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Mythopoeia as Ethos

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Mythopoeia as Ethos

Postby sunbear » 02 Jun 2010, 21:35

Lewis, Chesterton and Cervantes

I have always loved the quote from Silver Chair when Puddleglum confronts the witch saying, “I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.” I think this strikes something in me, similar to the way that, I understand, many people view the Arthurian legends and the notion of chivalry. Even if all those valiant knights didn’t do all the things they are said to have done, didn’t exemplify the ideals that we hold them to, isn’t it nice to still strive for them as if they had?

On reading Don Quixote, we encounter this to an extreme. Don Quixote lives in a made up world that he considers vastly superior to the one those around him seem to live in. His made up world elevate inns to castles and wenches to ladies. On the one hand, I can’t help thinking about how much of a donkey Quixote makes of himself, and how many times he ends up making matters much worse. One only has to look at the example of the lad Andres, who would have only gotten a whipping, but after Quixote’s involvement was apparently hospitalized from the beating he received. Andres ends up calling down curses upon all the knights-errant that have ever been born. On the other hand, it seems that this “sickness” of Don Quixotes was what gave him hope and drove him to attempt good deeds.

Of course Don Quixote is a, purposefully, extreme example and in addition his view of the world around him seems to truthfully be at odds with reality. He doesn’t see things in “real world” vs. “idealized”, but rather cannot seem to fathom the plain reality that the man on a horse is in fact a barber and therefore carrying a barber’s basin, not a magical helmet, even when confronted with the truth. So if Don Quixote is the farcical expression of Puddleglum’s preference to live like a Narnian even if there is no Narnia, what would a real world, practical example of this be?

I can’t help but thinking that Puddleglum's motto is at the back of much of the sentiment in Chesterton’s Orthodoxy where he alludes to the nursery influence of fairy tales as a philosophy and ethic in his life. But if fairy tales and fantasy are going to impact your philosophy, ethics, and in short your ethos, what is the impact to be? Surely there could be many answers to this in each personal life. However, drawing from the lives of Lewis, Tolkien, Macdonald, Chesterton and all those Inklings and influencers of Inklings, how would you say that the ethics and lessons of Mythopoeia influenced their daily real-world lives?
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Re: Mythopoeia as Ethos

Postby matdonna » 02 Jun 2010, 23:39

not a real world example, but something that immediately comes to mind for me is the "Jaynestown" episode of Firefly. Have you seen it? The scoundrel Jayne Cobb becomes an accidental hero, having dropped a load of stolen cash on some poor folk, who make him a Robin Hood figure and sing songs about him. Really he was just trying to lighten the load of his flying craft and escape. When he returns to this place and finds out he is a hero, he actually begins to think and act a bit more like a hero himself...
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Re: Mythopoeia as Ethos

Postby Matthew Whaley » 03 Jun 2010, 01:41

In the film Man of La mancha at the end where Don Quixote's family finally convinces him ( Peter O' Toole) that he is not a knight, the wench (Sophia Loren) has by this time been transformed into the lady that Don Quixote believed that she was and desperately tries to bring him back into his delusional state.
One example that mythopoeia affected the daily life of "Jack" that I can think of :
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Re: Mythopoeia as Ethos

Postby cyranorox » 04 Jun 2010, 19:34

My namesake, Cyrano [a real man as well as the hero of the play] exemplifies the life lived according to a fantastic and elevated ideal, at great, indeed catastrophic, personal cost. And he says in the play that he read DQ, and identified himself with the hero.

Joan of Arc is an even greater example of living out the chivalric ideal, and her deeds are very reliably documented as real.
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Re: Mythopoeia as Ethos

Postby nomad » 12 Jun 2010, 02:55

How about Martin Luther King? Living for his dream of equality, believing it could exist, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And ditto for everyone who followed him, and those who continue to believe in the statement "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights" and try to make it reality, while others see its lack of complete achievement as proof that it is false and disingenuous.

I think to understand how fairy tales effect ones ethos, one must first understand that most fairy tales and mythologies are not simply made-up stories for the sake of escaping reality. They are tools for communicating certain messages and values that can be more clearly seen in fiction form. Or perhaps sometimes for wrestling with life issues more easily dealt with in fiction.
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