mythology

Richard Ford on how to deal with mythical narratives

From Bonnie Lyons’s interview of Richard Ford in “The Art of Fiction No. 147” (The Paris Review: Fall 1996, No. 140):

…when you start manipulating mythical narratives, whether you blunder into them or you do it by calculation, you’d better—to be in control of your book—reckon with their true potency and wide reference. They haven’t persisted all these years because they represent trivial human matters.

Ray Bradbury on science fiction

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192):

Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.

I often use the metaphor of Perseus and the head of Medusa when I speak of science fiction. Instead of looking into the face of truth, you look over your shoulder into the bronze surface of a reflecting shield. Then you reach back with your sword and cut off the head of Medusa. Science fiction pretends to look into the future but it’s really looking at a reflection of what is already in front of us. So you have a ricochet vision, a ricochet that enables you to have fun with it, instead of being self-conscious and superintellectual. 

Chinese folklore and the colors green, white, red, yellow, and black

From Allen Abel and Madeleine Czigler’s “Ireland, Islam and envy” (National Post: 24 June 2008):

According to a Chinese folk tale, there once was a turtle whose wife fell in love with a snake. Too humiliated to watch their pan-reptilian canoodling, the turtle pulled a large green leaf over his eyes. Hence the usage, still current, of “green hat” in Chinese parlance as the connotation of a cuckold.

To the Chinese, in the same immemorial way, white is sadness, red is happiness, yellow is thoughtfulness and black is fear.

1 Henry VI: an urn … rich-jewel’d of Darius

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (I: 6):

CHARLES:

‘Tis Joan, not we, by whom the day is won;
For which I will divide my crown with her,
And all the priests and friars in my realm
Shall in procession sing her endless praise.
A statelier pyramis to her I’ll rear
Than Rhodope’s or Memphis’ ever was:
In memory of her when she is dead,
Her ashes, in an urn more precious
Than the rich-jewel’d of Darius,
Transported shall be at high festivals
Before the kings and queens of France.

an urn … rich-jewel’d of Darius: George Puttenham’s The Arte of English Poesie I: 8 (In What Reputation Poesie and Poets Were in Old Time with Princes and Otherwise Generally, and How They Be Now Contemptible and for What Causes): For the respects aforesaid in all former ages and in the most civil countries and commonwealths, good Poets and Poesie were highly esteemed and much favored of the greatest Princes. For proof whereof we read how much Amyntas king of Macedonia made of the Tragical Poet Euripides. And the Athenians of Sophocles. In what price the noble poems of Homer were holden with Alexander the great, in so much as every night they were laid under his pillow, and by day were carried in the rich jewel coffer of Darius lately before vanquished by him in battle.

1 Henry VI: Astraea

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (I: 6):

CHARLES:

Divinest creature, Astraea’s daughter,
How shall I honour thee for this success?

Astraea: in Greek religion and mythology, goddess of justice; daughter of Zeus and Themis. Because of the wickedness of man, she withdrew from the earth at the end of the Golden Age and was placed among the stars as the constellation Virgo.