SNOUT OF THE CAVE BEAR

In Joseph Campbell’s The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, he recounts how deep in a European cave, a strange ritual display was discovered. It had lain untouched for thirty thousand years. A Cave Bear’s skull with femurs jutting from the eye sockets, stood on a stone table. The scene resembled a shrine. Archeologists and anthropologists believe it reflects an ancient religion, a Cult of the Cave Bear.

Which makes sense, considering that in order to set up shop in an Ice Age cave, Neandertals often had to deal with a resident bear. Either drive it out, or kill it. When they reared up, Cave Bears stood eleven feet tall. Big ones weighed 2,200 pounds. In the Chauvet cave in southern France, 190 such skulls have been found, many placed on those flat stone tables by ancient hands.

So I was excited to read that a fully preserved Pleistocene Cave Bear, complete with fur and flesh, teeth and lips, was just discovered by Siberian deer herders. Its snout and head juts from the melting permafrost.

To be so well preserved, its death must have been sudden. Perhaps a flood of silt-laden water that completely buried it all at once, and then a weather change that froze it solid.

It’s a fantastic find for biologists. Even its internal organs are intact. The only downside is why it was revealed. The permafrost is melting so fast, its head didn’t even have a chance to decompose.

GRIEF COUNSELING AND GREEK MYTHS

“I’ve been working with using myths in grief counseling,” she said, “and I was wondering if you know of any Greek myths that might help.”

She was young, seated next to her husband or perhaps boyfriend on a couch in their home. I didn’t know her. She could be anywhere on Earth. I’d just finished telling FALL OF THE TITANS, and she was one of the folks who’d bought a Zoom ticket. This was the Q&A, done live, a new feature.

I scrambled around in my mind and recalled facts from Greek mythology I’d used to explain how the ancient Greeks viewed death. The greatest of warriors went to the Elysian Fields while demigods like Hercules went to Mount Olympus, but these cases were exceedingly rare.

“The Greeks didn’t really have a Hell,” I began. “You know, a place of punishment if you’d been bad in life. Or a heaven, for that matter. Most everybody, kings, queens, all the way down to goatherds–good or bad–went to the Underworld at death. Here, they simply became “shades”, ghosts who remembered their lives but who lost their voices.”

Then I flashed on a scene from THE ODYSSEY, where Odysseus, visiting the Land of the Dead at Circe’s direction, tells his men to slaughter a lamb and fill a hole in the ground with its blood. From the mists emerge shades of famous people he’s known, and he speaks with his dead friend Achilles, but then to Odysseus’s shock and dismay, his mother, Anticlea, whom he did not know was dead, emerges and drinks the lamb’s blood. What she tells him breaks his heart.

It’s almost like a séance.

I didn’t go into all that, but instead flashed on a story from HERCULES I did share with the young woman, where Queen Alcestis, a woman Hercules would have married if she’d not already been married, had taken her own life so that her husband Admetus could live on. Hercules storms down to the Underworld and frightens Hades so badly he lets Alcestis return to life.

“Oh,” I added, “you also might look into how Orpheus harped his way in and out of the Underworld.” It didn’t end well for Orpheus, but he did prove the power of music and love, along with the importance of following directions.

What do I think in these pestilential times? These tales are ancient and universal. Maybe it’s possible to find solace in them. I don’t know. I hope so.

GAIA’S MONSTERS: Mythological Background for Odds Bodkin’s ZOOM Performance this Sunday at 7pm/FALL OF THE TITANS

Up until this point in FALL OF THE TITANS, Gaia the Earth has brought forth perfect human-like children with Ouranos, her husband, Titan of the Sky. She’s given birth to twelve Titan babies in all, each soon in charge of creating an ecosystem.

But this new infant is different. This newborn is a Cyclops, already gigantic as babies go. Even Titan babies.

“I love all my children equally, Ouranos,” Gaia says to horrified Ouranos as she cuddles the one-eyed infant. “And not everything I make is perfect.” She gently pokes the baby’s chest. “Hello, little Arges.” The infant glares at her and then screams like a thousand stabbed goats, even though he’s just been nursed. His Cyclops tummy is full, but still he makes this unnerving sound. It certainly unnerves Ouranos. He has no idea what this means, but it does not bode well.

In a nutshell, here is Gaia, the Earth Mother, the first being of all beings in Greek mythology, or as Ouranos calls her, “Queen of Us All.” Just as with our modern earth, in this fanciful mythological tale, life pours forth from Gaia all across her surface.

Her job is to make life, and in FALL OF THE TITANS, she does so, at times to a fault. She cannot control her fecundity, and she doesn’t really want to because it’s just too important to keep on creating. After all, one of her very first creations is Eros, the attraction between things, which binds the Universe together, and she’s still just as endlessly driven by the lust and love Eros brings as anybody else.

The only difference is, Gaia can create any living thing she likes.

Of any size.

In any form.

She can do it all by herself if she wants to. Ouranos secretly hopes that’s what she just did to create this baby Cyclops.

Maybe he’s not the father, Ouranos thinks. It would be nice if that were true. Maybe she used parthenogenesis, and created this little beast the same way she created Ouranos himself, long ago, from the flesh of her flesh.

He has no idea of the monsters to come.


FALL OF THE TITANS

An Odds Bodkin Virtual Storytelling Event

Sponsored by Grendel’s Den on Harvard Square

Sunday, July 19th at 7 pm EST on ZOOM

TICKETS: $15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“DAD, I FIGURED OUT WHY IT TRANSLATES”

I’ve been a full-time professional storyteller since 1982, and in all those years and across all the recordings I’ve made, I only sell one video. It’s of The Iliad: Book I performed live before a high school audience. All the rest are audios, because, well, my business is to urge people to imagine. I use words and music to do it.

When I turn on a screen, however, I don’t want to imagine. I want that to be done for me ahead of time by actors, directors and composers, with scene changes. I want to watch what they’ve imagined, not some talking head. Usually I’m live on a stage a few feet away from a front row of listeners; the audience stretches out behind them, as far as the PA system can send the sound. They listen and imagine. I never thought I’d give that up.

Enter the coronavirus.

No more live audiences, right?

Gavin Bodkin, my entrepreneur middle son who helps run the ultra-cool company called Circular Blu, now in his thirties, has graciously become my Zoom producer as well because—oh, I’ll just say it–he loves me a lot and wants to see me keep performing. I live in an old three-storey house and the attic is pretty big, big enough for an area of it now to have become my new “Zoom Studio.” I’ve done a few shows on full-screen over Zoom, but until the other day remained skeptical it could really work for people.

And so I was shocked when Gavin said, “Dad, I’ve figured out why your Zoom shows translate.”

“Do tell,” I said, wondering if he meant it.

“No, seriously. It’s your eyes.”

Unlike an actor with a fourth wall, as a storyteller I always make eye contact with my audience, an old habit. It builds the storytelling spell. Now, since there’s nobody to look at, I’ve been making eye contact with the camera lens, just a couple of feet away.

Gavin went on. “You’re close up and your eyes are locked onto the camera, even as you’re playing your instruments. I think that’s why it works.” While he’s producing, he watches all the people’s reactions at home. Kids dancing and smiling. Adults laughing, even clapping. I don’t get to see any of that because I’m busy with the art aspect, this photo of me being an ogre who’s holding an imaginary fairy notwithstanding.

“They’re all imagining, dad. I think this whole thing is going to work.”

My next show is coming up this Sunday, July 19th at 7 pm EST on Zoom. I’m working with Grendel’s Den in Cambridge MA. It’s early Greek mythology. FALL OF THE TITANS. Tickets are $15. Drop by and let me know afterwards if it translates. There will be a Q&A.

Oh, and no kids, please. It’s an adult show.

FALL IS COMING. WILL KIDS HAVE ARTS IN SCHOOL?

School systems across America are facing a back-to-school dilemma. Should students stay home for everyone’s safety or attend real classes this fall? And even if students return, are school assemblies where hundreds gather in a gym or auditorium for arts presentations a step too far?

If you are a parent, teacher or administrator, explore storyteller Odds Bodkin’s ZOOM assemblies. As a solo performer, his presentations are the same music-filled adventures as always, and with ZOOM, every seat is a front row seat. From his Rivertree Productions studio in New Hampshire, he comes to your students live on full screen. Each assembly is password protected and we administer the tech. All you need to do is log on, at school or at home. Live Q&As and follow-up workshops are available as well.

To learn more about elementary school ZOOM assemblies and Odds Bodkin author visits, click on the links or go to Show Requests.

SUNDAY JULY 19TH at 7 PM: Odds Bodkin’s FALL OF THE TITANS

From Odds Bodkin’s cave of magic comes a ZOOM performance that translates 100%: FALL OF THE TITANS.

Where did the Greek gods come from? Who were the Titans? Who was Gaia? Why did Cronus the Titan swallow his Olympian children? How did only Zeus survive?

Find out in a feature-length adult storytelling on Sunday, July 19th at 7 pm. Buy your ticket, get your ZOOM invitation and password, then sit back and watch elemental characters come to life. Greek lore explained with Celtic harp music, then a tale told with 12-string guitar.

Every seat is a front row seat.

A performance for adults. No young children please.

Sponsored by Grendel’s Den in Cambridge MA.

Tickets are $15.

I Didn’t Think a Zoom Show Would Work, But It Did

I couldn’t see them as I sang “Meow meow meow meow!’ with my guitar humming, but Gavin could. All I could see was the camera, but behind it, on the studio bench, he was smiling at his computer. “You should have seen them, dad,” he said after the show. “All those little kids, standing and clapping and singing. They loved it.” Gavin Bodkin, in his infinite kindness, helps me with these shows.

“So it works,” I said.

“Yeah, it works.”

This was a live Zoom K-3 concert for a Montessori school in Boston, just last week. All the kids were at home in front of their computers or TVs, and I was in my studio in New Hampshire.  Usually I perform for kids live, of course, in large groups, but haven’t lately, for obvious reasons. Lots of performers have been missing that live audience energy, and I’m one of them. Storytelling is meant to engage the imagination, and that’s tough through a screen.  Still, if these little kids were singing along in real time and laughing, apparently it worked for them.

And so we evolve.

Check out available shows here.

 

Being an Ugly Ogre for the Sake of Love

I came across this photo of me from a recent Facebook Live show and had to laugh. “Man, I can be ugly when I want to be,” I thought. “What story was this?”

Somebody out there captured a screen shot and posted it.

Just this morning I took another look at it. Ah ha, I realized, it’s the ogre from The Little Shepherd! The one who sings badly and who, near the story’s end, picks up Lovely Bargaglina and drops her into the well. You can’t see her in this photo, because she’s imaginary. Still, there she is, helpless in the ogre’s grip.

I’d never seen myself do this onscreen. Talk about ugly. Still, it’s all done to becharm little children for the sake of love. So why not?

 

 

 

Candles and Imagination

Long ago, when I began telling stories, I’d light a candelabrum at my feet. There in a darkened room the flames would dance across my face and kids loved it, until, of course, schools started to say, “No more, Mr. Bodkin. A kid might go up in flames. You dripped wax on our floor. Leave your portable campfire at home.” Even though I always cleaned up the wax, I stopped doing my candlelight shows.

I still recommend candelight, though, to people listening to my stories, especially the epics. Light a candle. Turn down the lights. Listen and dream.

Something about the flame quickens the mind’s eye.

For instance, Detroit Jewish News reviewed my telling of David and Goliath and said, “With nothing more than his guitar and voice, Odds Bodkin manages to paint a scene more captivating than much of what you see on the big screen.”

It won the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, the Storytelling World Award and the Dove Foundation Award. It’s an hour long.

Beowulf: The Only One just won the Storytelling World Award as well. It was recorded before a live adult audience in Cambridge, MA. It’s an hour and 20 minutes.

You can find lots of long-form stories like this at my download shop. Happy listening!

 

 

One Grandmother’s Quest to Send an Odyssey Recording to her Grandchildren

An email to Odds Bodkin’s Shop from this morning, April 24th:

Hope you can help me. I ordered The Odyssey Collection as a gift for my grandchildren but did not realize I had no way to send them the link and think somehow it is now in my email only. At this point I don’t remember my original password since I forwarded the email from you acknowledging my order to my daughter who could not download the stories because I did not have the password. When I went to password reset I was also unable to change the password.

So, if it is possible to send this gift to my daughter who can then set up whatever password she wants to use so these darling 9 and 10 year old grandchildren who are at the moment captivated by Homer can hear your wonderful music and voice, I would be grateful.

Please advise.
M*** C*** P*****

Odds Bodkin’s Shop replies:

Dear M***

If you can send us your daughter’s email address, we will send her a digital gift card
usable at our shop for $49.95. She can visit the shop, follow the directions and download
The Odyssey using her own email. She pays at checkout using the code on the
gift card.

We look forward to hearing back from you.

Thanks for your order, too, of course.

Best regards,

ODDS BODKIN CUSTOMER SERVICE

 

M*** C*** P***** replies:

You have given me a success in my Stay-At-Home week for which I am very appreciative. Thank you. Know this little family will be ever so happy listening together and hope they will continue to be Odds Bodkin fans for their lifetimes. The power of great literature well read and good music well played are a rare but winning combination.

My daughter, M*** C**** E********’s email address is *************@bellsouth.net

Hope you have a good day today and stay healthy.
M*** C*** P*****

 

GIFT CARD SENT. QUEST OVER.

Young Kids At Home: A 3-Hour Dinosaur Saga on Audio

Sit them down to listen on a good sound system. Odds Bodkin’s famous “sound effects bursts” begin each Little Proto audio adventure.

This isn’t “Once Upon a Time.”

This is roaring wind, made with the human voice. Crickets. Far off dino calls. Three-ton foot falls.

Building underneath, there’s 12-string guitar music.

Then a young dinosaur’s voice. “I’m listening for the hoots of Iguanodons…” Little Proto sings. You can listen here:

 

So begin all three ultra-kid-friendly Little Proto dinosaur adventure stories. Generations of parents have bought them for their children ages 3 and up.

And now, you can buy them for your kids, too!

No TV required.

3 hours and 20 minutes about a young dinosaur growing up. Good for falling asleep, too.

Download the Trilogy now for $24.95

Winner of Parents’ Choice Gold and Silver Awards.