Why Myths Matter

25 01 2017


“I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.”

– Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

We live our myths.

Each of us spins a myth of who we are, of what the world is, and of our place in it – for who of us could bear to look at the Medusa called Truth?

The myth of our life shapes our perceptions, our choices, and our justifications for them both.

Our own Myth is the Perseus Mirror Shield that saves us from gazing directly into the Truth in front of us.

Despite my Greek allusions, I, like Neil Gaiman, am drawn to the Norse myths.

Norse mythology still somehow speaks to people around the world.

Like us, the Asgardians knew that it would not end well for them, that there was no escape.

Drawn to Ragnarok by invisible forces they did not understand, the Asgardians could only find meaning and solace in how they lived until that Day.

What did Ernest Hemingway write?

Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.

What matters most to me is how myths can inspire us to live our lives in new ways.

Those who are familiar with my novels and short stories know that I love to merge myth into what we laughingly call the Real World

(though none of us ever perceive it in its totality).

None of us understand the world.

Perhaps it is enough to live each moment in it with full awareness.  And in doing that, we will come to understand enough of the world to make our own lives matter.


As I have said: I love to weave all the world’s myths into the fabric of my stories so it was only natural I sculpt the House Eternal for my story, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK.

It is an eerie structure, where creatures light and dark make their home, gods and demons and friends and foes emerge from the hidden corners of the mind.

They glide through the streams of Man’s unconscious as the Caretaker makes the journey with them in this shadow structure that exists between the realm of night and day, the real and surreal.


Every estate needs one so I chose, fittingly enough, an Einherjar – the Chosen of the Valkyries.

I remembered the famous love myth in the Norse Sagas of the doomed lovers, the Einherjar, Helgi, and the fiery Valkyrie, Kára, whose name means “the wild, stormy one.”

Kára was the reincarnated Sigrún, a cursed Valkyrie who dared to love someone other than her betrothed.


The seed of my story was sown, and Helgi became the Caretaker.

His story becomes one with the House Eternal, the quest for meaning when love has gone, and fighting off the fear that it might return.

Writing fantasy for me is like picking up a machete and heading out into the jungle.

I get to write in places and go to realms to which I had not wandered before.

Myth is best when you make it true, and you make it true when your characters face the core struggles of life and react in ways that evoke a sense of kinship with them in the heart of the reader.

(For authors do not write to people but to a person.  That is what makes true stories intimate and real.)

All stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.

Yet, he is also no true story teller who does not murmur that there may be some things that transcend even death.

I hope you read SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK with half the enjoyment I had in writing it.

Let me know what you think of it in comments on my blog, WRITING IN THE CROSSHAIRS:


I’ll be looking for your visit this May.  Roland

Source: Why Myths Matter


30 03 2010

The odds are against us. Worse. Look at the headlines of suicide bombers. We are against us.

There is no director to yell “Cut!” No stunt double to take our place. And no new movie to star in when death swallows our person.

We must be our own hero. Wear our own spandex. And, if Kate Beckinsale of UNDERWORLD is to be believed, spandex pinches. And so it should. Pinches remind us that pain befalls us all, to be kinder who someone whose pinched face shows us that the spandex of his/her life is less than comfortable.

The picture of this post comes from Cassandra. She is a hero, a woman who could have surrendered to bitterness and defeat. But instead she has chosen to choose life, healing others, and going forward. Though she would deny the heroism of her new life, I consider her a hero. Her trauma is hers to tell. I am just tipping my hat to her heroism.

And in a fashion, all we authors struggling to be published have to be our own heroes. The odds are against us in this harsh market. It seems that the motto of agents we approach is : “If I don’t want your autograph, I don’t want your manuscript.”

But giving up can become an addiction, a way of life. Never surrender. Never yield to despair. Stumble, yes. Fall, of course. But gather your strength, your wits and get up. You can do it. Others have before you. Fling the blood and sweat from your eyes and smile wide. You can use those acid feelings searing your will and heart in your writing, becoming a deeper, more perceptive writer.

And more importantly : if you refuse to give in to bitter hopelessness, you will become a deeper, more compassionate human being. When you succeed, and you will succeed, you’ll be able to thrust out a helping hand and word to someone, down and hurting, who needs a boost back onto the path. You’ll be able to give them a pat on the back to lend strength to their steps. The pats lower leave to the agents and publishers.