Always Winter and Never Christmas? Some Thoughts on Snow, Springtime, and Fantasy Literature

According to the calendar, the vernal equinox is coming soon, March 20. The Auditors of Time just decreed that we must all surrender an hour of our lives (they do promise to give it back in the fall), and I’ve already heard spring peepers singing for all they are worth. However, we currently are having a snowstorm here in western North Carolina, so those poor peepers are, as my dad would say, now “peepingReal-Life 'Narnia' inspired author | ITALY Magazine through glass,” and the single digit temperature and sub-zero windchill are enough to make a person look twice at the calendar to see if spring is around the corner or on another continent. As I frequently point out to my fellow residents of the mountains during this time of year, “Appalachian Spring” is not just a musical composition; it is a specific species of cruel joke. It’s rather like that feeling when, well before the end of the book or film, our heroes have slain the monster and we, savvy story-consumers that we are, know that the monster is NOT in fact dead, or the monster has a baby, a mate, a scary parent, or a whole monster army in reserve. Thus, the howling winds outside and the freshly cut daffodils inside (I cut them just before the snow) have reminded me of some thoughts I have long been pondering about the way seasons, particularly winter and spring, work in fantasy literature and how the treatment of those seasons is often an indication of the worldviews of authors and of the directions their tales will take.

So join me after the jump as we ponder some fantastic thoughts and decide if “winter is coming” or if, in fact, “This is no thaw. This is spring.”

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Happy Birthday to the True Ringbearer!

On January 3, 1892, John Ronald Ruel Tolkien was born, and our world has been significantly enriched by his presence in it. In addition to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, he translated Beowulf, created all of Middle Earth and its many cultures, places, and languages.Biography of J.R.R Tolkien | Biography Online and helped found a little group called The Inklings.  Professor Tolkien and the Inklings,  particularly C.S. Lewis, helped lay the foundation of the mythopoetic worldview that is so central to all we do here and to the books we love to read and discuss. Thus, as I heard someone suggest this morning, we should all lift our classes this evening and declare a toast, “To the Professor!” If you prefer, you may wish to honor him by reading some of his beautiful words, or even by enjoying some of the many creative interpretations of them. I can recommend one I’ve been enjoying lately: Ambient Works Rivendell Ambience video (very pleasant in the background on a snowy day). There are also videos for the Misty Mountains and other aspects of Middle Earth to put one in a fit state of mind to celebrate the day. Or, one could simply shoot off some fireworks or make a dramatic disappearance and go on an adventure.

Happy One Hundred and Thirtieth Birthday, Professor Tolkien, and thank you for letting us into your world!

Does Anyone “Really” Die in Stories?

As one year dies and another begins, and, at least in my part of the world, most outdoor growing things are dead or wisely biding their time to emerge in a few months, it is a fitting time to think about how stories, like those we analyze and discuss here, address the idea of death. Perhaps this is a rather glum subject, but it does not have to be. I sometimes joke with my literature and mythology students that no one ever “really” dies in mythology, that characters morph from one myth into another, that the stories themselves sustain the characters. In literature, characters can continue to live, as we revisit them, even if they “die” within the structure of the narrative. Rowling, like all the good storytellers and myth-makers who create the tales that teach and entertain us, works with the idea that those who die don’t really leave, whether they are family members or cuddly pigs; but perhaps it is a bit of stretch to assume no one “really” dies in these stories. Let’s ponder that further and see.

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The Inklings and Culture: A Feast of Brilliant Scholarship

The Inklings and Culture: Monika B. Hilder, Sara L. Pearson, Laura N. Van Dyke, Monika B. Hilder, Sara L. Pearson, Laura N. Van Dyke: 9781527560147: Amazon.com: BooksOne of the great joys of my work with authors like Rowling, Lewis, and others is the opportunity to interact with remarkable scholars from all over the world, and one scholar whose work never fails to impress me is Dr. Monika B. Hilder, Professor of English at Canada’s Trinity Western University. Among other accomplishments, she is the co-founder and co-director of the Inklings Institute of Canada, a remarkable group of scholars that has just produced an incredible collection of essays that is well worth the attention of any reader of the Inklings.

The Inklings and Culture: A Harvest of Scholarship from the Inklings Institute of Canada, published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, and edited by Hilder as well as Sara L. Pearson and Laura N. VanDyke has something for everyone who enjoys the work of the most well-known Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as well as that of less famous (to the general reader) members,  “de facto” Inklings members, and honorary or “proto-Inklings” like Charles Williams, Owen Barfield,  Dorothy Sayers, George MacDonald, and G.K. Chesterton. [Read more…]

A Mythological Key to Cormoran Strike? The Myth of Eros, Psyche, and Venus

Tuesday I discussed seven points in Troubled Blood that suggest a Jungian reading of Strike5 and perhaps the entire Cormoran Strike series is what Rowling-Galbraith wants her readers to attempt. As I concluded in that post, I do not think Rowling is necessarily a Jungian herself but her mentioning the Swiss psychologist in the text by name, her repeated references to Jungian signatures in the story-line, most notably archetypes and symbolism, synchronicity-coincidences, and persona-identity, and the embedded ‘True Book’ that seems a story-cipher for Jung’s mysterious ‘New Book,’ individually and taken together are a big push towards interpreting Strike through a Jungian lens.

Today I want to take the second and follow-up step in that effort in the hope that I have succeeded via yesterday’s post in justifying a Jungian approach. In the post that follows, I will review Rowling’s soul-focused artistry and then argue that her Strike novels are in large part her retelling of the myth of Psyche and Eros as the Jungian school understands it, that is, as an allegory of, as Erich Neumann puts it, “the development of feminine psychology.” This post is preface to the third step in my Jung argument, namely, that the Strike series is an “externalization” or allegory of the integration of anima and animus in its male and female character leads.

This second step-post will have four parts: 

  • a discussion of Rowling’s stated beliefs about the soul and how it is the focus of her story-telling,
  • a review of her psychological artistry in Potter and the post Potter novels and screenplays,
  • a synopsis of the Eros and Psyche myth, and
  • a point to point look at the parallels in the story thus far with speculation about novels to come.

See you after the jump! Forty illustrations taken from traditional paintings and statues of Eros and Psyche…

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