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Category Archives: The Race of Myths

Rhodopis

Once upon a time, there was a young woman named Rhodopis who grew up at a brothel in Egypt and happened, purely by accident and through no fault of her own, to become the most beautiful woman in the world.

Even before the status was official, Rhodopis’s life was not easy. She had a great many sisters—or at least women who lived in her household—who did not care for her, mostly because they were jealous (though some were just generally unpleasant). Once her beauteous fate was sealed, though, she had the added burden and danger of being the most-desired of all her “sisters” by their owner.

She often thought of running away, but wasn’t sure how.

One day, as she was bathing by the sea, a bird swept in and stole her shoe. How tasty that shoe must have been in the bird’s beak, that he carried it miles and miles over Nile-watered lands before he arrived at the house of the Pharaoh and dropped the shoe in his lap.

What happened next would strain credulity. It isn’t entirely understood, but for elusive reasons, the Pharaoh of Egypt fell in love with this single shoe—

No, hang on—is that really a thing? Because it seems a couple of steps past “unlikely” that the King of Egypt would fall in love with what couldn’t have been much more than a sandal. Was it the shape of it? The size? The smell, still lingering despite being hurled through the air? Was it the time of day or the circumstances? Was the Pharaoh lonely or lamenting the idea that he wasn’t allowed to choose his own wife? We don’t know and a part of us is starting to wonder if this shouldn’t have been a story called “That Time the King of Fucking Egypt Fell in Love With a Fucking Shoe.”

But that is not this story. This is a story that’s meant to be about the woman who owned that shoe, and what happened to her after she lost it—isn’t it? What happened to her? Was she upset about losing her shoe? Was she made fun of? Was the brothel owner who liked her just a little too much disappointed? Did he punish her?

We don’t know. All we know is that the Pharaoh sought out throughout the land of the other shoe—or perhaps for the foot that fit it—and that he found her and married her: the perfect fairy tale ending.

But how? And why? And with whom? Were there trials? Tribulations? How exactly did the Pharaoh find her? Did he put out a personals ad with a picture, or go door-to-door through his own kingdom the old-fashioned way?

How long did it take him, and what did Rhodopis suffer in the meantime? To whom could she turn? When he found her at last, what condition did he find her in? Who was the biggest threat to her, the other girls who hated her or the owner who liked her just a little too much?

All we are told is that she and the Pharaoh lived happily ever after.

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The Sacking of Sidon

Larissa could not be said to have a happy life. She would not say herself that she lived an unhappy life (because that would be disrespectful), but she would not disagree with the assessment.

The same could be said of any of the women of Sidon. Husbands came home drunk and abusive, sons went off to war and never returned, even if they did survive. And fathers–fathers wanted nothing to do with their daughters, who were only, after all, a burden. Wasn’t it enough if they sold them to a good husband?

And Larissa’s was no different. When she was younger, she had loved a boy, Iphicles, a shepherd boy, who had been kind to her. But under pressure from his friends–other boys, as always–his kindness had turned. And he hadn’t come back from the wars.

So far, Larissa had resisted all male advances, at least where marriage was concerned. Her father was good enough to leave her Hymen’s final choice. Her virginity, on the other hand–well, she was a servant girl, after all, and one could only expect so much, she sighed, from the nobler men in the way of propriety.

Then, one day, a Trojan ship landed in the harbor. It was just on its way back from Sparta on some sort of ritual quest and bore one of the Trojan princes, Alexander (although, for some reason, he preferred to be called “Paris”). He was a dashing young man, ever so polite and deferent (at least on the surface of things). But Larissa reminded herself in his presence that all men were the same.

Still, it was hard not to notice the way he acted around the woman who was with him on his arm. Her name was not given out publically, so she was referred to as “The Greek Woman”; yet even without a name, she had an aura of power no one in all of Sidon had ever seen, at least not in a woman. Not just in her beauty, but in the way that she carried herself. In the way that she acted with such confidence, so like a man, and still always wearing that look of adoration in beholding her Prince.

There were whispers in the hallways. This wasn’t just any Greek woman this Alexander, or Paris, had carried off. He had stolen Helena of Sparta from Menelaos–there would be war, it was certain! There was an air of excitement, then, about the city and the hall, though nothing was uttered near the honored guests directly. Would the Spartan King come for his bride? Would he meet them there? No, no, the older people assured the young, war would not come to Sidon—the Greeks had been waiting for years for an excuse to sack Troy, this “Paris” had just been stupid enough to give them one.

But then, on the second night when they were feasted once more by Sidon’s king, the question of hospitality was broached. How could they truly welcome a woman into their house if they did not know her name?

It was at that moment that fate took an awful turn. Once Helena confessed that she had indeed left her husband, every man in Sidon rose in anger, hurling accusations, some at the Trojan Prince, but not nearly as many as were hurled at the woman herself for having abandoned the man whom the very Gods had chosen to thrust upon her.

Helena deftly dodged their every ridiculous insult, giving a passionate speech herself on the whys and the wherefores and arguing time and time again that women should be allowed to choose their own fate for themselves, not to mention the man who shared their bed.

But the men of Sidon would have none of it. These men were proud. Though their women had begun to think, to possibly even become inspired, their men had stopped thinking and so gave their actions over to their stomachs, which had been turning over and over at the very thought of letting their wives make these kinds of decisions.

They rose up in anger, encroaching upon her, but the men of Troy, with Paris their leader, stood in their way to protect the new prize. And the women of Sidon were confused, their sisterly affection warring with their better sense when it came to their husbands. So, in utter dismay, Larissa watched with her Sidonian sisters as each and every son of Sidon fell to a Trojan sword. At the end, Paris stood in the banquet hall, a fleeting glint of remorse preceding a sigh of relief as he turned to the women and smiled. “Now you are free,” he told them. “Just as my Helen is free from her terrible husband’s yoke, so you are all free of the oppression these men have laid on you for your entire lives.”

There was a moment of silence, tense, when hardly one of them could breathe, and then a deafening roar of pain and rage, of pulled hair and torn clothing, from the mouths of every woman of Sidon. Some had the strength to hurl themselves head-first into the sea, or off the battlements onto the jagged rocks, dashing their brains out, screaming the names of their husbands and brothers and fathers and sons.

Paris stood in confusion and looked back at Helena in her shock. “I don’t understand,” he complained. “These men were horrible to you. They treated you worse than cattle, worse even than Menelaos treated Helena here. How can you not be happy now that you’re free of them?”

“You fool!” cried Larissa in response. “It doesn’t matter how they treated us; whatever they did, we loved them. They were our husbands, our fathers, our brothers, our sons. We had to love them. No matter what they did to us, their crimes could not compare to yours. No matter how we hated them, we will always hate you more for taking them from us.”


Not to Bury Caesar

MARK ANTONY:
Friend, Roman, Countryman, lend me your hand.
I come not to bury you, but in honesty and faith.
How long has it been since we met in the field at Philippi?
No, not met, for I did not see you there alive.
Did you know I buried you? I insisted it be done in state,
For such is the esteem I hold you in, dear Brutus.
Come, let us be enemies no longer in this strange place.
So many faces have I seen here strange to me.
Such names, as Mercutio, and Iago, and Goneril.
A host there was praised the deeds of some Fifth Henry
And lamented the weakness of a Sixth.
One man I met, a madman, claimed to be Emperor of Rome,
One “Saturnine”—have you heard such foolishness?
Like a King, only greater—can one man rule Rome?
Yet perhaps, at my passing, Octavian did it.
But say, my honorable Brutus, how have you fared?
These nine years in Elysium, have you found comfort?

BRUTUS:
Nay, Antony, mock me not so. No such years have passed!
Days, maybe, that I have wandered these troubling shores.
No doubt that Octavian made quick work of you—
I know thou canst not boast of nine years without me.

MARK ANTONY:
I’ll call my comrades in arms to witness,
If ever yet I find them more. But speak you true?

BRUTUS:
As true as the blades that pierced that purple robe i’th’Senate.

MARK ANTONY:
Hold thy tongue, for I have substance yet enough,
I warrant, in this place, to rip it out.

BRUTUS:
How can nine years pass so without notice?
Are clocks such baseless things? Such rude mechanicals?

MARK ANTONY:
There’s strange play afoot here. Mark you,
There is politicking about, as that dread Henry
Seems to be on the move…

BRUTUS:
Can there be power after death? Ah, woe’s the Gods.

MARK ANTONY:
I’ve seen no Gods here yet.

BRUTUS:
No Gods? Are we not, then, Gods ourselves,
That we live on after dying?

MARK ANTONY:
What hubris, this?

BRUTUS:
Will not men walk on Earth as Gods?
Is not that Roman policy, since Caesar’s triumph?

MARK ANTONY:
Still that self-same insolence, ingratitude—

BRUTUS:
And wilt thou slay me now again?

MARK ANTONY:
No, gentle Brutus. You’ve offered only words now.
Our slates are clean, no need to wash them with our bloods.

BRUTUS:
Yet there’s thy sword, all bared. Why bear it?

MARK ANTONY:
There may be bears yet in these woods.
And if there’s one, I’ll wear it.


The Race of Myths

Joseph Campbell identifies three characteristics of Myth that typify the effect they have on human beings and define their purpose.

The first is that they keep us from dying by reassuring us that all life comes from death and we must therefore feed on it to survive.

The second is that we must procreate, so that the species and, specifically, the tribe, can survive beyond us.

The third is to codify how we as a society should interact with other societies and their respective Myths.

The first two are obviously ways for the Myth itself to keep being told: both the individual and the society must persist in order to perpetuate the Myth in question. But the third is rather a reflection of the second on the Myth itself: the interaction of different societies is the main way Myths have to procreate.

Myths are alive, by the way, in case you hadn’t noticed.

But the weird thing about this interaction is that it doesn’t specify how the Myths will interact with each other. Quality #1, above, is basically “Kill or be killed”, quality #2 is essentially “Make up and make love,” but quality #3 could go any which way. How do Myths interact with each other?

Sometimes they’re polite and unobtrusive, sometimes they’re social and amenable, but sometimes we find there are Myths who are cruel and sollipsistic, Myths who insist that they—and only they—are Truth. They preserve their immortality by refusing to procreate, as though, like Zeus, they remember how they killed their own father and refuse to have the same done to them.


Robin Hood, Sheriff of Nottingham

It was over. The battle was won and Robin Hood had emerged the victor. After eight long years of fighting the corruption in his country, the oppression and abuse of his people, Robin Hood had knocked the Sheriff of Nottingham off his high horse, defeated Guy of Gisborne and even, yes, shaken the absolute hold Prince John had on his monarchy. By the time King Richard Lion Heart returned from his crusade, there was peace and a sense of justice. As a token of his gratitude for all that Robin had done, King Richard had Robin of Locksley, called “Hood”, named Sheriff of Nottingham.

The irony was not lost on the general public.

There was a problem, though. While their enemies had been thwarted in their immediate ambitions, problems still existed. There was still scarcity in the country; resources still flowed to the cities where most people lived while the people of Sherwood Forest wondered why their children still starved.

Robin Hood had proved to be a very effective leader at uniting the people against a common enemy, but now that he was in a position of power, he found that there was much more to governing than disposing of one’s enemies. Mouths needed to be fed, which meant that pockets needed to be lined, which means that coffers needed to be filled, and that was why the people had been taxed so hard.

“By why can’t we just put those taxes on the rich?” Robin Hood finally demanded of King Richard. “They have the money and the resources! They won’t starve if they help other people not starve.”

His exclamation was met with an icy stare. “They may have the money, but more importantly, they control the armies. They each have their own men. If I raid their personal treasuries, what do you think they’ll do to me? They will rally behind my brother and they will overthrow me.”

This was not an answer that Robin Hood could bring to his merry men. So when they asked him what the King had said, he answered that there were laws in place and that even the King was not above them.

But they had heard of laws before and knew how fragile they could be. He could not convince them that there was not enough food for them when they were the ones who were growing it. He could not convince them that they could not prevail when they had already come so far.

So he asked himself “What am I fighting for?” and realized the only person he was fighting was himself and he was fighting because he had become the system.

Robin Hood took off his badge and picked up his bow again.

“What are you doing?” demanded King Richard. “After all I have done for you, all the power I have given you, this is how you treat me?”

“I have seen what your power can do,” said Robin of Locksley. “It no longer impresses me. If you cannot provide the people with what they need, what good are you? What kind of King?”


Hamlet in the Undiscovered Country

I closed mine eyes and thought the rest was silence.
Yet here I stir and ope them—now awake,
A brave new world awaits me. Yet which is it?
The scent of sea-life richly fills the air
As waves crash o’er my feet—is this my fate?

Where am I? What dreams have found me
Now I lie in wait? It seems so real. It seems—
But semblance is unseemly. I must know
If this be heav’n or hell or yet some other
Place—will I find my father? Are these the slower
Fires that burn our sins away? Yet oh—
Could I not live inside these waves that lap my feet…

Where is my mother? Did she not come before?
She did not know mine uncle’s plans, so, guiltless,
Might have risen up while I embrace
This gentle burn a little while. Yet where’s my uncle?
Where is that King who slew his brother so?
The man I should have dueled. Is he around?
I glance about me, up the beach, but no—
I am alone in death as are we all,
Though I took so many with me. Him
And her and the nun who loved me and her father,
Her brother who slew me, and my friends from school—

This can’t be Purgatory. Though it smells so sweet,
I am in Hell. Heaven and Earth must I remember.
Then must my uncle be here, too. But where?
And why? He’s where I put him for my father,
As I swore—must I still meet him in our just rewards?
I stand and scan my destiny.
Rough winds do blow in from this briny Styx
Are these the winds of Hell? Where is the Devil?
Where is my tormentor, come to gloat?
What are these trees with leaves so wide, so green
And get so foreign to our Danish shores?
If this be Hell, why shines the sun so bright?
Where am I?

But soft! I hear a hustle and a bustle
‘Round the corner by the trees.
Is’t a man? That cannot be, oh, no—
Some shade that once was man, perhaps, but now?
Nay, there’s a figure—form’d of mist, I’ld say.
A woman, and one of such design to set
The heav’ns aflame if clouds could burn as men’s hearts do.
Yet why so dim? Were you not made of that
Same flesh as I? Are we not alike,
Whatever the likeness we may bear?
But stay! I’d speak with thee anon!
I’d have news of thee, whether I am right
To doubt the blessing of my fate, the beauty
That surrounds me in your fair country. Stay—
But the airy spirit has no replies for me.

Am I? Do I yet breathe? Does this, my flesh,
Too solid still, yet bear the weight of life?
Or has time come for me with slings and arrows
To make me naught? Am I a spirit, too?
What dreams have come? What visions now assail
My desp’rate mind to make it fester?

I must inland from the sea. The waves
Give me no answer. Go, then, spirit, hie thee,
Be thou rank or bonny, hie—I’ll follow thee
To th’ end of this brave new world and see
What Man or Nature has in mind for me.


Odysseus and Aeneas

Troy is burning. Odysseus happens upon Aeneas, who is supporting his elderly father with one arm and cradling his infant son with the other. 

ODYSSEUS
My, my, if it isn’t the great Aeneas. And your father, Anchises, I presume? And who is this little chap? Oh, do not be frightened of me, good fellow. I have done my part in this war, you have nothing to fear. You know, I’ve always admired you. Your quick wit, combined with a wonderful physique–it hardly seems fair, really. Trojans I spoke to–and I have spoken to a great many here–have told me that you are like myself and Achilles combined. Yet here we are. Achilles struck through the heel by a coward’s bow and you, the smartest and strongest, fleeing, defeated. I can think of no more fitting end to this war, son of love, nor one that would make me more hopeful for the future of the human intellect. Therefore, fear me not, for I will let you go your way with your family, and return to mine own. My family, which did not transgress and, hence, is still very much intact.

Odysseus leaves.

AENEAS
Bitch.

Aeneas leaves with his father and son. 

 

Scene II

Odysseus lies drenched on the shore, panting and sunburned. Aeneas approaches, followed by many men. 

ODYSSEUS
My, my. If it isn’t the son of Aphrodite herself. How’s your father? Did he die a warrior’s death? Or a lover’s?

AENEAS
He died content.

ODYSSEUS
More fortunate he. And this must be–

AENEAS
Don’t tell him your name, son. He can use it against you.

ODYSSEUS
O wicked Hermes with your iron tongue, stainless as steel. You’re a much more sensible man than I am, friend, I’ll grant you that. Would I had kept mine own name such a secret. And now, Aeneas? It’s your turn at dice. How do you roll? What is to be the fate of the wily Odysseus?

AENEAS
I have no desire to kill you. Oh, my men do, make no mistake about that. You killed their wives, smothered their babies, burned their topless towers to the ground and salted the Earth beneath. But I do remember you left me alive.

ODYSSEUS
Yes. I would of course apologize for all that, but uh…

AENEAS
But what?

ODYSSEUS
I just wanted to get back to my family. I never wanted to go to Troy, never wanted to commit such genocide against your people, but… I just wanted… I just wanted to get home to my family.

AENEAS
By destroying ours? Odysseus, my dear, dear mortal enemy. You left your family. You may claim you did not choose, but you swore an oath to defend the honor of the most beautiful woman in the world, a woman you yourself never thought was that honorable. You could have broken that oath. You could have had the sense not to make it in the first place. But you left your home to destroy ours. I hope you reach your homeland, Odysseus, I truly do. But I can promise you this: when you do, it will never be the same. It will never be the way you left it. You will never really find home. And I have to say, I am comfortable with that. Come, Ascanius. We will do this man no harm. We haven’t any need to.

They leave Odysseus alone on the beach. He weeps.