Sometimes I want to be like ‘GUYS – make a logo-link-awesome-thing for people to use on their blogs when they promote and/or review you without worrying that you might feel they’re stealing your art’, but then I realised I don’t have one of those things, so who am I to talk? Anyway: imagine there’s an awesome banner that expresses the supreme amusement Myths RETOLD provides here.
I wanted to get back into blogging gently. I’m bubbling underneath with, like a review of all ten seasons of Smallville, Superman, some books I’ve been reading… all sorts, but I just had a killer week and am not yet recovered from my anaemia, so I’m starting with something fun.
Myths RETOLD is like the epitome of neo-geekery – that kind of ecclectic mix of niche interests, passion, inventiveness, a scholarly approach to history, a literary approach to swearing, new-tech-loving, sub-culture creating geekery that the Internet has allowed to explode and shape our culture not by defining it, but expanding it.
The creator goes by the name of ‘Ovid’, and his ‘WHO WRITES THIS SHIT?!‘ section devolves from esoteric facts about himself to a rant about birds in poetic free-form. He responded to someone else’s attempt to find a way to credit him as follows:
Just do your thing, man. Read that shit like there is no tomorrow. You can just tell people about the site, and maybe about that sweet dude named Ovid who runs the site.
He goes by @tachaberdash on Twitter and frostyobsitnic on YouTube, where he appears to be a young man (usually naked – or at least, naked from the chest up – and wearing a hat) literally yelling myths at the Internet. Alas, profit appears to have trumped his wish for anonymity, however, and his book, Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No-Bullshit Guide to World Mythology is attributed to Cory O’Brien. (I’d be reviewing that, but I don’t own it, yet.)
Anyway, Cory yells myths at the Internet. Or rather: he writes awesome, refreshing, and often insightful free-form poetry retellings of myths and legends in the language of our times – complete with all-caps, internet-slang, and pop-culture references. His ‘SMORGASBORD OF MYTHOLOGY‘ goes from ‘AESOP’S FABLES!‘ to ‘ZOROASTRIAN!‘, and he has recently started retelling the ‘SILMARILION!’ on Wednesdays.
I can’t remember which poem I was first linked to which started my exploration of this site, but I think he had me at ‘Tam Lin is Really Good at Rape?’. For those unfamiliar with the tale, there’s an awesome ballad about a kick-ass lady who deliberately goes out to this place where she knows this guy called Tam Lin hangs out, apparently either stealing women’s ‘mantles’ or their ‘maidenheads’, she has the sex with him and gets pregnant, but it turns out he’s an enchanted knight in thrall to the Faerie Queen, and will die unless Janet saves him, WHICH SHE DOES. This is how Cory describes Janet’s motives:
i mean here’s what I don’t get
you’re going into the woods
knowing full well that there is a dude there who will steal your shawl
and if he can’t find the shawl he is going to rape you instead
so your brilliant defensive strategy is to HIDE THE SHAWL RIGHT NEXT TO YOUR VAG
thus virtually assuring hours and hours of molesting action
i totally get it now
The retellings are one part exuberant enjoyment to one part wry mocking, revelling in the inconsistencies, bizarre twists, and lost meanings, whilst also cutting straight to both the intended meanings and unintended ones that read oddly to modern eyes. It’s a delight to sample myths with which you are familiar and see how Cory recasts them, but it’s also brilliant to be able to enjoy myths from other cultures as Cory loots the legends of the world and bares them all to his wit.
It’s not without flaw. Whilst his no-holds-barred critique of the rape-culture of mythology is wlecome, there’s also a fair amount of slut-shaming, too. His interpretation of Tam Lin straddles an uncomfortable line between celebrating Janet’s free-love approach to sex and directly shaming her by labelling her as a ‘(SLUT)’. And whilst I’m glad he hasn’t limited himself to classical mythology and the myths of Anglo-American culture as if it were the only culture, I don’t know if his looting of world mythology might be taken as cultural appropriation by some. I’m conscious that my cultural history must be very similar to his (he’s white American) and I may share blindspots. Certainly, it seems a little ignorant to groop all ‘AFRICAN!‘ myths under the same heading, and there is a worry that mocking someone else’s culture in this manner could well be offensive.
I don’t know. It seems it would also be offensive to leave out other cultures. I enjoy the chance to expand my cultural horizons and myths themselves tend to stem from an oral culture of telling, retelling, and remolding, with some stories spreading across cultures and around the world – the ‘Cinderella’ story has countless variations and can be found in Chinese, Ancient Greek and Egyptian, Korean, Vietnamese, Arabian versions, and many more in addition to the modern European versions popularised by the Brothers Grimm. I’ve often felt that internet culture is moving back towards a free-interpretation style of fiction which has been artificially stulted by the printing press and copyright law – isn’t Myths RETOLD merely a continuation of this development?
I don’t know. My jury’s out. But overall I can’t help but admire and enjoy the skill and wit that has been applied to retelling these tales, and I want to celebrate it. What’s more, how wonderful is it that this has become an internet success story – yelling myths at the Internet for free has enabled this guy to launch a book. You can still enjoy hundreds of retold myths online, but you can also support him by buying a physical object. I like that, and I recommend it to you.
[Exciting post-script:] I felt you guys should know that Mr O’Brien/Ovid/tacherberdash/frostyobsitnic made possibly the classiest response I have ever had to a review anywhere. You guys should totally go here and read it.