Sunday, August 31, 2014

1001 - The Hero With 1,000 Sketches

I've begin reading "The Hero With A Thousand Faces", an analysis of myth in modern storytelling.  It's good reading, and very informative.  Although written in the 1940's, it remains the textbook for many contemporary authors and movie-makers.  Even after the first couple of chapters, it's evident who among my favourites have adopted this book and who haven't, it's like the difference between standing inside a spotlight as opposed to not.

Campbell at the outset uses the fable of the Minotaur to illustrate the human myth.  He compares the story of the man with the bull's head to the stages of personal development: Campbell was a devotee of Carl Jung, so in the book there is a dovetailing of mythology and psychoanalytic symbolism.  Taken from the perspective of the storyteller rather than the doctor, Campbell makes a strong case despite the current decline of Jungian therapy.  

Since the book is quite sense with information, I've taken to making notes.  And since Campbell describes his points with very colourful storytelling, there's many opportunities to provide my own illustrations.  

The Greek Minotaur was the result of a bad relationship between Minos, the King of Crete and his wife, who bore a monster as the result of Minos' greed.  Minos had his sage, Daedelus, create a labyrinth in which to keep the Minotaur.  Minos threw the children of his foes into the labyrinth as food for his son. 

Minos' daughter Ariadne falls in love with Theseus, the son of Aegeus King of Athens, and conspires with Theseus to kill her bullish brother.  Theseus slays the Minotaur but abandons Ariadne.  Bad communications cause Aegeus to believe that Theseus had been killed, and he commits suicide.  Theseus rises to his father's throne and sets in motion a Greek rebellion against Minos' tyrannical rule. 

The Minotaur myth normally is seen as a political allegory for the succession of Greek power to Athens.  Employing Jungian imagery, Campbell turns the Minotaur into a representative of the stages of psychological development, which in turn provides a key to unlocking his "monomyth", or the observation that Mankind's greatest stories all have similar features, since they all reflect human personality. 

This quick drawing of the Minotaur shies away from stoic Greek iconography and contemporary comic-book mangling of the original.  Instead, I've based the picture on  Yama, which is a fearsome Tibetan version of the monster with a man's body and a bull's head.  Campbell was right: the best stories do have similar features, even from antipodes like Greece and Tibet.

Anyways, now that I've made 1,000 JSVB posts, I suppose I can call myself The Hero With 1,000 Sketches.  Really, though, to be in top form I will need at least 9,000 more.  Today is one more sketch towards that goal.