Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Journey

A classic journey story that dominated my young imagination. 20th C Fox, 1959.

The Journey is a powerful motif, everywhere you look.  We conceive of life itself as a journey from our mother's womb to the womb of the earth...and perhaps, for those who believe in a final eucatastrophe, beyond that.  Dante journeys from Earth to Paradise, via Hell and Purgatory.  Bilbo journeys from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain and back again.  Frodo journeys from the Shire across Middle Earth to Mount Doom and returns to the Shire, only to discover he must journey out of Middle Earth forever, to the Undying Lands in the West.  The Aeneid tells Aeneas' journey from Troy to Rome.  The Bible tells of humanity's journey from the Garden into exile in the dying lands back into a recreated Garden.  Even in the prosaic literature of America, Huck and Jim journey down the Mississippi River.

As much as we talk now of the hero's journey (there's just no getting away from that Campbell fellow these days), we each strive to be the hero of our own story.  It's an excellent question to ponder when other questions fail.  In the story, where are the characters going?  In a game, where are the player characters going?  And of course in life, where are you going? 

Wherever you find yourselves on your journeys: Bon voyage, my fellow ramblers.  If we learn anything from our furry-footed friends, it's a good idea to make the trip with true friends.  On the other hand, a model poet may not be a bad choice for a guide, either.

"In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost."*

* Dante Alighieri, Inferno I.1-3Illustration by Gustav Doré. Things start looking up once he finds Vergil.

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