The fifteen stories in this finely honed and well-polished collection have the power to cut away assumptions and alter a reader’s focus and direction as only a storyteller’s magic can do. Borrowed and reshaped from older folktales out of Anita Endrezze’s heritage and imagination, these stories take on new life in their contemporary settings.
In her author’s note, Endrezze writes, “I hope Butterfly Moon will take you adrift in another world that challenges and transforms your perceptions, yet leads you back home to yourself.”
Reality, the oldest shapeshifter we know, dances lightly on the pages of Butterfly Moon and often gives way to enchantments, supernatural events, and the whims of gods and fate. As prospective blessings for the reader’s journey, these stories don’t necessarily fit the traditional narrative arc of a problem leading to a climax. Endrezze’s tales are often unresolved slice-of-life glimpses into her characters and settings that end with a dire occurrence, an acceptance of fate, a troubling paradox or the workings of karma.
The joy, anger, life, and death in Endrezze’s vision are not bound by time, nor are they distinctly separate from the active and sentient world in which they’re set. “On This Earth” begins with the words, The house was a forest remembering itself. The pine trees that held up the walls dreamed of stars dwelling in their needles. When Desetnica leaves home to roam the world in “The Dragonfly’s Daughter” because she is the tenth child, it’s clear that the forest is watching when The blackberry bushes parted their thickets as I waded through green knots of fruit. After I passed, still following the dragonfly, the vines knitted together again, so that I was lost to the other side of kinship and orphaned into the unnamed forest.
While tightly knit into the stories’ plots, myth and symbolism add depth without intruding into the author’s economy of words, understated approach and matter-of-fact reverence to the cultural origins of her material. Endrezze does not explain or editorialize, but her omniscient care is everywhere through this collection from the paradoxes of “Raven’s Moon” to the grim unfolding of “The Vampire and the Moth Woman” to the humor of “Jay (Devil-may-care!)”
For the lovers of myths, legends, and folktales, this collection is highly recommended and a unique delight.
“The world’s first love story, two thousand years older than the Bible—tender, erotic, shocking, and compassionate—is more than a momentary entertainment. It is a sacred story that has the intention of bringing its audience to a new spiritual place. With Inanna, we enter the place of exploration: the place where not all energies have been tamed or ordered.” – Diane Volkstein in “Inanna, the Queen of Heaven and Earth: her Stories and Hymns from Sumer”
As an author, I view my characters through a high-powered microscope and present the results of what I see as part of my stories. I will put you into the characters’ shoes if I can because—as Diana Volkstein writes—this is where the energies haven’t been tamed or ordered.
In my hero’s journey adventure Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey, I describe that place like this: “He knew him at the binary level where the line between matter and energy is barely discernible and often non-existent: Where urges pull at their chains, where drives push dumbly and drip sweat, where instincts race unchecked, where a horrifying sadness lies buried, where a raw pulse drums a cadence for the primitive rites of changing seasons, where white-hot impulses leap synapses in a shower of elemental fire.”
I wanted a similar, up-close focus in my heroine’s journey novel Sarabande. So, for the story of a woman seeking wisdom and wholeness, I could think of no better model than the myth of Inanna, a graphic dramatization of a woman’s inner journey to find herself outside the traps and trappings of a masculine world that has–as Sylvia Brinton Perera (“Descent to the Goddess”) wrote–forced the binary level of feminine power into dormancy for 5,000 years.
Or, as the late Adrienne Rich said, “The woman I needed to call my mother was silenced before I was born.”
Sarabande’s Heroine’s Journey
In today’s terms, Sarabande was a tomboy. She was an expert with a knife, bow and arrow, a fishing pole, and everything she needed to know to survive in the wilderness. She learned all this from her father because her her mother believed women should only learn to keep a good home and not question society’s norms for women. However, Sarabande will never truly become herself as long as she is a disciple of either her late warrior father or her misguided, preachy mother. She is being taunted by a ghost that she must approach face to face in the ghost’s world.
Early on in her quest to rid herself of the ghost of her dead sister Dryad, Sarabande learns to see the world at a binary level: The lake, surrounding mountains and the cloud-draped sky broke apart into millions of colored specks. Sarabande leaned against Sikimí, even though he was no longer solid, and saw that her own light-pink hand was not solid either. In spite of her sudden dizziness, she did not fall. In fact, when her fingertips touched Sikimí’s side, a swarm of pink specks flew, like bees, into the permeable yellow gold of the horse, and when they did, their color changed to match the specks in their new environment.
But she doesn’t know what it means. So it is, that her quest to find and confront her sister follows the pattern of Inanna’s Heroine’s journey to confront her sister Eriskigal, Goddess of the Underworld. The underworld, in this case, is not the world of mobs and crime or “hell” in the Christian view, but the more dangerous world of the unconscious. Like Inanna, Sarabande will be broken, shamed and close to death before she learns who she is.
This is the heroine’s journey, to be buried in mother earth like a seed where she will be reborn with the spring into a new creation that finally has the freedom to follow the original injunctions of her destiny and her gender.
In the classic Greek myth, Theseus enters King Minos’ labyrinth at Crete, finds and slays the dangerous Minotaur at its center, and finds his way back out by following a linen thread he laid down to mark his path on his way in.
They also represent the unconscious and an individual’s self. Until one knows himself, part of it is unconscious and filled with fears, demons and the basic energies of primal needs. The Minotaur is an apt symbol for these and slaying it is an apt symbol for facing one’s fears and subsequently becoming more whole and more aware.
The silken thread, a gift of King Minos’ daughter Ariadne in the original myth, represents the hero’s intuition, his present (though possibly faint) connection to his higher self, a self the Greeks personified as one god or another.
The hero’s journey, as described in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces has been used as a template for understanding classic myths, exploring the depths of oneself, and creating compelling novels and screen plays.
In fiction, as in myth, the purpose of the story is always the hero’s transformation or his failure to achieve it. He undertakes a dangerous physical or psychological journey and in the process of doing that finds and slays his inner demons. The physical journey, complete with friends, enemies, demons, angels, trials, and tribulations is–in fiction and myth–the catalyst for the hero’s growth.
While the hero’s journey as a template is often the most obvious in epic films such as Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix, it also serves as a structure for stories involving characters we might consider to be “every day people.” These stories always contain conflict, a conflict that typically cannot be successfully resolved until the main character comes to grips with his or her own failings, fears, phobias, blind spots and prejudices. If one can’t personally identify with the journey and the minotaurs in Titanic and Spiderman, then Dirty Dancing and Annie Hall may be easier to vicariously experience.
The twists and turns of the action-packed physical trek, battle or other conflict mirror the main character’s inner journey through the labyrinth of self. At the conclusion of the novel or film, we not only expect to see that the battle has been won or the crime has been solved, but that the protagonist has changed in the process.
Without facing a Minotaur of one kind or another, the hero cannot grow. None of us can. Most heroes don’t set out to consciously change themselves. Harry Potter, for example, didn’t vow to confront his worst fears. Instead, he went to school to learn magic, he ended up fighting the evil Lord Voldemort, encountered his worst fears in the process and triumphed over them, ending up as quite a different person.
Whether he’s overtly conscious of his inner journey or not, no hero in fiction or myth asks for whom the Minotaur waits because he knows it waits for him. Every good story has one and perhaps every good life has one as well.
As a personal note, when I watch Hollywood films, read novels, or consider stories I might want to write, I don’t envision the storyline and ask “Where’s Waldo?” I ask “Where’s the Minotaur?”
Then, at the conclusion of the novel or feature film, I don’t just want to see that the Luke Skywalker has destroyed the death star, that Indiana Jones has gotten the lost ark away from the Nazis, or that Erin Brockovich has defeated a corporation that’s been dumping hazardous materials into the groundwater. I want to see that Luke, Indiana and Erin have personally changed, for that change is they axis on which the ultimate story ultimately turns.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two hero’s journey novels (complete with figurative labyrinths and minotaurs), Garden of Heaven and The Sun Singer.
For the Florida connection in this novel, see my post Tate’s Hell about a wild swamp in the panhandle near where I grew up that made a perfect counterpart in the novel to Glacier’s Garden of Heaven valley.
“What such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny.” –Joseph Campbell in “The Hero With a Thousand Faces”
When a mythic hero begins his or her journey into the unknown, s/he often receives help from a magical helper or mentor in the form of advice or amulets to ward off or lessen the impact of the dragons and other horrific forces and entities along the hero’s path.
Crones, wise men, elves and other faerie folk, gods and goddesses, totem animals and spirit guides are among the forms of supernatural aid that providence (or the universe) provides.
Campbell writes that no matter how dangerous the evil forces are on the far side of the threshold or portal into the unknown (dark forest, wine-red sea, unconscious), that “protective power is always and ever present within the sanctuary of the heart and even immanent within, or just behind, the unfamiliar features of the world.”
Considering the journey as a spiritual undertaking, the hero–as we learn from mythology–is wise to trust himself and his guardians. In “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” for example, young Harry is called to his journey via mysterious letters arriving from Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft; however the nasty Dursley family won’t allow him to read them, much less respond.
But the journey will not be denied. Hagrid, a half giant from the school appears, and rescues Harry via supernatural means. Likewise in “Star Wars,” Obi-Wan Kenobi uses supernatural means (paranormal skills) to extract Luke Skywalker from the planet where he’s been living and then serves as Luke’s mentor as the journey begins.
In my novel “The Sun Singer,” young Robert Adams encounters several magical helpers including a large, black horse named Sikimí. In everyday terms, the horse is a Friesian like the one in the picture. Yet, when Robert meets the horse for the first time, he–and the reader as well–are tipped off that Sikimí is somehow more than a horse:
The horse was excessively here in the present tense as though accentuated by the angle of the light into being more now than now and more visible than normally visible.
And then David Ward–a mentor character in the novel–tells Robert that Sikimí describes himself as “night in the shape of a horse.”
The journey, though, belongs to the hero alone. In “The Sun Singer,” neither Sikimí nor David Ward remain with Robert. He says goodbye to them and is on his way. He must trust that they–or whatever he has learned from them–will serve him well when the need arises.
Each mythic hero must merge the magical powers, amulets, advice of the magical helpers or mentors with his or her own willpower and faith to carry out the quest to its conclusion. The amulets cannot be all powerful nor the mentor always present, for then the “hero” would simply be along for the ride with no risks to face nor crucial decisions to make.
Hero’s path myths–and fiction based on the steps of the hero’s journey–are intended (in addition to their storytelling value) as catalysts for readers and their own life’s journeys. The translation of the mentors concept into daily life can be rather straightforward, for there are teachers everywhere as well as books, workshops and courses everyday heroes can use to their advantage.
Most of us do not expect a wide variety of gods to help us in the manner in which they directly helped (or hindered) Odysseus in Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey.” Depending on one’s belief system, prayer can serve as supernatural help; so, too, the messages of totem animals and spirit guides in dreams and meditation. For others, the magical helpers of myths transform into the positive synchronicity and “good luck” that seemingly appear out of nowhere as a result of one’s positive thinking, trust in himself or herself, and dedication to a course of action in harmony with the universe (or one’s spiritual views).
The prospective hero hears “the call to adventure” and makes the decision to undertake the journey without guarantees. He does not ask to see the mentor or the magical helpers in advance. He walks out the door of everyday life without a script that shows precisely what will happen and how s/he will survive the tasks ahead and make it safely home.
As Ted Andrews notes in his book “Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small,” horse symbolism is complex. His keynotes for the horse are travel, power and freedom. These fit my needs for the book since my protagonist is concerned with all of these things.
The black horse appears in my own dreams and meditations often enough to be considered a totem animal: my own magical helper, so to speak. This means that I “know” a lot more about this particular horse than I need for the book, always a plus for an author.
If horses, wise old men, or other magical helpers and guides appear in your dreams, then they are playing the same role as the supernatural powers of classic myths as well as novels and movies that are structured along the lines of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey theme.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the contemporary fantasy “The Sun Singer,” a hero’s journey novel.