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Mighty Myth Month: Instructions.

 Look for the video on our Moodle Pages.

By Neil Gaiman

Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never saw before.
Say “please” before you open the latch,
go through,
walk down the path.
A red metal imp hangs from the green-painted front door,
as a knocker,
do not touch it; it will bite your fingers.
Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat nothing.
if any creature tells you that it hungers,
feed it.
If it tells you that it is dirty,
clean it.
If it cries to you that it hurts,
if you can,
ease its pain.

From the back garden you will be able to see the wild wood.
The deep well you walk past leads to winter’s realm;
there is another land at the bottom of it.
If you turn around here,
you can walk back safely;
you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.

Once through the garden you will be in the wood.
The trees are old. Eyes peer from the undergrowth.
Beneath a twisted oak sits an old woman. She may ask for something;
give it to her. She
will point the way to the castle.
Inside it are three princesses.
Do not trust the youngest. Walk on.
In the clearing beyond the caste the twelve months sit about a fire,
warming their feet, exchanging tales.
They may do favors for you, if you are polite.
You may pick strawberries in December’s frost.
Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where you are going.
The river can be crossed by the ferry. The ferry-man will take you.
(The answer to his question is this:
If he hands the oar to his passenger, he will be free to leave the boat.
Only tell him this from a safe distance.)

If an eagle gives you a feather, keep it safe.
Remember: that giants sleep too soundly; that
witches are often betrayed by their appetites;
dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always;
hearts can be well-hidden,
and you betray them with your tongue.

Do not be jealous of your sister.
Know that diamonds and roses
are as uncomfortable when they tumble from one’s lips as toads and frogs:
colder, too, and sharper, and they cut.

Remember your name.
Do not lose hope—what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn.
Trust dreams.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.
When you come back, return the way you came.
Favors will be returned, debts be repaid.
Do not forget your manners.
Do not look back.
Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall)
Ride the silver fish (you will not drown)
Ride the gray wolf (hold tightly to his fur).

There is a worm at the heart of the tower; that is why it will not stand.

When you reach the little house, the place your journey started,
you will recognize it, although it will seem much smaller than you remember.
Walk up the path, and through the garden gate you never saw but once.
And then go home. Or make a home.

Or rest.

Oh, I wish I had written that.

Neil Gaiman reading his poem, Instructions
Neil Gaiman reading his poem, Instructions
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Mighty Myth Month: Eeek! A spider!

Here's looking at you, Anansi!
Here’s looking at you, Anansi!

Anansi, you old trickster! From the West African area, the Ashanti tribe originated the tales of the most famous spider-god of all, Anansi. Similar to the Coyote in Native American/Central American tales, Anansi is a trickster, a clever fellow who usually gets the best of his foes. (Usually, but not always.)



by Micha F. Lindemans
The Ashanti trickster/culture hero, also called ‘the Spider’. He is the intermediary of the sky god Nyame, his father, on whose command Anansi brings rain to quench the forest fires and determines the borders of oceans and rivers during floods. Later Anansi’s place as representative was usurped by the chameleon. His mother is Asase Ya. Anansi is sometimes regarded as the creator of the sun and the moon and the stars, as well as the one who instituted the succession of day and night. It is also believed that he created the first man, into which Nyame breathed life. A typical trickster, he is crafty, sly, villainous, but he also taught mankind how to sow grain and how to use the shovel on the fields. He set himself up as the first king of the human beings and even managed to marry Nyame’s daughter. He was beaten only in his encounter with the wax girl, to whom he stuck fast, having struck her with his legs when she refused to talk to him. The people then rushed forwards and beat the tricky Anansi.

Anansi is one of the most popular characters in West African mythology.

“Anansi.” Encyclopedia Mythicafrom Encyclopedia Mythica Online.
[Accessed January 23, 2010].

From Anansi’s stories and tales, developed the stories of B’rer Rabbit in the South:

B’rer Rabbit’s tales are an important part of African-American tradition.

These tales are immigrants to the new world, but have taken a character all their own. America has been a land where humor abounds and champions the underdog who often triumphs by his wits and ingenuity.Similar tales of the Trickster Rabbit and Anansi (Spider) are found in African folklore and travelled to the Caribbean and North America along with the slave trade. There have been numerous collection and versions of the B’rer Rabbit tales. They formed the basis of the Gullah – Nancy Tales in the West Indies …(

And I’m guessing Bugs Bunny came from those stories, too. But I’m just guessing.

Bugs Bunny

 I do know that one of my favorite writers, (even though in my opinion spends ways too much time Twittering about his hot,young girlfriend and all the awards he’s given, but hey, he earned them, so tweet on, Mr. Gaiman, tweet on) Neil Gaiman, uses Anansi in both his novels, American Gods and Anansi’s Boys.

 So, everywhere we go, we take our stories with us. It may seem unlikely that a spider-deity can transform into a funny-bunny, but when cultural diffusion, assimilation, and acquisition is at play, anything is possible. Right, Neil? In other words, “What’s up, Doc?”

 Spider Photograph ©2009 Thomas Shahan

For more information about Thomas Shahan’s incredible photography, check this out:

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Mighty Myth Month: Jack.


The archetypal Jack is mischievous. He is the joker, the wild card, the surprise, the one with the spark. He starts things, but seldom finishes them. He is restless, fidgety, edgy, but not anxious. He’s not worried about anything, he just wants things to move along.Captain Jack Sparrow

Jack_BlackHe is known by many incarnations: Jack O’Lantern, Jack the Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington, Jack Black, Jack Springheels, Jack and the Beanstalk, nimble, jumping over candles Jacks, Jack Sparrow, Jack Frost, Jack of Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, and Spades; he’s Jumpin’ Jack Flash,  Jack Sprat, Jack of “Jack and Jill,” and the house the Jack built, the man Jack,not to mention Little Jack Horner who sat in a corner…

Little Jack Horner sat in a corner...(Illustration by Arthur Rackham)
Little Jack Horner sat in a corner...(Illustration by Arthur Rackham)

Jack jumps. Jack jostles. Jack juxtoposes and jiggles.


It is uncharacteristic of him to be reflective, or remorseful, as one of my favorite Jacks, Jack Skellington of Nightmare Before Christmas fame:

That's Mr. Skellington to you.
That's Mr. Skellington to you.

Jack’s Lament

There are few who deny,
At what I do I am the best,
For my talents are renowned far and wide
When it comes to surprises
In the moonlit night
I excel without ever even trying
With the slightest little effort
Of my ghost-like charms,
I have seen grown men give out a shriek
With a wave of my hand
And a well-placed moan,
I have swept the very bravest off their feet!
Yet year after year,
It’s the same routine
And I grow so weary
Of the sound of screams
And I Jack, the pumpkin king,
Have grown so tired of the same old thing…

We have all know a “Jack” at one time or another. He is seldom the muscle, but the brains; quick-witted and high-spirited, Jack is, and will always be, the friend we need to help us bend the rules.

Vintage Jack O Lantern

If you want to read about the history of Jack O’Lanterns from Irish history/folklore, click on this link.

Yes. I know it’s January. And don’t smash pumpkins. I take it personally.

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Graphic Novels, Manga, and the New York Times


If you’re looking for some graphic novel/manga recommendations, check out this link from the New York Times newspaper. I am starting the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, and the Batman graphic novel looks interesting, too.