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Bewildering Stories

Tala Bar discusses

Story and Mythology
in “The Minstrel in the Forest”

Danielle Parker wrote a Critics’ Corner review of your “Minstrel in the Forest” story. Do you have any response to the comments made there?

Here is my answer, which I have written just now and sent to Bewildering Stories, having read the critique for the first time:

First, I want to say, I don’t write myth: I use myth for telling my stories, sometimes with messages that are different from the original myth’s message. Secondly, I find people of European origin sadly imprisoned in the well-known Greek myths, being quite unaware of other and very different myths from other places in the world — even Europe itself.

I think, learning a lesson from this article, I should translate into English my article “Beauty and the Beast,” which was published online in Hebrew. In that article, for instance, it can be found that the bear, as Guardian of the Forest, is sometimes a male and sometimes a female character in northern European mythology besides being also a Mother figure.

To this, we can add Callisto as an aspect of Artemis the Huntress, as explained by Graves in both The White Goddess and in the Greek myths: she is the group of stars known as the Big Dipper, or the Great Bear. (I regard her story as told by Ms. Parker as completely irrelevant, either for the myth or for my story).

Now I’ll try to answer the questions that obviously bothered Ms. Parker. A comment about Oedipus: that story was based initially not on Freud’s psychology but on the ancient practice of marriage and sacrifice of the Sacred King to his Mother Goddess, having killed the previous king who is only symbolically his father. It all belongs to the cyclical Great Goddess myth and ritual of Life, Love, Death and Revival.

The three female characters, of course, express the figure of the Triple Goddess. The figure of the youngest, which I put just post-puberty, would indeed fit that of the Huntress, Diana/Artemis; their stories perhaps hint at having sexual relations; but very prominently, she never conceived.

It must be borne in mind that ancient myths have many discrepancies, which I don’t always follow in using these characters but sometimes I take advantage of, as I did in this case. By the way, I would not hesitate to use pedophilia in a story where it was relevant, and this may be a borderline case. I just want to mention that innocence is not a quality I use in my stories, as I do not believe in its existence in a pagan society, to which I usually refer.

I also do not regard animals as mindless; rather, their existence is closer to Mother Nature, the goddess to whom they belong, and they act more on her behalf than humans do. The Goddess giving birth to piglets shows that closeness, and perhaps hints at the necessity of our getting closer to that place. Humans or pigs, we are all her children, and let’s not forget it.

I am afraid I don’t worry much about the readers’ understanding my deeper meaning as long as they enjoy the story itself. If somebody does understand or tries to and asks relevant questions, I take it as a bonus for me as a writer. (Perhaps that’s the teacher in me, not expecting my students to know the answers but to ask the relevant questions).

Indeed, sailing in uncharted water is my hobby; for me it’s fun, both as a reader and a writer. I don’t appreciate food that has been chewed for me in advance, and I don’t expect my readers to know in advance what I am going to say next.

So, Danielle, I send you my message, which is embedded in the story: let’s get closer to Nature and try to understand it, to preserve it and to derive as much enjoyment from it as we can.

Copyright © 2005 by Tala Bar

An interview with Tala Bar appears in this issue.

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