To regender the monomyth:

“Le Guin believes in the ‘necessity of myth for culture’ – for our culture – yet she recognized that traditional myth and traditional definitions of myth, such as Jung’s and Campbell’s, have excluded women as speaking subjects, as heroes, as active – and that this exclusion has failed us. Her ow ‘poetic fabulations’ she offers as ‘part of the process of developing a new mythology for the future.’…Le Guin says myth uses her to reveal its truth, and through her own revisioning and reimagining she revitalizes myth to contain its essential truths and the contemporary reinterpretations of such truths. Her use of myth becomes rhetorical as she argues for an alternative way of seeing, thinking and being that connects rather than separates, includes rather than excludes, gives voice rather than silences.

It is worth noting here that the language used by both Jung and Campbell indicates the universality of the myth and its psychological parallel. Gender is not mentioned, but as Le Guin notes in Earthsea Revisioned, the hero-tale, a human universal, is male-gendered: ‘The hero is a man.’ After all, until farily recently, when a writer wrote of anything that was meant to be a human universal, the gender pronoun used to include everyone was male. And as the hero’s quest is typically a public event and on a large scale, little attention, if any, was paid to the small and the personal and the feminine.” …As an ideal, the quest becomes an assumed truth about the human experience of coming of age. Le Guin questions this assumption in her examination of the myth and expands its paradigm to include other kinds of quests, other ways to come of age, particularly female ways.

And it is the language of fantasy and myth – expressed in the monomyth – that gives us the exterior shape to these journeys. But Le Guin is not simply retelling – she is reimagining the monomyth: by asserting that gender is a force in the quest, by  making the personal and the public connect, by giving value to the small, the private, the feminine. The essential elements are all there, the journey, the quest and the hero, but as her reimagining subverts and inverts these elements, the monomyth becomes rhetorical. Or, in other words, to regender the myth, to leave it open-ended and to give value to both personal and private deeds as well as public ones, is to argue what has been changed is a s much of worth as what has been taken out.”

Communities of the Heart: The Rhetoric of Myth in the Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin by Warren G. Rochelle

Ursula K. Le Guin on Philip Pullman:

“Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is a long, richly imagined, and deeply incoherent work, in which I’ll try only to trace the part animals play. Despite appearances, it is a small part. The two cats in the story, who have a minor but important role, do what cats have often done in myth and fable: they cross between worlds. Otherwise they’re just cats, realistically drawn. Animals are otherwise absent from the books, except for a tribe of polar bears who talk and build forts and use weapons, as humans do, but who don’t have daemons, as humans do.

But I think Pullman overloads the concept and then confuses it. He implies strongly that the daemon is a kind of visible soul, that to be severed from it is fatal, and his plot hinges on the cruelty and horror of this separation. But then he begins changing the rules: we find that witches can live apart from their daemons; in the second voume we are in our world, where nobody has visible or tangible daemons; back in her world, the heroine Lyra leaves her daemon on the wharves of hell, and though she misses him, she lives on perfectly competently, and in fact saves the universe, without him. Their reunion seems almost perfunctory.

In fantasy, to change or break your own rules is to make the story literally inconsequential. If the daemons are meant to show that we are part animal and must not be severed from our animality, they can’t do it, since the essence of animality is the body, the living body with all its brainless needs and embarrassing functions—exactly what the daemons do not have.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin, ‘The Beast in the Book.’

Remembering Ursula K. Le Guin and The Lathe of Heaven

Ursula K. Le Guin didn’t like Neil Gaiman’s representation of gods

“What finally left me feeling dissatisfied is, paradoxically, the pleasant, ingratiating way in which he tells it. These gods are not only mortal, they’re a bit banal. They talk a great deal, in a conversational tone that descends sometimes to smart-ass repartee. This chattiness will be familiar to an audience accustomed to animated film and graphic narrative, which have grown heavy with dialogue, and in which disrespect is generally treated as a virtue. But it trivialises, and I felt sometimes that this vigorous, robust, good-natured version of the mythos gives us everything but the very essence of it, the heart.

The Norse myths were narrative expressions of a religion deeply strange to us. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are divine comedies: there may be punishment for the wicked, but the promise of salvation holds. What we have from the Norse is a fragment of a divine tragedy. Vague promises of a better world after the Fimbulwinter and the final apocalypse are unconvincing; that’s not where this story goes. It goes inexorably from nothingness into night. You just can’t make pals of these brutal giants and self-destructive gods. They are tragic to the bone.” -Ursula K. Le Guin reviewing Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.


[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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Social Medea: No Binary Athenian Philosophy

{Feast your eyes}