When you read this, I’m en route from Athens to Amsterdam. Whilst I was immersed in the world of ancient Greek culture and mythology for the last few days, I’m now on my way to a fairy-tale event. Tonight I’ll be attending the official premiere of GRIMM, the latest dance piece by the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company and hip hop dance collective ISH, with a captivating soundtrack by hubby (which you can get here).
Like most kids I grew up with fairy tales, but also myths and stories of ancient cultures told by my mum. So while this entire trip has great symbolic meaning to me, it also made me realise how ‘alive’ these stories, fables and tales from hundreds to even several thousands years old still are in popular culture. I mean, isn’t it incredible to think that an epic poem written down by someone (or a group of people) over 3000 years ago was adapted into a blockbuster Hollywood film featuring Brad Pitt for instance? (I’m talking about Troy that was based on Homer’s Illiad of course.) This Athens–Amsterdam trip therefore inspired me to have a look at the influence of these old fables, legends, etc on our present-day culture and which contemporary stories could be the new myths and fairy tales of the future. I already touched on this subject a few years ago in my blog post ‘Beyond Seven Mountains: The Reinvention of Ancient Myths and Fairy Tales in the British Countryside‘, but felt like there’s so much more to say about it.
Life lessons and moral
What is it with these ancient stories of pagan gods, magical creatures, epic war stories and princesses that makes them so appealing to us, even today in our hi-tech world? This is probably too big a question to answer in one blog post. For me it’s the mystique of mythological stories, the sense of adventure in epic tales such as Odyssey and of moral in fairy tales. I’m a real 80s child so grew up with the classic Walt Disney cartoons which all tell a moral and teach children how to be good and courageous through iconic princesses, evil witches and brave princes (or dwarves).
From the God of Thunder to Harry Potter
Indeed, there wouldn’t have been a Marvel saga based on Thor without the survival of Norse mythological stories. Nor would Harry Potter’s magical world have looked the same if J.K. Rowling hadn’t used old Celtic and English folktales or ancient fables and stories as her inspiration. While she conjured up many creatures from her own imagination, she also drew from Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythology for instance. Remember Fluffy, the three-headed dog from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for example? That ‘cute’ oversized ‘puppy’ was based on Cerberus, the guard of the Underworld in Greek mythology.
Myths and fables in photography and street art
I’m excited to go see the exhibition Tereza Zelenkova – A Snake That Disappeared Through a Hole in the Wall at FOAM in Amsterdam tomorrow. For her eerie black and white photo series, Zelenkova revived fairy tales by the brothers GRIMM and Hans Christian Andersen, but also old Slavic folk tales such as the one in which snakes bring happiness and prosperity into homes. (source)
Have a look at the photo at the top of this article. This stunning mural was painted almost 4 years ago now by Italian artist Luis Gomez in Shoreditch, London. It’s still one of my favourite murals I photographed to this date. It depicts a female called Narcisa who is admiring her own reflection in the water. This is clearly a reference to the Greek myth of the beautiful hunter Narcissus who was so mesmerised by his own reflection that he remained admiring his own image in the water until he died.
Will Game of Thrones be the iconic tale of the future?
Have you ever wondered what stories from our day would manage to survive for thousands of years and inspire people in the 40th century for example? (If there are still humans around then.) Where would we find these iconic stories? Would Game of Thrones, the Star Wars saga, or even Marvel films be included? Or do we need to consider video games, sci-fi and fantasy books, comic books or even the Kardashian clan as inspiration for future myths, folklore tales or legends?
Let’s finish this blog post with a film tip! Tale of Tales (2015) is a collection of tales based on the fairy tales by the 16th-century Italian writer Giambattista Basile. While his name might have gone forgotten over the years, his works have certainly not. He has actually written the first versions of famous fairy tales such as Rapunzel and Cinderella. The film features actors such as Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones and John C. Reilly and is filled with fantastic tales and moral lessons.
Let me know your thoughts on this blog post. What will be the myths and fairy tales of the future according to you? I’d love to hear from you!