Had I but Room Enough, and Time . . .

With apologies to Andrew Marvell.

I grew up reading mythology, folk-lore, and fairy tales, first the kids’ version, then the unexpurgated versions. I still have an interesting selection of mythology, including four volumes of Aboriginal stories about the Dreamtime that are probably irreplaceable, given today’s academic climate.

Several public and school libraries had the Time-Life collection of 21 books about myth, legend, superstitions, and other things. I spent hours reading up on things my imagination probably didn’t need, and a few times gave myself nightmares.

As I said, my imagination didn’t need fodder, although by the time I was in my teens I’d learned that real life was nastier than 90% of the stuff in books about the supernatural. It took me a little longer, starting in college, to discover that the farther away I stay from the occult, the happier my world is. I believe in it, based on personal observation, and know in my bones that I need to avoid guided occult meditations, Tarot, Ouija, rune sets and anything that invokes the Other World.

But, I write fantasy, and for me that entails enough research to make things plausible. Since I’m lazy, if I can borrow from preexisting legends, then I will. Urban fantasy is perfect for that. So I need source material for stuff past the basic Hollywood vampires et al.

That brings me back to the Time Life books. Every so often I’ll go poking my nose around the ‘net to see what a set is going for. They start around $160 US for a complete set in good condition, 21 volumes, some amazingly illustrated. Later volumes don’t have such good pictures (apparently the publisher’s budget got strained), but the content was just as high quality. They include stories from around the world, making them a good, fast reference.

All I need is money, of course, and room. The latter is the real rub, because I can justify research books and save for them. Space, however, is at a premium, even after moving some volumes to Day Job and giving away others.

Yes, there are electronic resources, some of which I have on my e-reader, some of which I have bookmarked. But it’s nice to be able to reach for a print book, thumb through, find what I want, and then go back and forth. It’s less likely to lead to my playing Duck-Duck-Squirrel! and spending an hour roaming the ‘net when I need to be writing.

So I day dream about winning a small lottery, or the radio station cash give-away, and getting the books, and a place for the books. (In my day dreams, dusting of books is never required, either.)


14 thoughts on “Had I but Room Enough, and Time . . .

  1. Even better, they’re without the neo-pagan taint.
    (You can follow a modernist religion if you want to. Just stop making things up about my bloodthirsty barbarian ancestors in an attempt to justify it. Ritual human sacrifice isn’t a good look. And it’s worse when you attempt to co-opt the faded memories of stories they told themselves that made ritual human sacrifice seem the lesser of evils. )

    • The stories they told themselves might be useful if you’re writing Horror Stories. 😈

  2. My grandma was the same way, but to the point where she didn’t so much as have a copy of Grimm’s in her house. Aesop’s was OK–if rather mercilessly mocked when it fell short– but no folklore.

    • Once, when neo-Celtic was really in and the Holy Grail was trendy (so, late 1990s), I tried a set of guided meditations based on the Grail quest. The very first one set off all my alarms and I got an overwhelming sense that I needed to back away fast. Some doors ought to stay shut.

      • Probably a good idea, there’s a lot of…um… iffy stuff in that direction. My uncle (on the other side) is basically a bard and total Celtic fanboy, and even he made sure we understood that there was probably a REASON that the Irish etc ran like heck from the prior religious practices.

      • ….ooh, that would be an awesome story hook; the ancient Celts were magically enslaved and ol’ Saint Patty wiggled through the magical loop-holes; a slave that returns to save his slavers out of love for them sounds like the kind of steel bound requirement a curse would want.

        • It would be impossible, so of course it would be the start of breaking the curse. And he attracts followers out of love, not force or family ties, and without any geas involved . . .

          • And with one holy, perfect and living sacrifice, God Himself redeems sins for all mankind. No further need for propitiation of grim gods, and earth no longer needs feeding. The White Christ triumphs.

            With red martyrdom not an issue, the Irish turn to green and white versions, and return the blessing and Gospels to now-barbaric lands.

            • Well, that was pretty much how the Irish saw it, with the caveat that there was a lot of belief that the benign legends and mythology did have value as a preparation for the Gospel. Stuff like Crom Cruach, not.

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