Sunday, December 23, 2012

Prophetic Revelations

Well so much for December 21st 2012. Fortunately there are already countless other predictions, including one for tonight, so we may yet have a spectacular destruction of humanity. I'd hope that the Mayan calendar's innocence in all of this would lead to more people realizing that, 'Hey, maybe prophecies are nothing but misinterpreted folklore, rumors and hearsay', and rather start worrying about the actual state of the world instead of opting for the easy way out - 'Oh, you know, the world is going under anyway' - and help bring balance to nature. Now, personally, I am of the opinion that if people around the globe dared realize that we have this one life we may have had more charity, compassion, have a greater respect and appreciation for that frail thing called life. But as long as people let themselves be controlled by fear and manipulation - usually in the form of religion, but also other 'supernatural' phenomena long ago debunked by science like astrology - there will be blood. 

In that deliciousest of genres (fantasy in case you were wondering), however, prophecies - often about end times - are often a vital part of the story, as they ground the work in that 'mythical' quality. Hence I can enjoy a good prophecy but I don't buy them anymore than I do, say, an underground kingdom of dwarven miners or a dragon. It's all fantasy. And most fantasy stories take cues from mythology, folklore, and religion. I can enjoy them for what they are and I never expect the author to assume I believe in his stories; I just suspend my disbelief for a while. Now if people could do this to all these ancient mythological texts from all over the world - read them for what they are but not taking them literally or seriously...

Mr. Martin is perhaps the fantasy author who best handles prophecies in his work, A Song of Ice and Fire. He shows how characters try to use prophecies to their own advantage (like people writing books on the end of the world to earn money), shows how prophecies are transformed through history (perhaps not even being prophecies in the first place, but having become interpreted as such at a later time), and sometimes - and this is the fantasy part I guess - having prophecies come true, only in a slightly different way (the setting of the sun in the east). Erikson, too, toys with these things but on a whole different level, as his history stretches for unimaginable long periods of time with characters often living through it all. His Forge of Darkness is a good example showing how history morphs truth, which is what is happening in the real world with Mayan culture, cultures from the Middle East and so on and so forth.

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