Mythology with Erin

Adventures in storytelling

Tag: Week 4

Week 4 in Review

This is my favorite image from Week 4! I definitely relate to The Cleaner. I will do my laundry, unload the dishwasher, reorganize my bookshelves, and dust everything before sitting down to work. I also relate to The List Maker, Sidetracker, Researcher, Snacker, Gamer, Watcher, and Perpetuator… Basically I will find any excuse to procrastinate.

Here is my favorite video from Week 4:

I love watching short films because they tell such great stories despite so many parameters. They don’t have a lot of time, budget, or dialogue, so every moment is important. Often, music is key, and I’m a sucker for good film music. This short film is adorable because it’s about daring to be different and see the beauty in the world even when the day-to-day tries to suck you dry. I especially like the use of color in the film, too. Give it a watch!

Image 1: Rewind knob. Source – Flickr.

Image 2: A Field Guide to Procrastinators. Source – Twenty Pixels.

Famous Last Words: A Week of Peace

This past week has been fairly relaxing because we had an away game this weekend, which meant band rehearsal was slow-paced, and I didn’t have to go to a game on Saturday.

My work in most of my classes is going well, and I have my first exam coming up this week. I’m not worried about it because I’ve been taking good notes and keeping up. I’ve been working very hard, and that quick start is starting to pay off. I like that the more I get ahead in this class, the more energy I can spend on my demanding classes. 

I enjoyed my reading this week, Cupid and Psyche. I even decided to write a story about it since I had time and wanted to. I’m not sure I’ll force myself to write a story on every Story Lab week because I like having the option to take a break and learn more about craft, but I also like having the creative time to write a story.

It was nice to have an away game weekend. It will probably be my last free weekend except for the by-week because I want to go to Texas Tech and West Virginia. I had a great time watching the game with my friends from the OU Wesley because we were on our annual Urban Retreat in OKC. A former member of the Pride brought her saxophone, and I had a box drum, so we played Boomer Sooner every time we scored! 

This upcoming weekend, we play Army, and I’m excited because it’s a night game and because my uncle went to West Point. It’s going to be a good week preparing for that! Unfortunately they won’t be bringing their band or cadets, but I’ll definitely be going to the game when we visit them next year!

Army football players from 2012. I love the tradition of having “West Point” on the backs of the jerseys instead of player names! Source – Army

Featured Image: The reflecting pool at the OKC Memorial Museum. We visited on our Urban Retreat (my first time) and it was definitely an emotional experience. Source – Wikipedia.

Wikipedia Trails: From Arachne to Korybantes

For this week’s Wikipedia Trails, I started with Arachne after noticing a mention of her on the class Twitter. I couldn’t remember the story, so I decided to refresh myself and see what else I could find.

Arachne

Arachne is a character from Greek mythology. She was an incredibly talented weaver, and she challenged Athena, goddess of crafts, to a weaving contest. Variants of the story differ in who won the challenge, but regardless of the outcome, Athena punished Arachne by turning her into a spider.

Marsyas

Marsyas is another character from Greek mythology who was prideful enough to contest the gods. He was a satyr and an accomplished flute player. He challenged Apollo to a music contest, as Apollo was the god of music. Everyone danced to Marsyas’s music, and everyone cried when Apollo played. The Muses decided that the contest was a draw. Apollo wouldn’t settle for this, so he played his lyre upside down. Marsyas couldn’t play his flute upside down, so Apollo won. Marsyas was skinned alive for daring to challenge the gods.

Aulos

The aulos is an ancient Greek wind instrument. It has two reeds, like an oboe, and two forks. It is frequently depicted in Greek art, and archaeologists have even found remains of the instrument. The story says that Athena invented the aulos but thought she looked silly because her cheeks puffed out while she blew into it. So she threw it away and cursed anyone who picked it up. Marsyas the satyr picked it up and mastered it, and as we learned above, the gods were not very happy about that.

Korybantes

In Ancient Greece, the Korybantes were the dancers of the cult of the goddess Cybele. They danced and drummed while wearing armor and helmets. Dancing in armor is called Pyrrhic dancing, and it was fairly common among several different Greek cults, including the Kouretes in Crete. All these dancers were men, and the Pyrrhic dance was seen as an initiation ritual following a military victory.

Image 1: Arachne and Athena by Rene-Antoine Houasse. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 2: Youth playing the aulos. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 3: Kouretes in armor dancing around an infant. Source – Wikipedia.

Tech Tip: Padlet Pets

I used the class Pets Padlet to upload a picture of my cat, Sonny. It’s going to be fun to see pictures of everyone’s animals!

Made with Padlet

Padlet is a cute and intuitive online bulletin board tool that looks great and can easily organize links and images. I’ve used Pinterest with obsessive fervor for many years now, so I love the online bulletin board format for storing and sorting things. I like how Padlet makes it easy for others to contribute to a board, and it’s built on making brand new entries rather than “repinning” pre-existing items.

I would love to create a Padlet of my own to make it easy to share ideas and collections. I wonder how it would differ from Pinterest; maybe it’s easier to embed around the web. Overall, I think these kinds of boards are a great way to keep track of ideas in an organized way.

Image: Backlit keyboard. Source – Pixabay.

Reading Notes: Epics and Heroes

The Epic of Gilgamesh:

Gilgamesh is a bad king, and the opposite of a hero. I think it’s interesting when heroes start like this because it makes them more human. I tend to think of anti-heroes as a more modern interest in storytelling, but this epic is so old that maybe it’s more common than I thought. 
He’s also a demigod, but he’s mortal. Gilgamesh’s struggle with his mortality is a particularly compelling theme because it’s something that humans of all ages wrestle with. It also brings a lot of thought to the question about what makes a hero. If a hero can’t live forever, then what is the point of heroism?

I’ve always been a fan of very close friend pairs or trios in storytelling, and I can see that aspect in Gilgamesh’s relationship with Enkidu. There’s also the trope that those who will end up being friends must first fight in order to prove that they’re evenly matched. 

Gilgamesh has very debilitating flaws and failings because he is always limited by his humanity and mortality. I think it’s sad that he fails his ultimate quest, but I also like that the final theme is that humans should focus on living a good life, not on pursuing an eternal one.

Rama and the Ramayana:

Rama is another hero-king, and he is connected to a god, like Gilgamesh. It’s interesting that heroes so often have divine power backing them up or royal blood.

The stringing of Shiva’s bow reminds me of other tests of a hero’s worthiness, like picking up Thor’s hammer in Marvel stories. Not only does Rama string the bow, but he also snaps the bow because he is so strong and worthy of heroism.

Rama gets exiled with his brother, which is always a compelling story because it’s like his family has betrayed him, and now he has to work to return. 

I think Rama’s alliance with the Monkey Kingdom points again to his worthiness as a ruler, warrior, and hero because it symbolizes nature approving of him. Ravana, the demon, is a representation of wrongness and chaos, but nature is balanced, and Rama has that on his side.

Galahad, Perceval, and the Holy Grail:

The Holy Grail represents the ultimate goal of all heroes, but it’s also ethereal and unattainable. It never takes the form that the hero would think; it doesn’t give anything material, like wealth, power, or immortality. Instead, it gives wisdom and knowledge, and most of that isn’t gained by coming into contact with the Grail but through the questing for it. I think that’s a highly symbolic and poignant thing.

Bibliography:

Crash Course Myth Epics and Heroes. Web source. 

 Image 1: Sir Galahad’s Quest for the Holy Grail. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 2: The Holy Grail. Source – Flickr.

Week 4 Story: Psyche’s Quest

Cape Taenarus wasn’t special. I could barely see the flagged turrets of Aegean Sparta behind the rolling cliffs. The salty air stung my nose as I clambered to the top of the highest bluff—you would think to get to the underworld, you’d have to go down—and I paused a moment to collect myself. 

The bluff rose above the ocean, making a looming cliff. I gazed at the white-capped waves. How many a heartbroken lover had thrown herself onto the rocks? My heart weighed heavy as I opened my bag and counted my items: two golden coins, two honey-cakes, and Venus’ empty jar. 

It did not take me long to find the Crag of Dis. I merely had to follow the cold wind and moans groaning from it. As I drew near, even the sky darkened in mourning, and the scents mold and rot filled the air. I drew my cloak around me before descending into the fissure. In front of me, I saw the fires of Pluto’s palace, but behind me, the shadow was solid as rock.

The River Styx rumbled ahead, and I found my first obstacle. At a bend in the road, an old man hunched over as he collected sticks. I clenched my teeth and sped up.

“Young lady? Could you spare a coin?” The man’s aged voice was kind as he called to me, but I swept past him without a glance, as the tower spirit had commanded me.

The peal of a bell broke the air, and I heard a voice cry, “Last call!” I dashed forward until I came to a river, where a boat full of moaning people waited. The boat driver, a tall man with a gaunt face and hollow eye sockets held out a hand. Swallowing my disgust, I handed Charon a golden coin and squeezed onto the boat. It was impossible not to touch the cold spirits around me, despite how their clammy, incorporeal skin made bile rise in my throat. I squeezed my eyes shut and imagined my lover, dear Cupid. I would win him back, no matter the discomfort.

I shut my eyes for the entire ride. Once we reached the far bank, I scrambled from the boat and followed the path. Finally, I came to the black marble steps of Pluto’s palace, but on the lowest stoop, a young girl sat, tears in her eyes. “Please, ma’am. I am so hungry. Do you have any food?” My heart ached for the child, dead and alone in this dismal place, but I knew this was a trick from my enemy. I looked away and began up the stairs.

The doors to the palace were open, but the three-headed Cerberus stood before them. Upon sight of me, the beast barked thunderously. Wincing, I reached into my bag and withdrew a honey-cake. Suddenly, Cerberus sat, his three tongues lolling. I smiled and tossed the honey-cake away from the door, and Cerberus chased, each head competing for the prize. “Good boy,” I said before striding into the hall.

A beautiful woman with cunning eyes met me in the foyer. “Welcome,” she said, “come eat.” She gestured to a table covered with food. My stomach grumbled at the smell of the roasted meats, but I knew this was Proserpine, the goddess of the underworld. 

I knelt on the cool tile. “Great goddess, I am not worthy to eat at your table, though I do not insult your gracious hospitality. Instead, give me a crust of bread.”

Proserpine smiled, and the feast disappeared, replaced by a loaf of brown bread. She handed it to me, and I took a bite. Wonderful tastes filled my mouth, more satisfying than any meal of meat. Strength returned to my limbs.

“You have a favor to ask?” Proserpine prompted as I savored my crust. I hurried to offer the empty jar.

“Venus separated me from my lover, Cupid, and punishes me with horrible tasks. Please, fill this jar with beauty so I may give it to her and win back my love,” I begged.

Proserpine smirked as she took the jar from my hand. “Venus is no friend of mine. I’ll fill this jar so you may see Cupid again.” In an instant, the jar filled with blue light. “Only Venus may open this,” she warned, “else your mission be for nothing.” I nodded my understanding and turned to leave.

At the door, Cerberus barked again, so I threw the second cake. Strengthened by Proserpine’s bread and the excitement of seeing Cupid again, I began to run. I handed my second coin to Charon, this time the only one on the ferry. At the far bank, I dashed away. I sprinted until I could see the stars through the chasm above me. I stopped. Soon, I would meet Venus. I would prove my worthiness, and then Cupid would be returned to me. I became aware of my tangled hair and tattered clothes. How my beloved would laugh at me in this state! I fingered the jar in my pack. I could use a little beauty to clean myself up; Venus had enough already. With this rationalization, I unscrewed the lid. The blue light escaped from the vessel and consumed me. As it flooded my nose, my eyes, my mouth, I was overcome with weariness. I collapsed to the ground, eyelids heavy. Proserpine had played a trick on Venus! Then, I fell into the vice-like arms of Stygian sleep.

Author’s Note:

This story is an episode from Cupid and Psyche that doesn’t get much attention in the text. Venus has kept Psyche, a mortal, from seeing her lover, Cupid, who is Venus’ son. Psyche has to perform a number of impossible tasks to prove to Venus that she’s worthy of Cupid. In the story, Psyche is kind of a waif, and other animals and spirits help her complete the tasks. I wanted my version to give Psyche more drive, so I wrote it in the first-person point of view, and I fleshed out the most exciting of the tasks: the descent into the underworld.

Bibliography:

“Cupid and Psyche” from The Golden Ass by Apuleius. Translated by Tony Kline. Web source.

Image 1: Aeneas and Sibyl in the Underworld. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 2: Psyche in the underworld. Source – Wikipedia.

Reading Notes: Cupid and Psyche, Part B

Venus and the Goddesses:

Venus is portraying the archetype of the evil queen/stepmother.

There’s big difference between Venus at the beginning and Venus now. First she coddled her son, and now she’s furious at him, threatening to disown him. She’s obviously very fickle and uses her emotions to manipulate those around her.

It’s funny that Ceres and Juno tell Venus to stop being a helicopter-mom.

Venus and Mercury:

Venus has the power to command all of the immortals to help her find Psyche, which makes her a very formidable villain. The other gods and goddesses recognize that Venus is being petty, but due to their politics and alliances, they still cannot help Psyche.

Venus and Psyche:

The hero (in this case heroine) being given a series of impossible tasks to perform is a classic but interesting plot device. It helps drive the conflict and can also develop the hero’s traits, like cleverness and determination. I wish Psyche had a little bit more to do with finding the solutions to her tasks rather than just seeming like an overdramatic waif.

Jar of Beauty:

Tartarus: the pit of the underworld

Persephone/Proserpine: queen of the underworld

I really think the “Jar of Beauty” episode could be a lot more exciting if it went more into detail about Psyche’s journey to the underworld. What exchanges took place between Psyche and the characters of the underworld? In fact, it takes more words for the turret to give Psyche instructions than for the actual task.
I would really like to see this scene fleshed out more with Psyche taking on an active role in getting the jar filled. 

Why did Persephone fill the jar with Stygian sleep? Did she have a problem with Venus? Was she on Psyche’s side? 

The story wraps up very easily with Jupiter pulling a deus ex machina sort of ending. Nowadays that’s considered a cheap ending, but it’s also pretty classic.

Bibliography:

“Cupid and Psyche” from The Golden Ass by Apuleius. Translated by Tony Kline. Web source.

Image 1: The Wedding Feast of Cupid and Psyche. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 2: The Eagle brings the filled cup to Psyche. Source – Wikipedia.

Reading Notes: Cupid and Psyche, Part A

It’s interesting that this story is a frame tale, which means it’s a story within a story. It’s a structure where the external story can really influence the context of the internal story.

Psyche’s Beauty:

It begins with a very classic “Once upon a time…” opening. It would be interesting if it began in some other way, maybe in the middle of some action.

Psyche is the Greek word for “soul” or “spirit.” I wonder how that influences the theme and symbolism of the story.

Venus becomes jealous of Psyche and starts conspiring against her. I learned from The Illiad that things usually don’t go well when mortals start clashing with gods.

The Anger of Venus:

There’s an allusion to Paris from The Illiad here, which is cool. It really helps make the whole mythology cohesive despite being written by many different people and many different times.

I love the last paragraph of this scene because it reminds me of “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid. It does a good job of showing the full divinity of Venus. (Side note: I remember trying to translate this scene from the original Latin, and it was horrible. This is as far as we got in that class.)

The Oracle of Apollo:

Psyche is very similar to Cinderella (and a lot of fairy tale princesses) because she’s extremely pretty but also tormented by it. It’s kind of cliche, so I wonder how the story could be retold to make Psyche more realistic and original.

I think it would be more interesting if Psyche went to the Oracle of Apollo herself, rather than her father. It would provide more agency for her, and it could be a compelling motivation for her character.

I also love the scene setting of the wedding. It’s so ominous and full of dark color! “The scene was set for the poor girl’s dark wedding. The flames of the wedding torches grew dim with black smoky ash; the tune of Hymen’s flute sounded in plaintive Lydian mode, and the marriage-hymn’s cheerful song fell to a mournful wail. The bride-to-be wiped tears away with her flame-red bridal veil; the whole city grieved at the cruel fate that had struck the afflicted house and public business was interrupted as a fitting show of mourning.”

The Magical Place:

“At the very centre of the grove beside the flowing stream was a regal palace, not made by human hands, but built by divine art. You knew from the moment you entered you were viewing the splendid shining residence of a god.” –This is more excellent description of setting. The mansion is lush and unearthly. It also makes a good contrast from the gloominess of the previous scene.

The invisible person provides a great opportunity to focus on writing with senses other than sight. What does he smell like? What does his voice sound like?

The last paragraph of this section again seems to be straight out of a Disney movie: this time, Beauty and the Beast’s “Be Our Guest.”

The Mysterious Husband:

What does Psyche think about this husband? Does she think he’s a monster? Does she try to find out?

Psyche’s Husband Revealed:

I’m not very moved by the “evil sisters” trope, and I think I would prefer if Psyche herself decided to find out more about her husband

Apuleius’ description of Cupid is really great and very vivid. I especially like: “Over the winged god’s shoulders white plumage glimmered like petals in the morning dew, and though his wings were at rest, soft little feathers at their edges trembled restlessly in wanton play.”

Bibliography:

“Cupid and Psyche” from The Golden Ass by Apuleius. Translated by Tony Kline. Web source.

Image 1: Psyche’s Wedding by Edward Burne-Jones. Source – Wikipedia

Image 2: Cupid and Psyche Statue in the Louvre. Source – Max Pixel 

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