Sunday, 24 April 2016

Writing - Story longevity

There was an article written a few weeks ago about stories being traced back to the Bronze Age. A similar article has arisen this week so I thought that I'd take a look.

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The Brothers Grimm guessed 200 years ago that tales such as Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rumplestiltskin can be traced back to the Bronze Age and the spread of the Indo-European languages. Many of our favourite Marvel Comics movies like, Batman, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are rooted in the fight of good against evil, a heroes quest and fighting some mythical super-powered beast. So we are still thinking like the ancient myths. Scientists studying human anthropology have traced story types geographically and linked with human movement according to the suitability of the land for sustaining lives. There seems to be groups of stories, the earliest from around 60 000 years ago that had similarities but which didn't have a creation story. The Earth was taken for granted and people were made from clay.

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The tranche of stories discovered to have began around 40 000 years ago have a creation story; stories of how heaven and Earth became separated; the killing of the dragon; overthrow of the older generation of Gods; humanity's primordial misdeed; and, a trickster deity that brought fire and culture. Both of these cycles have story have one thing in common - a great flood.

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Many of these stories have generated religions worshipping one god as well as the more secular stories. These more recent stories were the subject of many pictorial representations in cave drawings and the like.

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The Cosmos

The stories seemingly originated in Africa and were brought out when modern man migrated from that continent. There purpose was principally to explain man's relationship with the Earth and the Cosmos.
The earliest layer of stories was the cosmology of the hunter-gatherers. The salvational stories with their deities came later and became dominant as urbanisation increased which 6 000 years ago was superceded by monotheism which is the root of many religions.

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I find it slightly scary that our current obsession with superhero stories is over 40 000 years old but at the same time it is rather Marvellous (pardon the pun).

God Bless