SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mythology: are we ready to dismiss it?

Telling stories from mythology to small children is a bit tricky.

Do we need to discuss the gore and brutality that is sometimes included in these stories?
Do we need to actually speak about the heavy romantic sentiments which gets included in these stories?
Or do we really need to tell children about cheating and deception, betrayal and loss of faith?

Now Myths are a part of every society...we have Nordic Myths, Celtic Tales, Indian Folklore, and Greek Heroes. Where strange fantastical beasts, half human/ half God, perform crazy feats with such elaborate story lines, that even I get lost.

I do tell a lot of mythological stories to my children and of course Amar chitra katha is a great educator. Whichever stories I have not told, they get from Dr.Pai's innovative idea, which has raised generations of avid readers like me ( and my kids). In our country Hindu mythology is engrained in every child's learning process. Somewhere they come to hear of the story of Ganesha, or the story of Mahishasuramardini, and of course the eternal favorite Krishna is popular as it is televised. So a 2 year old is as knowledgeable as any adult when it comes to this particular character.

So my take on the trickiness goes like this:

We need to perceive these stories from the context of time. In all probability ( like Shakespeare did), the sages/ scholars who wrote these myths (not actually wrote, as most of these were stories passed down word of mouth), wanted to keep the audience entertained (an audience that may not have been educated) and any other message of piety or patience had to be subtly woven into the stories along with dramatic/ melodramatic overtures. So you have Shiva severing the young Boy's neck only to repent at his haste and his lack of restraint, and then rectifying his mistake by creating a Vigneshwar, a divine form whose grace helps a person to overcome sorrow/defeat.

Yet another angle I would like you to perceive is that many of these stories were tailored for a much older audience and telling stories to children was not the sole purpose. Children were only a part of the audience and it is only contemporary society that has started analyzing the "appropriateness of stories" for children.

Surely from my story telling experience I can say that children enjoy Mythology, but there is a way of telling. That way is to highlight the appropriate "take home" for the child rather than the gory bits. But frankly I know that some kids enjoy the fighting and war and weapons....and I don't blame this fascination on Myths / Stories from mythology. In all probability it's got to do with the heavy dose of "crime" related cartoons and movies that have cropped up now.

So do you tell or not tell.

Again I leave it to your discretion. I was raised on a heavy dose of mythological stories, some I enjoyed, some I have discarded. Yet many times I can actually relate to the stories in terms of my current life situation and I smile to myself. Some days I tell myself I feel like Trishanku....suspended between heaven and earth, neither here nor there and on other days I feel like a Rakshasi, screaming and swearing at every one.

We belong to a post modern rationalist society and all we need to do is sift the chaff from the grain and take what is suitable for us in our present thinking.

Can't dismiss 5000 years of our glorious mythological heritage as meaningless.

But the bottom line for any story teller... I can also say that the Golden Rule for any story teller is to Never tell a story that you dont believe in. By this I dont mean you have to believe the story, but you have to believe you want to tell the story! It works only this way.