FOR HER BIRTHDAY (HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEST NNYFACE!), nny
asked me about what myths and fairytales and stories I grew up with.
I was going to start this out by saying I don't remember being told stories as a child, but now that I think about it, that's actually not true. My parents did tell me stories -- just not general sorts of myths or legends or fairy tales. They told me stories about themselves, their childhoods, and their parents. And, of course, in a very real way those stories were myths and legends and fairytales. My mother's mother, the one I never met -- who jumped into fountains to get pennies out for her children instead of throwing them in, who decided it would be fun to ride on top of a car instead of inside it and broke her leg, who invited an agoraphobic patient to live in her basement with his pet monkey as a kind of live-in babysitter, or so I was told -- was pretty much the trickster figure of my childhood, moreso than Loki or Hermes or Anansi. And I had not made that connection until just now, actually, and it's kind of a weird thing to realize.
So that was one kind of story I grew up with. As for the others, the myths and fairytales that people tend to think of, I bumped into them mostly the usual kind of way, and some less usual. Disney, of course -- I was exactly the right age for the Disney comeback era of the nineties, and very clearly remember The Little Mermaid
taking preschool by storm. But I also remember watching Into the Woods
when I was five or six, and subsequently watching it, like, ALL THE TIME. I think I must have known the stories by then that Into the Woods
takes off of, because I must have known them in order to internalize the lesson that I very clearly did internalize -- that stories are always more complicated, both funnier and more serious, both more ordinary and more strange, than the first version that you hear. That stories are, first and foremost, full of real people, who fight about stupid things and are heroic in the weirdest
ways. Into the Woods
is a very foundational part of the way I've approached stories, always. (Diana Wynne Jones is of course a part of that too, but that's news to no one.)
And I got older, and read as many books of myths and legends as I could get my hands on, and as many books of everything else, too. I remember that I went through a phase where Rapunzel was my favorite fairy tale, for reasons beyond the recall of the current administration; then I went through a longer phase where Tam Lin was my favorite, for reasons that are pretty easy to target, thank you, Pamela Dean. But once you start getting into all the different books and stories I read and absorbed as a kid, that's a different question, and not, I think, the one that's being asked.
Oh, one last thing, though -- I was thinking, "wow, isn't it telling that all of the myths/legends/fairytales I'm thinking of are pretty British Isles and Brothers Grimm, and that I didn't hear about, say, golems or Chelm for so many years later?" But of course I did know religious stories, I knew about Moses and Noah, I had a short book with my name and my brother's name printed in it from some novelty printing website in which Rebecca and Ben Went on a Time-Traveling Adventure to Learn the Meaning of Hanukkah. I just didn't think about those when you asked about myths and legends and fairy tales, because in some weird way -- even though they TOTALLY ARE! - they don't fall into the myth and legend and fairy tale category in my head either. That's another thing about myself I hadn't realized.This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/354010.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comments on Dreamwidth.