Originally posted May 16, 2016
For the last ten or so years I have been blogging on blogspot, for the reason that it was easy, and available to me at the time. I have enjoyed using blogspot, but it is time to bring my work under one roof. This is one of the last few boxes for me to move to my new house and unpack!
So here is the first blog on this now, almost new, site (house)!
The Old Tales by Simon Brooks © June 2016
There are many things that the old folk and faerie tales, or as I like to think of them, the ancient stories can teach us, even help us with today. Mostly inspiration. You can take a story at face value if you only want entertainment. By looking deeply at the stories we can learn a lot, and even see ourselves staring back at us.
I also believe that with today’s mobility with people moving not just about the country, but around the world, folks lack grounding. I believe the ancient stories allow us to regain some grounding and in can help us recapture our heritage. Many of the old tales tell us about the ‘cruel world’ that is out there and how the heroes and heroines (mostly vagabonds and waifs) of these stories figure it all out. By doing this the stories give us hope.
Not much has changed with us humans, really, if you think about it. There is still greed, hate, corruption and war, and it’s usually over what others have that we want (the big bully in the playground after the good candy). And we all know there are no magical spells in the real world. But there is hope that we will find solutions if we look hard enough and find the right people to help us.
The really old stories, such as Gilgamesh and Beowulf, teach us about the old cultures, and the hero code of conduct. Many of the ancient heroes talk about their kin, their relatives. These characters are often introduced as ‘son of’ such and such, ‘cousin to’ so and so, and ‘warrior under’ this lord or that. These heroes are deeply rooted in their own genealogy, they know who they come from, where they come from, and are fiercely proud of it. And when it comes to walking the talk, they definitely do that. Some might see this as bragging, but there is more to it than that. It is about pride of the family name and honour to themselves and their lineage. When a hero says he will slay the dragon he will slay the dragon or die trying. We could all learn from this. He doesn’t pretend to slay the beast by hiding it somewhere and giving it a pay-off. He slays the beast.
When warriors had done well for their lord or chieftain, these men and women in these tales received great honour and recompense. The kings and rulers would offer much in the ancient tales, to the men that made their kingdom what it is. In some cultures the leaders give away almost all to the rest of their people knowing that they will get it back in the future if they were a good leader. I think this is something we could learn from! Of course we know these are stories, and in real life the riches came from plundering and invading other nations. And still do. But if we look at these stories and how some parts (by all means not all!) could teach us a thing or two. And no, I don’t mean we go beating our chests, buy guns and claim we will kill the beast, but we need to look at the problems we have and when something needs to change, change it. If something needs fixing, fix it. Don’t just patch it up and make do, but fix something. There is much that is broken in our society. The old tales don’t just help us see the issue, but encourage us to confront it, and do something to make things better for all.
Some of these tales are mirrors to our own inner selves and can help us see what we are really trying to achieve. This applies to adults as well as children. Two legends that show remarkable ethics are the story of King Wenceslas, and the Arthurian story of Sir Cleges and his miraculous winter cherries. Cleges routes out corruption and greed and is rewarded for this. His Lord, King Uther Pendragon (Arthur’s father), looks after Cleges and his family (who had become penniless). Wenceslas of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) was one of the most revered Kings (actually Duke) of his time, a fair and just man who dispensed justice with an even hand, despite his somewhat dysfunctional family (his mother killed her own mother-in-law when her husband died, and Wenceslas was eventually murdered by his brother). Wenceslas was made Saint because of his good treatment of his citizens.
With the story giving us a distance to an issue, we might be able to handle a problem out which might be too difficult, otherwise. Take Little Red Riding Hood, for example. I know of a young girl, about 6 or 7 at the time, who asked for the story to be read to her. She wanted the tale told to her at least once a night for about a month. We discovered the young girl had found out a friend of hers had seen a registered sex-offender who lived near-by, staring at the house from the bottom of the drive. In listening to the story, we later figured out, it enabled the young girl to process what had happened to her friend, safely. There are stories about relationships going bad, and trying to rectify the mistakes made. There are stories which ‘teach us’ or remind us of what is really important.
Yes, there are stories like Hansel and Gretel where the mother (in the original) tells the father to leave the children out in the forest because there was not enough food. She knew they would all starve if they fed the children. Back in the past, this was a real issue, and the young and elderly were put out to die. This does not happen in our culture now, but these stories remain relevant when families suffer through divorce. The children might be ‘abandoned’ in other ways and these stories can reach out to them and offer some sort of hope. Yes, the stories are dark, but they teach us that the world can be harsh, and that there can be a way out of the forest, even if it is not immediately apparent.
The stories talk about compassion, sharing, fighting on the side of right, to overcome the big, bad wolf, dragon, or evil giant, to use our minds and not just brawn.
There are many things that the ancient stories can teach us, even help us with today. And let’s face it, if they weren’t good, they wouldn’t still be around today. These ancient tales are really good stories, if you look a little deeper. Go on. Go ahead. Lean over and peer in more closely.