I love fairytales and mythology. I have quite a collection of books containing these central stories from cultures around the world and across time. I love experiencing the oft-retold explanations for why life is the way it is, why things happen in nature, why certain people are regarded as heroes, why we should behave in certain ways.
There’s one problem, however, that I often encounter as I peruse my books.
Which of the re-tellings is the right one? Which rendition of the fairytale or myth is the true (original?) one? What’s the story?
I recently saw the 2011 film Thor. It’s based upon a comic book (which I never read). It was entertaining, but I found myself asking: is this the story of Thor, the Norse god of thunder who wields an obscenely large hammer? I’m not even sure how much the movie aligns with the comic book version, much less the “real” viking mythology.
I’ve realized that what I’m looking for is the “authoritative” version of the story. I want to know who Thor (or Achilles or even The Little Mermaid) really are–despite the fact that they’re fictional characters.
Unfortunately, since it is fiction, people tend to take their liberties when composing a presentation of a particular character, which means that getting to the “official” version is pretty difficult–especially when many of these myths were first birthed as oral traditions.
All of this gives me some insight into why I appreciate reading the Bible. While some critics would like to see even more external corroboration of the stories (especially the Old Testament narratives), I really like that the accounts in the Bible are generally the only versions that we have (granted there are other parallel stories of Noah-like floods and such).
Although I believe the Bible stories to be true (not fictional), even when dealing with history, it can still sometimes be difficult to get at the real story. What actually happened? What’s the official version? I’ve recently grown in my enjoyment of reading history–despite it sometimes being hit-and-miss (The Forge of Christendom was excellent; A History of Wales was laborious). But so much of the reporting of history is speculation about what might have been done, said, or even thought.
Of course, the inability to get to the original story isn’t going to stop me from reading fairytales, mythologies, or other works of fiction, but it does give me an extra special pleasure and security during my times reading the Bible. With confidence that I have the authoritative version, I can really dive in and own the story.
So, what’s the Story? It’s nice, every once in a while, to be able to say, “Here it is.”