Friday, 20 August 2010
Mythic Friday Interview: Number 20 - Herbie Brennan
I wrote about the Faerie Wars Chronicles over on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure a little while ago when I picked my Five Fabulous Forays into Faerie and said how much I liked them (and how much I couldn't wait for number 5--The Faeman Quest which is coming from Bloomsbury in January). After that, I thought a bit about whether Herbie would ever consider doing an MFI for me. To cut a long story short, Reader, he said yes! (Well, I am VERY persuasive.) So here we are on the second last Friday of the series, and I'm delighted to welcome Herbie to Scribble City Central, and to share his mythical thoughts and wisdom with you. Here we go...you are definitely not going to be disappointed.
1. Do you think that the retelling of myths is important or relevant for the children of today? Why should they care about some “dry old stories” which come from ancient or forgotten cultures they might never even have heard of?
Ah, but they’re not just dry old stories — they’re the basic patterns of human existence. They teach everything we need to know about how to lead our lives, what to embrace and what to avoid. Furthermore, myths contain a very special type of magic; and I mean that word literally. Search any myth and you’ll quickly come across what Jung referred to as an archetype, a creature who is certainly a spirit and quite possibly a god, trapped in the web of the story like a djinn in a bottle. Release him or her and they’ll accompany you forever, wandering in the depths of your mind giving you guidance and sharing their wisdom. Important for today’s children? Myths are absolutely vital and much of the mess the world is in today springs from the fact that the West has largely abandoned its myths.
2. What age were you when you came across your first myth or myths? Tell us how you felt then about the myths you first discovered. Did you love them or hate them? Did they scare you, excite you—or were you indifferent? What kind of myths were they? Celtic? Greek? Norse? Native American? Or from another culture entirely? Were they in a book you read? Or did you hear them as oral storytelling from someone else?
Can’t remember exactly, but it must have been when I was a child, almost certainly Greek and almost certainly in a book I read.
3. Looking back, what is your favourite myth of all time, from any culture? And why would you choose it?
I’ve always been drawn to the Arthurian mythos, the Matter of Britain. When I was a young man I trained for nine years as a magician and much of the work involved imaginal journeys through aspects of the myth — the Grail Castle, for example, or the Isle of Avalon. The process is known as Pathworking and at one stage of my magical career I developed a freeform style of Pathworking that permitted groups to engage on such inner journeys without preconception or guidance. The first group to experiment with the technique went straight to the Lady of the Lake and had an experience of the Eternal Feminine, with profound implications for several group members. These myths are alive and the figures in them are living entities. There is nothing to beat the feeling of excitement that arises when you realize this.
4. Who is the mythical hero, heroine or being you most dislike, and what made you feel that way about them?
I can’t say I dislike any of them. Even the mythical baddies have something to teach.
5. Is there a mythical beast you are particularly fond of? If so, which one and why?
Well, that would have to be the dragon, wouldn’t it? Even as a boy I was trying to work out how it could breathe fire. (My best guess was flint teeth to strike the spark that would ignite methane belched up from a double stomach.) In later life I was fascinated by the widespread stretch of the dragon myth from China through South America and all across Europe. It proved remarkably tenacious as well. The last reported sighting of a dragon in England wasn’t in the depths of history but during the Victorian era, in St Leonard’s Forest in Sussex. I’m not sure we don’t still have dragons in our skies, except that now we call them UFOs and mistake them for space ships. In mythology, dragons have always been the most magical of creatures, dangerous and helpful by turns, guardians of treasure and, most important of all, the vital element in one or our most important life myths — the need to slay the dragon in order to release the feminine within.
6. How have myths had an influence on your writing life, if at all?
Huge. I wrote a series of gamebooks in the 1980s that were based, in a completely batty way, on the Arthurian mythos. More recently, there are mythic and archetypal elements in all of my Faerie Wars fantasy series. The fourth book, Faerie Lord, is one long mythic epic outlining a quest that culminates with the slaying of the dragon guardian of the hero’s beloved, as arranged by the Trickster archetype. I didn’t even bother to disguise it.
7. If you could choose to be the demigod child of any one mythical god or goddess, which one would it be? Which power would you like to inherit from them—and what would you do with it?
I was tempted to say Venus, the Roman goddess of love, then rabbit on sanctimoniously about the power of love, the need to love one another irrespective of race, creed, colour, sexual preference and yada-yada-yada. Then I remembered Julius Caesar was descended from Venus and all he ever did to get famous was kill people. So I think I’ll opt for Merlin instead. His parentage may not have been directly from the gods — Geoffrey of Monmouth insists his father was a demon and his mother was a nun — but he is the premier Western archetype of the magician and I like that. What would I do with his power? Take things as they come, I think.
More about Herbie:
A professional writer whose work has appeared in more than fifty countries, Herbie Brennan is enjoyed by children and adults alike — sales of his 108 published titles already exceed 8 million copies.
His young adult fantasy novel, Faerie Wars, rocketed to international success, achieving best-seller status in more than 20 overseas editions, and was voted No 1 Top Ten Teenage Pick in the United States and listed as a New York Times Best Seller title.
Equally prolific in the adult market, Herbie has a powerful reputation for challenging conventional assumptions. This is reflected in his interests, which range from transpersonal psychology, spirituality, reincarnation and psychical research to comparative religion and quantum physics.
Web site: http://www.herbiebrennan.com/