Blogging From A to Z Challenge day 23: W is for Wolfe on Kipling, myth and critics

It is characteristically said of the Andersen-Wilde-Yolen story that though intended for adults, it is enjoyed immensely by children; sometimes it is actually true. But it is never true, I think, of the literary myth. It is not to the child in us that it appeals, but to the savage. At one time or another, one must have lived among the wolves as Mowgli did, and Romulus.

Nor is it favored by the academic critics who are forever confusing it with its mirror twin. In allegory, we say, “What if a giant were despair?” Then we have the giant wrestle our hero, and so on. It has always seemed an obvious idea to me and a rather stupid one, since a giant is much more interesting than despair. Furthermore this obvious and rather stupid idea blinds many of those same people to the true nature of classical myth. They discover, for example, that Eros “is” eroticism, and when they have congratulated one another on that brilliant discovery for twenty years and more, they also discover that Eros doesn’t always behave as they “know” he should (in being Aphrodite’s son instead of her father, for example) and solemnly inform us that the mythmakers of the classical age lacked their own insight.

But what Kipling (and the ancients) really said was much more interesting: “What if love were a woman?”

Wolfe, Gene. “Kipling’s Influence”. Castle of Days. New York: Tor, 1992. Pg. 426


About Josh W

A Catholic. Likes to write stuff and draw pictures.
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