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Fiona Siobhan Powell

I often deal with violent, aggressive, cruel characters in stories...and often the stories have sad endings.
This is often deemed "acceptable" to adult audiences, but I cannot even begin to count the number of times that adults panic over the same scenario when children are listening.
Actually, I find that children cope better. They have a far better sense of reality; and a far more down to earth sense of justice....for example, in telling of the 3 Little Pigs, I had a teacher object, loudly , that the first two pigs were eaten. It was a 4 year old boy who told her
"Miss, the other two pigs broke ALL the rules, disobeyed their mother, acted stupid, of COURSE they're gonna get eaten for it, cos that's right!"
In my early days as a storyteller, I grappled with the violence inherent in the myths of every society I have studied. Not just background violence, but often, gleeful, shocking, "In-your-face" violence. I still cannot tell the tale of Branwen without inwardly recoiling as her infant son is hurled into a fire by her brother. And yes, I've asked myself often, can that bit be left out? My conclusion is always no. It cannot. It serves the story, and serves a deeper purpose. Sometimes the shared experience of violence (a bloody good bust up, war, fighting) serves to relieve a tension. I'm not a particularly violent human being, although I have a pretty hot temper. After the telling of a tale, I feel satiated. All hint of aggression worn out in default through the story. (Perhaps this is why, over the years, my temper has worn away to nearly nothing).
In the case of the tale of Branwen, by the end we are grieving, all together, sharing our most primal fears. I think it teaches us that we do share that common humanity. I've never told the story without witnessing a quietening in the room. Often, folk are weeping, even grown men. It is by the sharing of these fears and troubles, that the individual realises that they are not alone...or lone. Someone who can place themselves in the shoes of others, is; I think, unlikely to go out and rampage. I cannot speak of Batman etc...not my genre, not my area. Except to say that I feel strongly that we can never blame the story for the crime. Myth shows us how to share pains, and joys,and fears; how to relieve ourselves of the burdens of aggression; and teaches us basic justice.

Fiona Siobhan Powell

I am bemused to see that Mr. LaSalle thinks we've lost the "female principle".....and are thus more violent. He obviously hasn't looked into the myths of Matriarchal societies, such as the early Celts..violent as all get-out!!
I think there are more stories of women, mothers, sisters , wives, exerting life power over their tribe/family than there are men. Men are too busy hunting and bashing up other tribes who threaten them; to plan horrific schemes against their own kind.


Fiona, Thanks for your wisdom. As Mr. LaSalle is a journalist and limited to a certain number of words not exactly thought out perfectly before he must go to print, I would like to think that he is pointing to a kind of violent story that is exactly not cathartic, not unifying us in our humanity, but brutalizing us. Violence in stories, as you rightly point out, can be helpful to us. I think in particular of the movie Pan's Labyrinth, which is a rough and terrifying ride, but which left me with a deep sense of the connectedness of humanity. I cannot think of a movie that LaSalle would consider devoid of the "Female Principle," whatever that is, but he must have thought "The Dark Knight Rises" was this type of dehumanizing story.

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