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Sunday, 25 October 2009

Myth and Memory

Last night I was privileged to see a live storytelling event called "Hunting the Giant's Daughter" at Lancaster Litfest.
The story is a re-telling of an old myth from the Mabinogion. It is a tale that hides its wisdom beneath heroes and villains, blood and thunder, the living landscape of seed and tree.
At about two hours in length and told by one teller, with the help of a musical accompaniment, we were asked to conjure a whole world from the words of the storyteller. Today most of our stories are given to us visually on television or computer and very few are conjured in our own imaginations, spurred on by the poetry and rhetoric of a live voice. The experience was a potent one, not least because it was shared with the rest of the audience, who had the same, but also their own unique, rendition of the story in their imagination. Each person had made what was real for them.It led me to think about how we as writers create these "pictures in the head."

Memory or Imagination
So, are these pictures from our imagination - i.e are they something new, or are they a compilation of our memories? And if so, how much of the archetypal memory do we have access to? As a writer this topic interests me because part of the mystery of writing is that often I am the teller, but the story - the story, is not mine. It exists somewhere else already, and I need to remove myself somehow for the story to come to life. Anyone who has read Christopher Booker's "The Seven Basic Plots" will be familiar with the idea that stories perhaps follow archetypal patterns - an idea which can be ignored, or used to the writer's advantage. So here is an idea - perhaps next time approach your story as if it is a memory - a hidden memory. That you were there, but have just forgotten.

A Real Quest
If there is anyone out there who is interested in how Story and Myth meet, and wants to go on a real Quest, right now, this moment, a writer friend of mine has set up a website for just this purpose. You can find it at

Riddle of the Day
Name me and I cease to exist.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, Deborah - enjoying the blog and looking forward to reading your book.