Two archetypes of tales: Storytelling courtesy of Mr Borges

A week’s holiday is a wonderful thing. I racked up full-on activities, funny moments, forgettable memories… and crammed in a little reading time which sparked today’s post on the two archetypes of tales and storytelling.

Throughout history, humankind has told two stories: the story of a lost ship sailing the Mediterranean seas in quest of a beloved isle, and the story of a god who allows himself to be crucified on Golgotha.

The above quote is culled from Mr Borges, someone I had been re-reading before the break and a writer worth re-visiting at any time.

I briefly puzzled out which of the Borges-prescribed ‘archetypal story lines’ my debut novel fits… it’s really not much of a spoiler (at all) to suggest that Monkey Steals Plum fits the former type of tale.

Meanwhile it occurred to me, several times during the past 168 hours of downtime, that much of what we are seeing or hearing through the web, TV and radio are stories which have been selected as newsworthy that uncannily fit the Borges model.

Story line 1: “A lost ship sailing the Mediterranean seas in quest of a beloved isle”

This narrative is writ large in our every day lives: developing daily through gut-wrenching footage of migrants and refugees facing horrendous situations in Europe (and Africa, and Asia), e.g. found adrift, dead in the Med’ on overloaded boats or inflatables trying to reach maybe an Italian or Greek island… Ditto: homeless people in makeshift camp sites in Calais, France, seeking to stowaway to the UK… and so on: a tale echoed around the world.

Reuters clip. set adrift
Raw footage: a short clip without narration that says it all… (from the consistently good quality Reuters news agency)

Story line 2: “The story of a god who allows himself to be crucified on Golgotha” 

In full awareness of my religious knowledge being limited, I sense that the themes of ‘suffering’ and ‘sacrifice’ are bound up in this type of tale. Perhaps, at a stretch, that might echo various wars, or ideological conflicts, even the self-styled martyrdom of extreme fundamentalists –of any creed– that we know to be ongoing around the world.

For me, this second style of story is more metaphorical yet it is not more fanciful or imaginary. Instead it invokes something of the everyday struggle, suffering and sacrifice that the majority of people on the planet endure. Also, for me, it has some resonance with the inevitability of death.

Bottom line

The two archetypes of tales both work for me as a reader, storyteller, journalist… they both appeal to various senses and sense checks. Most of all, they both work in my mind because they are narratives that operate not upon a grand (least of all Godly) scale, but rather on the human scale. They can resonate with any and all humans.




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