Mythology is everywhere. Although I am prevented by personal experience from declaring with the professionals that it is highly valued by our culture, I nevertheless find it lurking all around. Just yesterday my daughter asked me if anyone still believed in the Greek gods any more. I am sure that with the revival of ancient cults that is all the rage today one wouldn’t have to travel too far to find an ardent devotee of Zeus or Hera. Even on a more pragmatic level, however, mythology maintains its allure. While reading a bit of Apollonius or Euripides recently I was struck at how biblical it sounded. Mythology pervaded ancient life and became woven into the fabric from which our own culture is cut. There is no escaping it.
I just finished reading Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. While I’m not a real fan of ergodic literature, the story has a way of luring the reader into the labyrinth of the Minotaur, an association that the book itself disavows. As a student of mythology, however, I approached the book as a decidedly non-demigodic Theseus, wondering where the twists and turns might lead. My conclusion at the end was that no one truly escapes mythology. Classed in the horror genre, the book has few frights and more than a few rest stops to ponder. If we would admit it we would see that mythology still has a tremendous gravity.
The use of mythology as the basis for literary work is nothing new. Clever authors for centuries have recast the classics into newer forms, sometimes transforming them beyond recognition. As the world grows more pluralistic, keeping in touch with our mythology will only grow in importance. It is our shared heritage, and even if far distant cultures have their own cadre of myths, it doesn’t take too long to realize that their stories, like ours, spring from a very deep pool indeed.