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I am reading a book on the history of The Story. Throughout Man’s existence all cultures and people tell stories. The need to tell them seems to be “hard wired” into our genes.  I haven’t gotten to the theories of why we need to tell stories. Where I am is the type of stories we tell.

Apparently (says the author) all stories follow the same seven outlines, from ancient Egypt to the latest movie. The first and foremost theme is “Slaying the Monster.” The story is universal, whether we are talking about Beowolf or “Jaws”.

The “Slaying the Monster” chapter is a fascinating read. In general, a person or people are threatened by some sort of fiend or monster. It must be slain or addressed or put in its place. Sometimes there is a prelude period of disbelief the monster is real. The battle starts off well enough. Then, ‘the nightmare’ period starts. Things don’t go well; Monster’s victory looks certain. Then some ‘chink in the armor’ or ‘blind spot’ is found. The Monster is slain. The hero often gets some sort of reward, such as wealth or marriage or status.

I deal  with “Slaying the Monster” every day in my professional and personal life. Not just the outer monsters (although there are plenty of them) but the inner monsters of others and my own.

My blog has had the same quotation since its inception.   To live is to battle with trolls in the vaults of heart and brain.

Ibsen tells us the monsters of our age are not animals or ‘others’ but our own inner demons.

Where Jung differs from others is the belief some monsters can’t be destroyed. For better or worse, they are there. They need to be put in their place, perhaps ‘declawed’, but they can’t be exorcised.

“Slaying the Monster” makes a good story, but “Living with the Monster” may be more apt for a full and undisturbed life.  What to ‘slay’ and what to live with is the great challenge. In the fantasy book “Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” the Hero is implored to slay the Villian when the chance arises. He won’t, saying “I can’t do that. Every time you try to kill him he only comes back stronger.”

Another illustration of this is the Story of St. Gallus and the Bear. There are a few versions; here is the one I know:

St. Gallus went to Switzerland to preach and convert the people. He needed shelter so he found a cave. He discovers to his horror a large bear lived in the back of the cave.  The bear will not leave; St. Gallus can not fight it. So he makes a bargain with the bear. Gallus will provide food and fire and in return the bear will gather firewood and allow Gallus to live in the cave.

Our psyches are like this. We need to come to terms with The Monster rather than trying to slay it.

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September 2010

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