Tag Archives: Myths and Folktales

Myths, Tropes, and Narrative: The Signifigance of Story

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been captivated by the art of story-telling. I’ve been known to have quite a vivid imagination ( I guess I still do…?) as a child and would funnel this creative energy to conjurring some of the most bizarre, outlandish, yet charming stories for my friends, family and classmates.

But children are not the only one’s who tell stories, however. I would argue that the act of story-telling has been embedded in the consciousness and minds of human kind since the earliest civilizations. From the elders to the griots (story-tellers/historians of the Malian kingdom) and everything from then on, human civilizations have been founded upon story. The Christian faith is about one grand story of a peculiar people, the Israelites, through whom a peculiar God would show Himself to the world, all leading up to the redemptive narrative of the Logos, Christ- the compelling story of the vulnerable shepherd God-in-flesh.

Story informs our cultural heritage, our faith, and our history. The Ancient Egyptians and the cosmic gods of Ra, Osiris, and Horus- the gods that walked the lands of the eternal sands… ANd what a clash it was between these gods- this story, this narrative of the celestial gods who roamed the lands and justified the predominance of Egypt over Israel. The clash of the God and narrative of the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the Gods and narrative of Potiphar..

The Greco-Roman myths. Their myths so strong we see the names of their gods in modern cosmology- Jupiter, Mars,Neptune; the Pelopponesian, Hellenic wars inspired by the mythicized masculinities of Hercules and Oddysseus…

The myths crafted by the enlightenment thinkers- the fetishizing of certainty and control, the ‘invisible hand’ motif, whose authors-  Locke and Smith would become the new Gospel – the nexus of this new story that would provide the backdrop for the protagonists- the white, shiny, beautifuls ones- the heroes, the expeditionists, the “captains”, the businessmen,manifesters of their own ‘destiny’, the explorers, the racists, the rapists, the pillagers. And it’s this story that would inform and have pre=emption over all other stories. What more is colonialism is this anyways? – the erasure of pages of a people’s story,narrative,identity, and copy and pasting another, “more glorious” one- in aggression.

Yes, indeed, stories are not just little bedtime tales for children , they are full fully grown adults as well, and one could say all the world is one big clash of stories…the struggle for self-acceptance, development and thriving is the legitimizing of your story- the story of a people,attempting to create what was erased through colonialism, what was erased through their own words being subverted for one more dominant.

The clash of the storyline as a black man as worthy to be loved, masculine by nature of being created as a man( not being swagged out or violent) vs. the story-line of the black man being the ‘wild young buck’ whose hypersexuality is something to be feared by white women and and whose criminality knows no bounds , thus justifying their murder at the hands of a militarized police troop.

Which one will win?: the story of a black female as a dignified, loved being created in the Imago Dei, or the storyline that places them as “loud, ghetto and ratchet“- or maybe sexually deviant, Jezebels?

The negative tropes and stereotypes against POC – the story fo white supremacy- are lies. A lie is, afterall, a false account- it is a story that’s not true- a bad story. We’re told in Scripture that Satan is the Father of lies. These toxic tales.

Why does everyone ‘love a good underdog’ story? The  stories of rags to riches, the triumphing of the oppressed? They represent the greatest hope of humanity- everyone finds they don’t fit into the dominant story of society, or do not like their role, they know it’s a lie.

And what Christ’s atonement represent for the oppressed is that their story, ultimately cannot be erased – rather, it can be brought back to life.  This newness of life is a newness of story- a new sort of presiding myth that is benevolent to all mankind.

 

 

#DoctorWho: Robot of Sherwood: Justice and Doubt

Image provided by Screen Rant

For the past couple of years, I had been rather embarassed to call myself a Whovian. I felt (and still feel) that Stephen Moffat’s writing is just ruining the show, and that they tried to make Number 11/Matt Smith too much like the 10th Doctor, David Tennant. The raw reactions of Doctor Who fans to antiracist critiques led to even more facepalms by me.

Fast forward to this season. As a fan of “The Oncoming Storm” 9th Doctor, I have been pleasantly surprised by the performance of the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi. I love the surly, ironic change in the humor. The show’s cast looks like it is looking to get more diverse with the character Daniel Pink. Through the first three episodes, I am indeed here for Number 12, Clara, and Pink.

We start at the beginning of the episode, the Doctor tells Clara they can go anywhere she wants. She talks about her dream of meeting Robin Hood, Earl of Locksley. At first the Doctor refuses the request because he tells her that Robin Hood isn’t real. Finally, 12 gives in, and when they land in Sherwood Forest with no person in sight for a few seconds, the Doctor brags, “No damsels in distress. No pretty castles. No such thing as Robin Hood.” Immediately after he says this, an arrow hits the T.A.R.D.I.S., and lo, and behold, it’s Robin Hood himself!

Robin Hood stakes his claim to the Doctor’s ship: “Don’t you know that all property is theft to Robin Hood.” The Doctor questions if Robin is serious, and Hood responds, “Robin laughs in the face of all.”

After their comical duel, the Doctor acts on his skepticism even after having won over RH’s trust. The Doctor cuts a piece of Robin’s hair and tries to take one of his sandals. “This sandal isn’t real.” The Doctor is suspicious of Robin for about 95% of the episode. When they both find out that the knights working for the evil Sheriff are actually alien robots, the Doctor argues, “Isn’t it time you came clean with me? You’re not real and you know it. Perfect eyes. Perfect teeth. No one has a jaw like that.” Still sadly, no go. It is not until the Doctor sees Robin Hood bleed from being attacked by the robots does 12 begin to be less skeptical.

Stories about the possiblities of justice are really difficult to believe in. In a fallen world filled with injustices and disasters, it can be pretty easy to give in to all of wrong that need to be righted. Even after 12, Robin, and Clara, team up to become victorious over the Sheriff and his “knights,” the Doctor denies himself the right to laugh and enjoy their feat. The Doctor has placed far too much responsibility as the “white savior” of time and space. Robin, meanwhile, puts everything in to perspective. He asks whether in the future, people will just remember him as a legendary myth, 12 answers in the affirmative. Robin replies, “Good. History is a burden. Stories can make us fly.” [….] “Perhaps we will both be stories. And may those stories never end.”

Indeed, narrative can open up our imagination for us to be open to that which we have not experienced, and motivate us to work for a more just society. A different world is possible.

#Blerd Joy!: Black Folktalkes Being Made Into Comic Books!

English: "aunt jemima"

English: “aunt jemima” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes Please! Yes Yes Yes. Yes. and More Yes!!!!! Anyone read even marginally on folktales in the US would realize that Joel Chandler Harris, recorder of the tales of Brer Rabbit constructed Uncle Remus as the uneducated inarticulate black stereotypical male. It was this articulation that, while Harris was against lynching, he still passively accepted the white supremacist myth that blacks inability to learn English properly would make them basically extinct (a popular belief about blacks back then was that descendents of Africans were not meant to survive in the 20th century). The mythology behind Aunt Jemima (not the invention of JCH) is similar, the domesticated, asexual mother of a people on the brink of destruction.  Her agency is to comfort and to remain a passive object in the face of white supremacist domination.

One of the best ways to fight white supremacy is to attack the false myths that imprison the souls of People of color. Given the rise of comics that are inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ fairytales (as well as the tv shows we discussed last year), I love the idea that there a company writing Remus and Jemima as superheroes. It’s quite subversive. Re-imagining Aunt Jemima as someone with great cosmic abilities, and Remus as someone who can “manipulate reality in a person’s mind… The victim becomes trapped in an alternate reality.” is something I would love to buy. If this goes all the way and become a graphic novel. I am purchasing.

 

Yes. Please. Thank you Dawolu Jabari Anderson.

For more, see the link below:

Uncle Remus And Aunt Jemima Reimagined As Superheroes? Why Not?

 

Cropped image from the title page of Uncle Rem...

Cropped image from the title page of Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings: The Folk-Lore of the Old Plantation, by Joel Chandler Harris. Illustrations by Frederick S. Church and James H. Moser. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1881. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

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