My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Hero: A Study in Tradition, Myth and Drama (1936) by Lord Raglan is not the kind of book for the casual reader. The Hero is for those serious writers/professors willing to study the craft of writing and storytelling at a much more intellectual level.
“The thesis of this book,” writes Lord Raglan, “is that the traditional narrative, in all its forms, is based not upon historical facts on the one hand or imaginative fictions on the other, but upon dramatic ritual or ritual drama…I then took a number of quasi-historical traditions and showed that there is no valid evidence for their historicity, and that many of them are demonstrably unhistorical. I next gave the evidence for connecting the myth and the folk-tale with ritual, and for believing that the hero-tale is derived from ritual and not from fact” (p 278).
Throughout the book Lord Raglan repeatedly shows that stories such as The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Tale of Troy, the Norse Sagas, Robin Hood, King Arthur, etc., are based on dramatic ritual and the heroes therein are set on 22 key characteristics (a pattern for the traditional hero).
Many heroes that fell into this pattern were from cultures all over the world and from various religions as well. For example: Theseus (20/22), Romulus (18/22), Perseus (18), Pelops (13), Apollo (11), Zeus (15), Moses (20), Watu Gunung (14), Arthur (19), and Robin Hood (19/22). These are but a portion of heroes studied within the book.
Lord Raglan also defines the purpose of myth in relation to the hero. “Myth is ritual projected back into the past,” writes Lord Raglan, “not a historical past of time, but a ritual past of eternity. It is a description of what should be done by a king (priest, chief, or magician) in order to secure and maintain the prosperity of his people, told in the form of a narrative of what a hero–that is, an ideal king, etc.–once did” (p 147).
A writer will take just as much pleasure from this book as a historian might. One of my favorite passages of the book concerns the criterion of a successful writer, and is as follows:
“Nobody can hope to be a successful poet or composer of stories unless he has familiarized himself with a large number of poems or stories of different types, both in their general outlines and in the details of their construction; and the better writers whose works he studies, the better are his own writings likely to be. This simple fact is, of course, the basis of all literary education. In addition, our budding author must, if he is to produce anything possessing the least degree of originality, observe and read a good deal, and thus acquire a large fund of ideas. By drawing upon these he will be able to vary the form and content of his writings; this is the most that he will be able to do, since imagination at its highest is no more than the combination of two or more old ideas to form a new idea” (p 136-137).
One of the reasons why I read this book was for research in my own writing, and to study in further depth the understanding of what makes a lasting and classical narrative and hero. After reading this book, I have learned more about the construct of myth, folk and fairy tales, sagas, the basis for drama and ritual dramas and the success of the age old heroes in narrative form.
Actually, this is one of the most intelligent books I have read (to be compared with the works of Tertullian and Cicero and the likes). Therefore, this is a strong recommend for any serious-serious writer who wants to excel, or for any professor diving deeper into the depths of history, philosophy, religion, and literature.
CG FEWSTON is an American novelist who is a member of AWP, a member of Americans for the Arts, and a professional member and advocate of the PEN American Center, advocating for the freedom of expression around the world.
CG FEWSTON has travelled across continents and visited such places as Mexico, the island of Guam, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Taipei and Beitou in Taiwan, Bali in Indonesia, and Guilin and Shenzhen and Beijing in China. He also enjoys studying and learning French, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin.
CG FEWSTON earned an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership and Administration (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors) from Stony Brook University, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University, where he had the chance to work with wonderful and talented novelists, such as Richard Adams Carey (author of In the Evil Day, October 2015; and, The Philosopher Fish, 2006) and Jessica Anthony (author of Chopsticks, 2012; and, The Convalescent, 2010) as well as New York Times Best-Selling novelists Matt Bondurant (author of The Night Swimmer, 2012; and, The Wettest County in the World, 2009, made famous in the movie Lawless, 2012) and Wiley Cash (author of A Land More Kind Than Home, 2013; and, This Dark Road to Mercy, 2014).
Among many others, CG FEWSTON’S stories, photographs and essays have appeared in Sediments Literary–Arts Journal, Bohemia, Ginosko Literary Journal, GNU Journal (“Hills Like Giant Elephants”), Tendril Literary Magazine, Prachya Review (“The One Who Had It All”), Driftwood Press, The Missing Slate Literary Magazine (“Darwin Mother”), Gravel Literary Journal, Foliate Oak Magazine, The Writer’s Drawer, Moonlit Road, Nature Writing, and Travelmag: The Independent Spirit; and for several years he was a contributor to Vietnam’s national premier English newspaper, Tuoi Tre, “The Youth Newspaper.”
You can read more about CG FEWSTON and his writing at
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN won GOLD for Literary Classics’ 2015 best book in the category under ”Special Interest” for “Gender Specific – Female Audience”…
Finalist in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Romantic Fiction…
Finalist in the 2015 Mystery & Mayhem Novel Writing Contest…
Praise for A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN:
“Fewston delivers an atmospheric and evocative thriller in which an American government secret agent must navigate fluid allegiances and murky principles in 1970s Tehran… A cerebral, fast-paced thriller.”
“A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a thrilling adventure which takes place in pre-revolutionary Tehran. Author CG FEWSTON provides a unique glimpse into this important historical city and its rich culture during a pivotal time in its storied past. This book is so much more than a love story. Skillfully paired with a suspenseful tale of espionage, A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a riveting study of humanity. Replete with turns & twists and a powerful finish, FEWSTON has intimately woven a tale which creates vivid pictures of the people and places in this extraordinary novel.”
CG FEWSTON‘s new novel,
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN, was published on April 2, 2015 —
10 years to the day of the publication
of his first novella, A FATHER’S SON (April 2, 2005)
“Thus one skilled at giving rise to the extraordinary
is as boundless as Heaven and Earth,
as inexhaustible as the Yellow River and the ocean.
Ending and beginning again,
like the sun and moon. Dying and then being born,
like the four seasons.”
found in Sources of Chinese Tradition, p 5