I don’t know about you, but after an evening with my kids, I’m fried. When I settle my unruly brood in bed for story-time, it’s tempting to reach for another Fancy Nancy, Junie B Jones, Calendar Mystery, or Berenstain Bears, blow through the formulaic and uncomplicated story, and turn off the light. This blog is about my pledge to do something challenging with our story-time: to read, retell or create a myth or legend every week.

When I turned seven, someone gave me a copy of  D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, a book in which lusty Gods carried off maidens, disobedient sons plummeted from the sky, and the moon’s sleepy lover withered into a cricket.  The stories were bright, brutal, sexy, and beautiful. They unwrapped truths about mankind’s capacity for cruelty and kindness, for brilliance and stupidity. The stories took up residence in my imagination and on my nightstand and have never left. They led me to Norse myths, Hindu epics, African and Native American legends. Stories made me hungry to travel, to experience the wide, wonderful, awful world full of different cultures and traditions. I want to pass this passion, depth, and multicultural way of seeing on to my kids.

While history is a record of the public life of mankind, stories are a record of the intimate life of mankind. Stories carry forward the emotional life and wisdom of generations. They accumulate meaning each time they are retold.  A.S. Byatt writes, in her retelling of the Norse myth Ragnarok,  that myths are “a form of knowledge. . . .They are things, creatures, stories inhabiting the mind.”  Myths and stories teach us how to live.

Explaining why Zeus can “give away” Aphrodite to the hobbled smith-god Hephaestus, or why Shiva beheaded his son in a fit of jealously and replaced it with an elephant head, is tricky business with kids. Some of the values in these ancient myths and stories are at odds with my values, so we’ll act on the legends, discussing them and in some cases, even imagining alternate narratives. I’ll cherry pick stories that my kids, both under 6, can handle. We’ll also vet and review modern reinterpretations of classic myths. Sometimes we’ll even create our own myths.

I hope that examining the values of many-cultures through the lens of story helps my family think meaningfully about our values. And so our year of living mythically begins. . . .