Processing with Mythology

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

April 6, 2023

Werewolves, Frankenstein’s monster, and vampires are fictional creatures created by some of the best storytellers in human history. While Frankenstein and vampires emerged in literature in the early 1800s, werewolves have been around much longer – appearing in Greek mythology thousands of years ago. These myths and stories are unique ways to explore power, evil, and the human experience. When we face exploitation, unfairness, or suffering in our lives, we strive to make sense of it. Sometimes, we’re unable to in the confines of our known reality. Sometimes, we have to create alternative worlds be able to digest the power imbalances around us.

As Joseph Campbell writes in The Power of Myth, “Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.”

When I read fantastical literature, I can’t help but wonder what the author was thinking about. I’m currently reading Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and one of my favorite novels of all time is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Both of these stories were written by women. And both of these stories are myths created to interpret, to make sense, and to caution us about the world. I may not be able to speak to either of these women to pick their brains, but I have to admit to being curious about their personal journeys – the exploitation, unfairness, or suffering they may have experienced.

In Her Words

Two quotes from Anne Rice that have been burned into my mind from her novel Interview with a Vampire are:

“The only power that exists is inside ourselves.” And “How pathetic it is to describe these things which can’t truly be described.”

Yes, girl, yes. I feel the depth of those quotes in my soul. And it’s not lost on me that the character quoted is a soulless vampire. Ah, duality.

Two quotes forever burned in my mind from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are:

“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.” And “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

Mary and Anne crafted intricate stories around dangerous, yet profound characters. What experiences were these creatures modeled around? Did these women come to understand the truths they sought? Or did they perpetuate the mystery for centuries to come?

We may never know the monsters as intimately as their creators, but that doesn’t mean we can’t comprehend the truth in their creation.