Orpheus, Song of Life by Anne Wroe

“Doesn’t a myth belong to everyone?” (A Visit from the Goon Squad)

 Anne Wroe’s answer is an emphatic yes, but in a broader way than perhaps we expected.

Here are a few things I learned from “Orpheus, The Song of Life.”

Myths are a fabric of threads.

  • These threads can be contradictory, i.e. Orpheus’s age when he sailed with the Argonauts. (chapter 3)
  • Different threads emphasize different themes within the myth:
    • Orpheus’s creation cosmology (chapter 2)
    • The search for self understanding – the descent into Hades to bring Eurydice back to life.
  • Myths are not the static stories we read in compendiums for children.
    • The myth of Orpheus can be traced to ancient roots, as in the Vedas of the Hindus
    • His name suggests he belongs to the Grecian mythical age
    • Ovid and Virgil (1st century AD) described him as an ardent lover
  • Greek myths need not top growing after ancient times, by inspiring artists in later times they continue to evolve. This may be Wroe’s main message. The examples she cites, and doesn’t cite, are too numerous to list here
    • Marsaiio Ficino, a Christian in 15th century Florence
    • Rilke, poet, 20th century Austria
    • Cocteau, 20th Century French poet and film maker
    • Gluck, 18th century opera
    • Orphism, a 20th Century offshoot of cubism
    • Jung, man’s (a male’s) search for anima, his feminine side.
    • Seemingly countless others, consult Wroe’s bibliography for examples, but even she can’t keep up with the most recent contributions

So the myth of Orpheus belongs to you too. How have you encountered him while enjoying your favorite art forms? More personally, does he inspire you? How? Perhaps you want to write a Haiku, or add a story to become part of the myth. Perhaps you would like to be more analytical and theorize as to why Orpheus has been, and continues to be an inspiration in so many ways.

This myth is yours: what would you like to say about it; what would you like to add to it?

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