and undeserving of that fate, but in this voyage, they’re symbolically getting paid back for killing the baby roc.

It’s interesting that the sailors Sindbad finds know that it is the island of the Old Man of the Sea, but Sindbad has not been able to identify it as such. I think this is a clue that Sindbad is not a good mariner; he’s just lucky enough and clever enough to survive these encounters.

Sixth Voyage:

It mentions “friends and relations,” and I would be very interested to see more from these characters and what they thought of Sindbad’s adventures.

Maybe it is Sindbad that is causing the bad luck to befall all of these ships. Maybe he’s cursed by some god or doesn’t follow the superstitions of sailing and is somehow bringing all of this doom upon himself and his fellow sailors.

It turns very suddenly from all the sailors being alive to all of them being dead. Why doesn’t Sindbad try to save them all? And Sindbad never seems to mourn much for these deaths. In fact, he shows little emotion at all. The prose is very clinical and factual as he plainly relates what happened to him.

You would think that by this point Sindbad wouldn’t be so worried about amassing treasure since he has so much money at home already.

“Close thine eyes, and while thou sleepest Heaven will change thy fortune from evil to good.” Is this a religious proverb? We haven’t seen much evidence of a religious disposition from Sindbad in any of these stories, but it would make sense if he was.

Seventh Voyage:

This one is different because Sindbad does not choose to go. I wonder if this will mean things will not follow the same pattern that they did in the previous voyages.

“…those who were prudent enough to submit at once, of whom I was one.” Sindbad is not a warrior, and while he likes sailing and adventure, he doesn’t seek danger. In fact, he seems weary of it at this point. I wouldn’t say he is cowardly, but he’s certainly not actively courageous. Rather, he does what is necessary to survive.


The Voyages of Sindbad from The Arabian Nights Entertainments by Lang. Web source.

Image 1: Indian elephant. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 2: Sindbad on the raft by Rene Bull. Source – Wikipedia.

Reading Notes: The Voyages of Sindbad, Part A

First Voyage:

I like the first person point of view and wonder how it will effect the story’s portrayal of Sindbad. I am also interested in seeing how Sindbad changes throughout the story since he begins “young and foolish”

“…and since that hour have been no more plagued by sea-sickness.” The prose here sounds a lot like a journal, almost a “Captain’s Log” sort of thing.

The island being a sleeping whale is very interesting and unexpected. The ocean in this story seems like a vast place full of mysterious things.

“The cliffs were high and steep, but luckily for me some tree-roots protruded in places, and by their aid I climbed up at last, and stretched myself upon the turf at the top, where I lay, more dead than alive, till the sun was high in the heavens.” What a classic adventure story scene. I think you could also say it symbolizes Sindbad rising from his reckless youth to his exciting and wealthy adulthood. 

Where is Baghdad? Iran

What are timbals? They might be like timbales, which are high pitched drums typically used in Latin music. 

How long is a cubit? Since it’s an ancient measurement, it varies, but it’s about the length of a forearm from fingertip to elbow.

It’s interesting how the First Voyage ends with Sindbad seeming to give up the life of sailing and wandering, but obviously things are not going to go as he plans once again.

Second Voyage:

It’s interesting that Sindbad is not the captain of the ship because I always thought he was. Maybe he gets there eventually.

Sindbad’s situations seem to be primarily caused by bad luck. He’s not actively seeking out adventure or trouble, but it happens to him because he happens to be in the wrong places at the wrong times. It’s good that he’s clever enough to keep himself alive!

The settings of these islands are so fascinating, from a whale island, to the roc island, to the snake and diamond island. 

If I’m still looking for themes and symbolism here, I think there’s definitely something about the valley of diamonds also being guarded by giant snakes. Something about greed.

Wow, I wouldn’t have thought to grab diamonds to make friends with the merchants at the top of the cliff; that was very smart of Sindbad to do.

“This doubtless astonishes you, but if you do not believe my tale go to Rohat and see for yourself.” So Sindbad is telling this story to an audience that he addresses. This is a common narrative technique in oral storytelling as well as a popular metafictional “breaking the fourth wall” element.

“I settled down to enjoy tranquilly the riches I had gained with so much toil and pain.” Prosperity only comes after hard work, and there’s a certain amount of luck behind it.

Third Voyage:

It’s interesting that Sindbad seems to always end up alone. He’s loses all of his crew members and is forced to rely on himself to get to safety. 


The Voyages of Sindbad from The Arabian Nights Entertainments by Lang. Web source.

Image 1: Sailboat sunset. Source – Max Pixel

Image 2: Collage of attractions from around Baghdad. Source – Wikipedia.

Reading Notes: Arabian Nights, Part B

Having Aladdin begin as a lazy boy provides room for him to change and grow as a character

The geography of the story is interesting, as Aladdin comes from the East and the magician comes from far to the West. I like how this gives the story a large scope.

Aladdin’s relationship with his father seems important, as repeating his father’s name gives him courage. He feels ashamed that he could never please his father by learning a trade.

Genies in this story have the power of transportation, which is one thing that allows the story to have such a broad geography.

Aladdin finds himself with such power by commanding the genies, but he’s still a petulant boy, asking the genies to do work for him instead of doing it himself.

In this story, wealth shows how much desire a man has to marry a woman. In other stories, men must fight battles or complete trials to show they’re worthy, and in other cultures, it’s just a mutual relationship between the man and the woman. Aladdin’s world is certainly different from how we do things.

So ultimately, by marrying the princess and becoming rich, Aladdin learns enough to lead the Sultan’s armies. I don’t really like that theme.

I can see a sort of similarity between the magic lamp and Tolkien’s One Ring, in that they both provide the user with great power, but that power comes at a cost.

Roc: a giant bird of prey in Middle Eastern mythology.

“You and your wife and your palace deserve to be burnt to ashes…” This quote makes me think that the genie resents Aladdin and what he’s done, which is an interesting point of view that isn’t explored in this text.

It’s interesting that the storyteller feels the need to continue the story beyond the “happily-ever-after” ending at the end of Part 3. I think it relates back to the idea of the frame tale, and that the magician’s part of the story needed to be resolved after Aladdin had won his prize. I also wonder if quelling evil magic was also a common and necessary storytelling element in Middle Eastern fables.


The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments by Andrew Lang and illustrated by H.J. Ford. Web source.

Image 1: Silhouette of an Arabian palace. Source – Max Pixel.

Image 2: A giant roc carrying an elephant. Source – Wikipedia.

Reading Notes: Pantheons of the Ancient Mediterranean


Pantheons are families of deities.
They help us make sense of the world as we know it
They usually help provide an answer to human existence.

Sumer is the earliest known civilization in Mesopotamia.
They worshipped a bunch of gods who were all related to one another.
These deities generally had a sphere of influence or sponsorship, and the entire theme of their mythology was that nature is more powerful that humanity.

Egypt also had a bunch of gods, who were headed by the king of the gods, Ra. Many subsequent pantheons had this kind of ruler.
Egyptian pharaohs notably used the gods to lend credibility to their reigns, saying they were gods reborn on Earth.
The Egyptian gods and their stories revolved around death, such as in the story of Osiris, where he gets mummified and resurrected as the king of the dead.

Greeks and Romans:

Demigods: The offspring of gods and mortals, usually with some kind of special power. Examples: Perseus, Heracles, Achilles, Aeneas, etc.
Heroes: mortals favored by the gods. Examples: Odysseus, Atalanta, etc.

Dionysus as a foreigner god; That’s an idea that would be interesting to explore; what happens if gods cross cultures?

Romans: adopted and adapted the Greek gods and goddesses; used historical mythology

Aphrodite always cheated on Hephaestus. Hephaestus caught her with Vulcan and embarrassed her in front of everyone.

The stories of the gods parallel the flaws of human families. They mirror human nature.


Heracles: his own worst enemy; sometimes makes very bad decisions. 

Hera tries to kill the offspring of Zeus’ affairs.

Heracles has a fatal flaw like all Greek heroes, but instead of hubris (the most common) Heracles’ flaw is wrath/rage. He kills his wife and children and can’t control his strength. This flaw can be seen in how he accidentally kills the first centaur he meets, how he kills Hippolyte, and how he kills the centaur who kidnapped his wife, which ultimately leads to his death.

Changes name to “Heracles” in order to appease Hera; Changing a name often symbolizes a change in a person’s character.

Has to complete 10 labors to atone for the murder of his children and become immortal, but 2 of them get disqualified, leading to the full 12.


Crash Course Mythology Ancient Mediterranean Pantheon Videos. Web source. 

Image 1: The Greek gods from the British Museum. Source – Flickr.

Image 2: Heracles fights the Nemean Lion. Source – Wikipedia.

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