Myth and the 'Now' Part Two: Norse Mythology


A story works because it resonates with fundamental psychological and spiritual realities that remain true, active and potent today, right now, for any reader. That’s what I asserted in Part One of this series. And it applies to whatever type of story we are talking about, from ancient myths through to modern day Ironies. The exact elements that ‘resonate’ can be grasped, understood and communicated, if we approach them in the right frame of mind.

However, getting into that 'right frame of mind' isn't necessarily easy for a modern reader.

As I said earlier, a so-called ‘primitive’ creation myth has just as much psychological and spiritual value for a modern reader as it did thousands of years ago. To try to illustrate what I mean, I’m going to attempt something probably foolish: I’m going to examine a Norse creation myth to see how it might work for readers right now spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Why is this foolish? Well, because looking at a Norse myth in this way takes it totally out of its context, even out of its original language, and can only really look at the most superficial elements of it - that part of the iceberg, if you like, which shows above sea level. The rest of the iceberg remains out of our sight simply because we do not know the language or the culture which gave birth to the myth well enough to totally comprehend it. But we can discern enough for it to be worth the attempt, I hope, given that a story is as I've just defined it, an accessible work that potentially resonates for any reader.

Another reason why it might be foolish is because it requires a difficult shift in thinking for anyone born in the last hundred years.

When we come to read a story, and especially when we write one, we are potentially returning to the fundamental truths about the human condition. A story can play around the edges of this, using words and images that we understand but can fall too obviously into clichés and tropes that we are used to, over-using conventions until it slips easily into a genre and just ‘goes through the motions’ of storytelling. Fiction of that kind - which comprises the vast bulk of fiction available today - can still be satisfying and is still resonating with ‘fundamental psychological and spiritual realities’ to a degree, it just isn’t particularly doing anything new or exciting with them. Other stories delve deeper, taking those same ‘fundamental psychological and spiritual realities’ and re-envisioning them: in the hands of master authors, these tales become memorable and survive through time as ‘classics’ of one kind or another. In effect, the deeper an author can go into those truths, the further outside Time the