Thursday, October 04, 2007

Belief and Being: Myth Transforming Life

I was in Junior High, and I read Tolkien for the first time. First, I read the Hobbit - in one sitting, on a Saturday while camping at the beach in Carlsbad, CA. Then the Lord of the Rings quickly followed. One character who took up a mere single chapter of the trilogy expanded to mythic proportions for me. I identified with the colorfully dressed, singing, dancing, carefree character who seemed to be dropped parenthetically into the middle of the book. When the ring twirled around his finger, he did not disappear like others, but even more powerful to the story, he did not care for the ring, and did not want to keep it. In fact, he knew that he would care so little for it, that eventually he would lose it, and that would be bad for the rest of the world, which balanced on the precipice of power struggles circling around this ring of power.

I wanted to be like Tom Bombadil. I wanted to leap carefree through a world of struggle and war, and have no consideration for the petty battles of men and their enemies.

Within the next few years I read Evangeline Walton's Tetralogy of the Mabinogion, and found myself identifying with the faithful and courageous Pwyll, who although taking on the form of another King for a whole year, and being told that everything in the Kingdom was his for that time, refused to sleep with the King's beautiful wife. The steadfast integrity and faithfulness of Pwyll captured my heart, and became a part of my own heart's desires. I also read of the warrior who laughed in battle, and as a freshman in High School thought that this was an attribute I wanted to make my own - to laugh in the face of war.

To greater and lesser degrees these things were part of my own personality, which I chose to embrace early. They were engrained more deeply, or perhaps awakened by myth. Myths as these carry power to transform. Stories larger than life activate my heart to dream large, and romantically engage with the dragons and monsters which war against my soul.

I wonder how actively we find the stories, and the history of scripture capturing our hearts like these myths captured mine while I was young? I have found myself dreaming in Biblical proportions, even like I dreamt in mythic proportions as a youth. In doing so perhaps I have captured the sense of the magic of myth, and applied it to the scripture. There is a reason we use the term "Biblical Proportions." The Bible stories like myth are larger than life. Those larger than life stories call me to something greater, and somehow seem to carry me along with some magic power of life transformation.


Anonymous said...

And so it is with others who read the Eddas, or, as you did, the Mabinogion, or tales from native american folklore, or..... there is much to be drawn from myth, legend and folklore. As with chunks of the bible, people kept the stories alive by re-telling them generation after generation. They carried meaning and guidance for those who heard them.

Well worth the experience. :)



Anonymous said...

I'm liking this Belief and Being series you got going on here.

Since I am not that much of a reader (with fiction anyway). I can't say that myth had any kind of inspiration on me until I grew up but children's books did. Taking note of those stories you mentioned.

Webb Kline said...

When I was a youngster my life was centered around the latest Tom Swift sci-fi novel. What ever it was about, all my friends and I were living it out in our fantasy life.

About 15 years ago a fellow I used to visit in prison gave my a copy of Hind's Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. Little did I know at the time that my life was about to mirror that story in so many ways. I'm not so sure I would have made it through that period of my life without that book.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Mike,

You are right. Every culture, and people have something from their tales, history, lore, myths...which speak from the heart of God.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Carl,

Note up - read up. There is some good stuff out there.

Pastor Phil said...


Hannah did in her stories what we could use more of in Christianity - teach us by engaging fiction how to walk thorugh life's struggles.