Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Indo-European Folklore and Myth

Zeus, who was quite loose, and Indra, who was equally promiscuous, were two early Aryan gods; the former from Greek myth, and the latter from Vedic myth. The early Aryans (a linguistic term) were the source of gods and goddesses, myths and tales from many of the areas where these nomadic people settled. They carried these myths with them in languages that came to be known as Indo-European after 18th century linguists such as Sir William Jones, studying Sanskrit in India, realized that most of the European, many of the Indian languages, and some Middle Eastern languages were closely related. Not only were the languages related, but these cultures shared many myths as well.

These myths speak of war loving people, whose gods mirrored their lust for life and the pleasures that came with it. Their myths still inform our lives as we see the themes occurring in stories we enjoy today. The myth of the lost prince who grows up in poor circumstances, but rises again to his position is one of these. I use this in the Fire Chronicles.

As a scholar of languages and folklore, I seek to reclaim myths for people to enjoy. The academic endeavor is often sadly selfish. Scholars write to impress each other with little regard for what services they can provide for the general public. As a graduate student, I came to realize that my insights would be seen only by a few. I understood that academic writing was largely a game where people tried to outdo each other in their complex and sometimes meaningless jargon. I respect scholars like Wendy Doniger, who writes in such a way as to reach a wider audience. While making devilishly ingenious arguments, she also manages to bring the world of scholarship to life for all. This, I believe, is the duty of a true scholar. I wrote my latest academic book with this in mind, but I also feel that these stories can come alive in fiction. The storytellers of yore did just this. In my coming series, The Sorcerer Chronicles, I make use of many Indo-European myth themes.

I believe you might enjoy the story of how Indra, the king of the gods, is cursed to have genitalia sprout all over his body. Well, I don’t tell his story exactly, but I do use parts of it!

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