Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Myth-Placed Identities

There is a single most frustrating thing about researching this little red dot which I've referred to as 'Atlantis' in most of my posts. This one thing is the problem of the monomyth. The traditional history of modern Atlantis, supposedly begun in 1819 (or perhaps 1965), is one that begins with a single hero who comes from an obscure background, battles through epic evils, and returns with some boon for mankind.

In the 1819 version, the ironically-named Gambler descends upon the benighted island, cuts a deal with the ignorant natives, and raises an obscure fishing village into prominence as the leading edge of the Empire's masterplan of globalization initiatives. Under the Imperial banner, this little red dot becomes an impregnable fortress in the East, and the paramount harbour of Eastern trade.

In the 1965 version (remake?), the Thunderer descends upon the benighted island, intervenes on behalf of the ignorant natives, and raises an obscure post-Imperial backwater (totally in contradiction of the earlier myth, of course) to the leading edge of worldwide globalization. Under the Moon-and-Stars banner, this little red dot becomes an impregnable fortress of the East, and the paramount harbour (supposedly) of all the world's trade.

In both myths, reality is neglected and the very strong supporting cast ignored.

The Gambler actually attempted to destroy all gambling; the appointed Resident, fondly known as the Progenitor, failed to do so. At that point, the Gambler (who in all his time supposedly in charge of Atlantis never spent more than a few months here) sent that worthy servant of the public trust back to Alba. It was only 1823. All accounts from that era show the Progenitor as being more worthy of the title 'Founder of Atlantis' than the Gambler. It was just, I suppose, that the Gambler's name was easier on the ears.

The Thunderer, on the other hand, has readily attributed much of the success of his dominion to the clever thinking of his chief lieutenant, the Gnome. In a touching tribute published in the local press on 29 Dec 1984, the Thunderer said, "No panegyric can do justice to you." Yet, even after subsequent reinforcement in the Thunderer's own biography, textbooks still attribute (or blame) Atlantean development on the wielder of the lightning, and not the genius loci.

It is hard to restructure or replace the monomyth, especially when the historical basis is concealed by generations of bards who think they have been paid to sing the praises of the myth and not the truth. Such bards, of course, do not quite deserve the title and indeed should be targeted by scathing satires, as is the great Celtic tradition.

It is my hope to trace the educational history of Atlantis through those who made a genuine difference, and not through those who received credit for not really doing much in this area. It requires restructuring the monomyth and, perhaps, slaying a few dragons (gryphons?) along the way.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found the Gnome's response (a copy is visible on the NHB site's speech-text archival and retrieval system) to that tribute very Gnomish indeed.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 9:36:00 pm  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

Cuthbert: it's indeed very Gnomish... now can you imagine what it was like to grow up listening to statements like that all the time? :D

Wednesday, September 01, 2010 4:21:00 am  

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