Apocryphal tales


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Flat Earth
I mentioned in a post elsewhere the 'myth' of the flat earth theory, and I wonder how many other myths we subscribe to without knowing?

In short, the Greeks, Christendom, the Medieval World, Christopher Columbus - none of 'em thought the world was flat - it's not properly a myth, but a fiction, presented for dubious reasons (Google it to read the evidence) which would introduce religion into the debate, so I'll leave it there.

As I understand it, the Columbus debate was not the earth was flat, but that without charts, or a certainty as to how big the world was, he was off on a wing and a prayer...

That well know children's rhyme from the 13-16th century age of plagues?
Nope. An invention of university professors in the 1930s. The rhyme itself, and its variants, were first recorded in the 1880s, and the variants having nothing to do with the plague, either directly or by any stretch of the imagination ...

What is intriguing is how old tales turn up:
A single busineswoman gets home from work to her plush NY apartment, opens the door to find her dog choking in the hall. She takes the dog to the vet, leaves him there and returns home. This time opens the door as the phone rings, and the police tell her to leave immediately. The vet has found two fingers lodged in the dog's throat, and the cops (arriving moments later) find a wounded and desperate burglar hiding in her apartment! (Pretty stupid to hang around with 2 fingers missing, but there you go.)

This is a retelling of the old tale of the faithful hound ... can't remember it quite properly, so I won't do the injustice of mangling it. If you want the tale, post and I'll dig it out...

This is a doozy. Our common notion of fairies owes more to four men, authors working in the late nineteenth century, who wrote, rewrote or re-edited fairy tales of antiquity to suit the taste for romantic literature.

Prior to this, in every culture going back to Persia and beyond, fairies were at best tricksters who could not be trusted, at their worst cruel and capricious spirits, their sole aim to steal human children and replace them with ancient and decrepit faeries enchanted to look like babies, but with a foul nature ... (faeries, it seems, had difficulty conceiving, and difficulty in getting rid of their old)

In the Middle Ages it was an acceptable defence, in law, to insist the child a parent had killed was a fairy, that the child was evil, possessed of the 'evil eye' ... psychologists and those with a working knowledge of severe post-natal depression might spot how this came about to explain infanticide ...

... so there is every chance that the fairy myth was developed to explain why some parents inexplicably fail to bond with, abandon, and even kill, their offspring?

You know that Elizabethan 'with a hey-diddle-diddle' stuff - well many English folk songs and rhymes were recorded (on paper) for posterity by Victorian do-good philanthropists, who decided to, ehm, excise the, er, more, shall we say 'colourful' verses from the songs?

So the 'rich' and often ribbald language was edited away, and replaced by some meaningless wordplay, the equivalent of a radio 'beep', to keep the metre.

(BTW this is all an avoidance technique -I have an essay due the day after tomorrow - what the **** am I doing here?)
It is my understanding that there was a flat earth thought going round...

But during Columbus time they had determined the world was round...but him going DOWN to the BOTTOM would not be able to sail back UP the other side...

And then there are those myths about a heaven up above the clouds, a hell down below us, and someone keeping a database on a spreadsheet to keep track of every instance that happens amongst the billions on earth to see who is naughty and nice...some of those are still circulating!!
Speaking of faeries ... here's a little free association on my part, which has led me here with something in the same vein, Thomas. I was noticing on a map of the world that there is a Great Australian Bight (bay), and this is an unfamiliar word for me, so I immediately thought of another, rhyming place-name: Isle of Wight.

Well, being curious about mythologies, and certainly knowing this term and creature from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (Frodo and crew encounter the barrow-wights) ... I had to punch it into Wikipedia, along with Jinn (genies, from the Koran). The Wiki article on wights is rather interesting, but of particular relevance is the opening:
Wight is an obsolete word for a human or other intelligent "being" and derives from the same root as forms of to be, such as was and were. (Modern German "Wicht" is a cognate, meaning "small person, dwarf", and also "unpleasant person"). It is used only comparatively recently to give an impression of archaism and mystery, for example in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, where they are corpses with a part of their decayed soul. Probably inspired by Scandinavian folklore (see below), Tolkien also used the word to denote human-like creatures, such as elves or ghosts ("wraiths") - most notably the undead Barrow-Wights. Some subsequent writers seem to have been unaware that the word did not actually mean ghost or wraith, and so many works of fantasy fiction, role-playing games and computer and video games use the term as the name of spectral creatures very similar to Tolkien's Barrow-wights.
And yes, I remember fighting wights in `Tunnels of Doom,' a game for the TI99-4A computer some 25 years ago.

Curiously, at the bottom of the Wiki article, the only reference provided is under Compare: Genie. For that recent thread here at CR, here's a link: http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/the-jinn-5776.html