Sometimes I think people are unaware of the motivation behind their inclinations or choices. What is ingrained into us and how? What determines our love and hate?
Lately, I have been watching too much television. As such, I have been scrutinizing my taste. What do I watch and why? I have found that I am helplessly a science fiction fan, from aliens to time travel. I also like heroic movies and survival movies, involving endurance and fortitude.
Consequently, the other day, my wife and I were enjoying a random film about folklore, and I was helplessly reminded of my class and our lessons on mythology, which eventually leads into our Greek studies. It is interesting to analyze the development of myths -especially the reason for them, and then bring up the folklore and myth in our own lives and surrounding area.
In class, students always bring up the road with the precarious name, and the “evil” place of worship that lies somewhere in a field at its end. Or the legend of the Three Sisters at 312 bridge, supposedly named after three sisters that committed suicide there. But most of all, in every class, there are one or two that know of a house on their street or in their life that is haunted.
Myths and folktales often come from necessity, a need to explain a natural occurrence or social event, and often incur some supernatural force in the explanation.
My grandmother was full of folklore and stories. For example, when I was a very young, the explanation she gave for thunder was God and his wheelbarrow planting potatoes in the clouds.
What odd details. Does a farmer use a wheelbarrow to plant potatoes? And does God especially like them? In my younger mind these were serious questions. But none were so serious as the first time I observed a dead person at a funeral.
My grandmother walked me up to her father’s casket and told me to touch his hand or I would have nightmares. She was very earnest and said it in a way that she was concerned for me. She took my ten-year-old hand and touched it to his wrinkled, folded hands. They were ice cold. I never had nightmares, but that memory is there forever.
There was also the myth she told me that if a dog howled in the early morning, before the sun came up, someone was going to die. Unfortunately, we caught the bus at my grandmother’s house in the early morning, and about a week after I heard the dreadful prediction, as I stood there in the dark, a dog howled. I almost passed out. It scared me so bad I couldn’t go to school. However, she had 12 dogs. One of them was bound to howl one morning.
It did not help that we lived seven miles down a dirt road in the middle of the Daniel Boone forest in a place aptly named Dog Branch. When it was dark there, it was truly dark. When it takes stars to silhouette the trees, stories abound. And her stories of lights in the sky still haunt me today. I don’t remember her actually saying spaceship or aliens, but she didn’t need to. Her detailed descriptions of something repeatedly floating in the sky just over the tree line was enough for me.
However, one of my favorite stories was less a myth or folklore and more about my imaginative grandmother. I used to own a little plastic superman. When I would spend the night with my grandmother, she would tell me to put him on the inside window seal so he could go out and help people while I slept. When I woke the next morning, he was always on the outside of the window facing in, as if he had just returned. I was amazed, and truly believed the man of steel was out in the world helping people. But I was still young, about twenty-five (seriously, I was five).
One morning, Superman didn’t return. And that was the end of that. Until, years later, and years older, I found him behind a large shrub that grew below that window. It was weird, but only then did I consciously realize that she had been taking the time to put him outside the window all those many nights, and that final time, she had dropped him and thought him lost.
The fact that she took the time to create that story for me and keep it going is more remarkable to me than my plastic Superman going out and helping people.
To this day, I love her myths and stories, even her scary ones. They are a large part of who I am. If anything, they have ingrained in me an appreciation for stories themselves, and also a deep curiosity and an open mind, not to mention a plastic Superman outside my bedroom window.
Brian Theodore is a language arts teacher at Corbin High School and lives in Corbin with his wife, who is also a teacher at CHS. He can be contacted at Theteachersdesk.firstname.lastname@example.org.