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Ragnarök: the doom of the Gods

By A.S. Byatt

Myth comes from muthos in Greek, something said, as opposed to something done. We think of myths as stories, although, as Heather O’Donoghue says in her book From Asgard to Valhalla, there are myths that are not essentially narratives at all. We think of them loosely as tales that explain, or embody, the origins of our world. Karen Armstrong writes in A Short History of Myths that myths are ways of making things comprehensible and meaningful in human terms (the sun as a chariot driven by a woman through the firmament) and that they are almost all “rooted in death and the fear of extinction”.

Nietzsche, in The Birth of Tragedy, sees myths as dreamlike shapes and tales constructed by the Apollonian principle of order and form to protect humans against the apprehension of the Dionysian states of formlessness, chaos and gleeful destruction. Tragedy controls the primeval force of music by presenting us with beautiful illusory forms of gods, demons, men and women, through whom apprehension is bearable and possible. He wrote: “Every culture that has lost myth has lost, by the same token, its natural healthy creativity. Only a horizon ringed about with myths can unify a culture. The forces of imagination and the Apollonian dream are saved only by myth from indiscriminate rambling. The images of myth must be the daemonic guardians, ubiquitous but unnoticed, presiding over the growth of the child’s mind and interpreting to the mature man his life and struggles.”

Read the original article at: The Guardian

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