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Monday, 22 November 2010

The Path..

A girl picking flowers, suddenly abducted from this world of sunlight, of order, of safety and love down into the earth and is never, let us say, the same again...

I had not made the connection between the story of Persephone and Little Red-Riding Hood before this weekend, but after playing The Path (from Tale of Tales) I see the story of Red Riding Hood as focused upon the desire for knowledge aspect of the Persephone tale (the kind of knowledge represented by the colour red -of life, of sex, of blood, death and birth).

Modern interpretations of the oldest version -the abduction of Ereshkigal by The Kur, also stress this aspect. In Ershkigal's case it is knowledge of Kurnagi: the place of no return, where she assumes the role of queen. This more Jungian interpretation of abduction for the good of one's own soul finds its way into films and stories with Angela Carter's In The Company Of Wolves, in which straying from the path is the more interesting, perhaps more honest even, and in some cases preferable to, the company of wood cutters.

The Homeric Hymn and and Ovid's version of the Persephone myth portray the abduction of the female character as inevitable rather than a subconscious choice, reflecting the times in which they were written, and certainly not concerned with a Jungian katabasis.

Though I can just hear the voice of the judge asking the rape victim "and what were you wearing that night"?

Yet, katabasis -a descent- occurs which ever way you chose to interpret the stories: Ereshkigal is washed away by the river, or swallowed by the gaping earth, while Persephone and Red Riding Hood 'step off the path' enticed away by beautiful flowers:
...there were irises and hyacinths and a narcissus which Gaia grew as a snare for the girl with eyes like buds to please the God Who Receives So Many -for Zeus had willed it- and the flower shone wondrously...

And the girl too wondered at it, she reached out both her hands to take the lovely toy in the plain of Nysa, and He Who Receives So Many, the lord, sprang upon her with his immortal horses, the son of Kronos with many names.

The Homeric Hymns: Hymn To Demeter translated by Jules Cashford.
But what did I find out from playing the game?

The Path begins with a red living room containing six sisters, I as player, chose one girl at a time to send into the woods -and to stay on the path!- taking a basket and wine to grandmother.  I had known that this was the beginning before I installed the game, and I'd also known that success in this games terms was to meet the wolf and for this reason I'd thought long and hard before committing myself to play..

In short I felt as if I was good as sending each girl into the woods to be murdered; I didn't think that I would like myself if I found that I could do that.

I imagined that at the end there could be some form of redemption; perhaps if one sister found the axe then  she would save her sisters?

I loaded the game.

I found the axe.

My character wasn't interested in it at all (silly girl, I thought, more girls should play Doom.)

I always empathize with my game characters. Most of the time the character is of a man with a big gun, but the game has given him very little option than to use that gun and so I can empathize...Playing as a girl, it should have been more easy to empathise.

Well I had a strong emotional response to each of the characters.

I put off playing as the youngest because I saw myself as her guardian -and what kind of terrible guardian would I be to send her into the woods alone? but in truth this game does not let player guard her characters. And in truth, I was wondering around the woods alone when I was just nine years old and it didn't bother me at all. When I empathized with the little girl I remembered my Ladybird version of Little Red-Riding Hood, and how I, just like the youngest of the girls sent into the woods in The Path thought that I'd play with the wolf, for surely isn't a wolf just a bigger, more furry, wilder kind of dog?

I crossed out the words 'Big bad' in every page of that book. Like the girl in Beauty and The Beast, I believed in love. Did I ever make a mistake so big as the girl in The Path -who thinks that the werewolf would like to play?

Well, if I did it has gone behind 'the screen' and I wont remember.

Then there is the tom-boy whose wolf represents being female; that you can run, but you cannot hide from what mother nature (red in tooth and claw) has lined up for you: heart-break, menstruation, fear of pregnancy, feeling too fat and too thin, pregnancy, men who are bad at sex and thinking that it is your fault, child birth, marriage, divorce and more heartbreak and then menopause (when She leaves you with your crumbling bones on the crumbling earth in the field of dead flowers...) I don't think I had even noticed that wolf before as a wolf because She had always seemed to be kind to me..

Oh hang on, the werewolf of puppy dog love?
Yep, I'd gotten so used to the scar I'd forgotten how to see it.

Next comes Carmen who sees a camp site, sees some crates of beer and heads for the beer. She has to work quite hard to get her *initiation* from the balding wood cutter -whose prime interest seems to be cutting down trees. If I've ever been Carmen, I don't remember?

I remember having to get out of such situations, but never choosing to walk into them.

Then Ruby -who smokes cigarettes with the Charming man in the playground- I have a horrible feeling that I've been there, I guess most of us have, but as with Carmen I didn't really empathize or understand why they should try so hard to get what they were asking for...

Then there is Rose whose wolf was all fire and mist and floated above the world, taking Rose with him. He was a lovely wolf indeed and I understood exactly why she went to him. The reality is that someone so full of heat and light and steam...who seems so other and disconnected, causes immeasurable damage to those around them.

I have a son from that wolf.

And then there is Scarlet.

I had a big problem with Scarlet's wolf -the Fey wolf- because he would have got me. As I played the game, Scarlet should have walked away for she had lots of flowers to find and memories to gather before going to grandma's house but once I'd spotted the fey wolf, I knew that he had my number.

And so at that point, more than at any other, I got into the feeling of you asked for it. Until then it had been they who had asked for it, I wouldn't couldn't be so stupid?!

Finally -I was pleased to see that the archetype that fits my husband wasn't in there.