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KathieRose
Registered User
(11/11/06 11:08 pm)


The Underworld in myth, fairytale, fantasy fiction- help!!
Hi everyone-- I'm going to be writing an article on the 'Underworld' as an imaginary place in myth, fairytale, folklore, and fantasy fiction and I really need suggestions. I've written a book on the Persephone myth [Life's Daughter/Death's Bride, out of print at the moment] so I'm pretty well versed in the Greek underworld. There's the Sumerian underworld of Ereshkigal in the myth of the Descent of Inanna and of course the elaborate Egyptian afterworld.......... all of which I know something about. I know a fair amount about folklore related to the underworld too but I'm trying to think of more fairytales in which the underworld plays a prominent role--suggestions? So far I think only of Frau Holle and her 'kingdom' under the earth. And modern fiction--- help! Anyone think of short stories or novels in which the underworld is prominent-- besides Tanith Lee's delicious reworking of Hades in White as Snow?

I'm just getting into this work now so I'd REALLY welcome suggestions [please mention sources too, if they're not obvious]. A question that also intrigues me at this point too is: is the underworld ALWAYS the realm of the dead?

Any suggestions of myths, fairytales, or contemporary fiction will be MOST welcome, especially fairytales and fiction.

Heidi Anne Heiner
ezOP
(11/12/06 3:17 am)


Re: The Underworld in myth, fairytale, fantasy fiction- help
Another fairy tale would be The Twelve Dancing Princesses where the underworld is not necessarily a place for the dead depending on the version. And be sure to check out the similar tales.

I'm drawing a blank on more at the moment.

Heidi

Edited by: Heidi Anne Heiner at: 11/12/06 3:26 am
Writerpatrick
Registered User
(11/12/06 7:54 am)


Re: The Underworld in myth, fairytale, fantasy fiction- help
Don't forget Celtic lore, where the Underworld was the realm of the Gentry as well as where the dead went to party.

kristiw
Registered User
(11/12/06 8:05 am)


Re: The Underworld in myth, fairytale, fantasy fiction- help
My first thought was "The Soldier and Death"-- Jim Henson's Storyteller series did it very well.

AliceCEB
Registered User
(11/12/06 8:31 pm)


Re: The Underworld in myth, fairytale, fantasy fiction- help
In various tales, the fairy world is underground. A recent version would by Holly Black's TITHE. Also Terry Pratchett'sWEE FREE MEN. It's not a place for the dead, but a place that is not in our world, and is accessed by going underground, or into a hill.

Alice

Monika
Registered User
(11/13/06 9:44 pm)


Re: The Underworld in myth, fairytale, fantasy fiction- help
if you're including films as contemporary fiction, there's Tim Burton's "The Corpse Bride" (which is also based on a folktale). I know there are lots more, but I'm drawing a blank at the moment.

aka Greensleeves
Registered User
(11/14/06 11:45 pm)


Re: The Underworld in myth, fairytale, fantasy fiction- help
You might want to have a look at Elizabeth Marie Pope's novel THE PERILOUS GARD. It has an interesting take on the Underworld as fairy kingdom.

DividedSelf
Registered User
(11/15/06 4:47 am)


Re: The Underworld in myth, fairytale, fantasy fiction- help
My first thought was fairy worlds too, but I think you might put a case for the split between the real and the magical/strange that occurs in folk tales. The dark woods. The operation of the unconscious, if you're talking psychologically. Feels to me like there are probably some parallels. Don't think they're fully analogous, but I think maybe you were asking for wider ideas. The underworld is about people's relation to the dead, to ancestors, to what might come after death and all the big meaning-of-life questions that that might entail. The underworld is forbidden to the living (except in exceptional circumstances). The dark woods are more about the "smaller" meaning-of-life questions - survival, value, happiness (- or, if you don't believe in metaphysical heavens and hells etc, the real meaning-of-life questions), and they're accessible by anyone at any time. Fairy worlds do seem to be more analagous to the underworld in that you do need to be somehow "invited in" - or stolen, etc. It's not universally accessible. It's definitely got a morbid flavour to it, but for me (enthusiastic non-expert) it feels more about madness than death. So there's maybe some sort of line you could chart of domains of the unconscious. The irrational as subject to conscious control... // Madness - not subject to conscious control... // Death - maybe the obliteration of consciousness... (???!!!) Dunno... just some woolly thoughts of a Wednesday morning...

avalondeb
Registered User
(11/15/06 11:55 am)


Re: The Underworld in myth, fairytale, fantasy fiction- help
It's been a while since I read it, but I seem to remember a long sequence in "The Godmother's Apprentice" by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, where Felicity, the Godmother spends some time in the Irish underworld.

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(11/19/06 2:28 am)


wouldn't do...
I suppose PELLUCIDAR and ALICE IN WONDERLAND wouldn't do.... Or the land of the Mungaboos that Dorothy fell into with a horse and carriage. :-)


KathieRose
Registered User
(11/23/06 7:32 am)


Re: wouldn't do...
Thanks for your suggestions, everyone! And any others are really welcome, esp for fairytales and modern fiction that involve an underworld. I'm thinking for myth I'll focus on the Greek underworld which I know a lot about, the Egyptian duat, the Sumerian underworld, and Celtic connections. And I'll start reading the ones you've all suggested too.

I wrote a long post to put in here last night but --sigh-- made the mistake of typing one letter in my password in upper caps and EZ ate it. But---
I wanted to say to Divided Self [you're not by chance R.D. Laing, are you?] that I'm also intrigued by access to the underworld: for the Greek underworld, there's going voluntarily [Orpheus et al], being dragged kicking and screaming, [Persephone], falling in [folklore implications here: potholes in Greek roads are still sometimes called Hades holes], or even dancing into [via the spiral dance, done counterclockwise]. And thanks for making the point that the living are forbidden to enter,generally [although in many of the tales they DO--- and come back changed, like Inanna or Persephone].

I'm also still pondering the connection with the dead-- I think it must have to do with earth burial. And of course the wonderful metaphor, so spiritually powerful for so many peoples: burying a seed and watching it sprout OUT of the 'death place' into new life. So too human beings and the gods----- I think of that wonderful portrayal of the dead Osiris with WHEAT growing from his body......... From what I've found, the underworld is bivalent like this, a place of the dead, ghosts, shades, 'unnatural' yet also the source of new life, resurrection, generativity.

But I still need more sources for fairytales and fiction......... thanks to all who replied initially!

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(11/23/06 7:52 pm)


getting in
Darn, EZ just ate a careful post of mine too.

About difficulties getting into the underworld, might see HIS DARK MATERIALS, what Lyra had to do to get in. Also Inanni.

There might be some leads in an old book online (controversial and said to be unreliable), THE TWO BABYLONS. It claimed much Roman Catholic material was paralleled by (or derived from) pagan sources; might see if it suggested any pagan connections for "The Harrowing of Hell." Also see public domain books by Cumont on pre-Christian Roman religion.

I was surprised by the Christian parallels in Disney's 'Hercules'; I doubt they would have used something like that without good support.


KathieRose
Registered User
(11/25/06 6:14 pm)


getting in
Rosemary-- thanks for mentioning Lyra going to the underworld in His Dark Materials; I'd forgotten that and will look it up. I don't recall how she got there either but it was an interesting part of the journey.

and I have to tell you, I always am SO aware of your name because I once thought about taking Rose Lake as a pen name! :-0)


Troy Patterson
Registered User
(1/16/07 5:23 pm)


Re: getting in
To take this in a slightly different direction. Consider the more literal aspect or interpretation of the underworld as a metaphor for that which is unenlightened or denied in an individuals personality.

Troy Patterson TMPCarbs.net

Edited by: Troy Patterson at: 1/17/07 3:22 pm
pinkolaestes
Registered User
(1/18/07 11:55 pm)


Re: getting in
i'd add to what troy mentioned. And your study about 'getting in' is interesting... it's a huge subject. demeter/persepho9ne, ceres/ proserpina could be an encyclopedic work in themselves

But, that said, we all have to stop somewhere...lol in order not to write 84,932 pages long books...

analytically, which just means just this.. the study of how the soul appears to journey in life given contretempts from outer world, unrests of ego, impulses from soul and spirit, drownings in shadow, et al (which incidentally are just onnee set of concepts... there are many other familiy groups of words to describe such) .... I think it is good to try once one is at a certain point in life, to try to understand beyond the concretistic symbols that are clear cut in attribution, say, of Hades representing the underworld/ descent etc... I think that's were troy and another replying to you, are inferring this might fall to making the enormous world of psyche ad reductio, to fit the ego's smaller more orderly notions only. There are broader and deeper ways to look at the descent, the return, the underworld that are not pinned to literal symbology ...
I know we all wish you well on your journey... I think your asking the question you have asked is very particular and in its own away the question is mysterious

RBrunea
Registered User
(1/29/07 4:55 am)


Re: getting in
Greetings, all.

I saw Pan's Labyrinth last weekend and I'm still haunted by it. The princess of the Underworld goes above, dies and is born in a new human body. The main story line is her attempt to return home in the midst of dangerous and bloody circumstances and a very evil stepfather. The Underworld is presented as a trouble-free, happy place, contrasting grossly with the violence and cruelty of the human world above.

Good luck.

Rhonda

girrrrl
Registered User
(2/1/07 8:41 am)


modern take
Definitely worth a look is Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson. It takes elements of the Twelve Dancing Pricesses but there seems to me to be more than one underworld. A great read anyway! Good luck

spideri
Registered User
(2/1/07 1:26 pm)


underworld

Another underworld-- a musical, magical & bejeweled on-- can be found in the My Book House series: Zandelli & the Lost Spear.
A tale I recorded with music on CD: "Heaven's a Garden in the Heart." (www.harmonyhill.com)

In this underworld, flower fairies rule but their rules are strict: "Make beautiful the one bare chamber in our realm, or die!" Zandelli meets the challenge, saved by little creatures (frog, butterflies, spider) he has helped along the way. A storyteller's dream.

PS: Thanks for the post about Pan's Labyrinth. Will see it.

Beatrice

Danae26
Registered User
(2/1/07 4:33 pm)


Re: underworld
I've not seen Pan's Labyrinth yet, but when I watched Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride, I was struck by the warmth and humour of life in the underworld, compared to the sombre life up above. As that's based on a Jewish or Russian folktale (I've heard it cited as both), perhaps you could look at the original story's depiction of underworld living?

getgopi1
Registered User
(2/28/07 12:03 pm)


Re: underworld
A lot of today's video games (especially role playing games or RPGs) have great representations of fantasy worlds. You should look at the history behind one or two of these games for inspiration...

The Prince of Persia games, for instance always have some levels that look fantastic. It is supposed to be based on 12th century (or so) Persia but I always feel that these levels look more..."other world", for lack of a better term.



Nice, huh?

Edited by: getgopi1 at: 2/28/07 12:04 pm
bluewyvern
Registered User
(3/4/07 12:20 am)


Re: underworld
I don't know how interested you are in otherworlds as opposed to underworlds, but in Chretien de Troyes' tale "Le Chevalier de la charette" ("The Knight of the Cart"), the antagonist Meleagant's kingdom of Gorre can be interpreted as an otherworldly realm of the dead "from which no foreigner returns" -- on the surface it's just a story about an evil knight who is holding people hostage, but it can be read as Lancelot's quest to penetrate the realm of the dead to rescue the souls imprisoned there. There are a lot of textual clues that support this interpretation. It's an interesting, definitely non-Christian remnant of a Celtic afterlife concept cropping up in an otherwise straightforward chivalric romance, and might be worth investigating.

Other tales to consider -- there's a Polynesian tale about a man named Hiku who went to the horizon where the sky met the water, to descend into the abyss there where the spirits dwelled and rescue his lover. He coated himself in coconut oil so he would smell like a corpse and fool the spirits. When he found his lover she tried to shapechange to resist him; he caught her in the coconut shells when she turned into a butterfly, and carried her spirit back home to her body. (I encountered this story in the "Lore of Love" volume of the Time-Life Enchanted Worlds series, I don't think I've come across it anywhere else.)

There's also the French tale of "Riquet a la houppe" ("Riquet with the Tuft"). In the version by Mlle Bernard,
Riquet is the king of the gnomes and takes the princess away to live with him in his underground kingdom, as a result of a bargain in which he has given the exceedingly stupid woman intelligence in exchange for her hand in marriage. In Perrault's version, Riquet is not a gnome king but merely an unlucky human prince, although at the end of the year in which she must decide, the princess sees Riquet's household spring up out of a hole in the ground as they make preparations for the wedding, much as Riquet himself does in Bernard's tale when he comes to claim her.

That's all that comes to mind at the moment, I hope it helps. Good luck! It's certainly a rich and fascinating area of study.

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