Become lost in classic myths and legends told by Master Storyteller Odds Bodkin. Pre-teens to adults will enjoy The Odyssey, Beowulf (NEW), Hercules, Sir Percival, Viking Myths, The Iliad: Book I (video) and David and Goliath, all told with unforgettable characters and music. Find out more here!
Thanatos was the ancient Greek god of death. He seldom made an appearance in person. If you think about it, that makes sense. He only shows up when there’s no time left to tell a story about him.
As the son of Night and Darkness, his siblings were Old Age, Deception, Blame, Suffering, Doom, Strife, Retribution and Atropos, a goddess of death herself. She’s the root of our modern word “atrophy.”
As you can sense by his mythical brothers and sisters (the Greek gods were personifications of various human conditions) Thanatos normally has to do with death in old age. Old people die when their times come. That’s the way of nature.
But a new Digital Thanatos Ethic has appeared among teens. Witness the young Massachusetts girl who was just convicted of urging her depressed boyfriend to kill himself in his monoxide-filled truck. Witness the tens of thousands of other young girls who are cutting themselves, along with the millions of boys who worship all-powerful killer monsters they inhabit inside avatars, living a false heroism that has nothing to do with the real world around them.
“The other day I put up a self-harm picture,” she says. “I was alone and in a dark place. […] Of course, nobody would help, but posting it boosted my confidence a little; finding it buried in amongst all the other self-harm posts reminded me I’m not alone.” Full article in The Guardian.
Sites like these where depressed teens commiserate and urge each other to suicide and self-harm are appearing on the web like poisonous mushrooms. Depression blogs. Teen suicides on Facebook Live. Anorexia-promotion sites. This is a new species of digital connection so unnatural, so profoundly unhealthy, that parents and policymakers should take notice and shut these sites down, or at least get their kids away from them. And from cynical, exploitative TV shows that explore and justify them.
As for First Amendment considerations, media like this is the slow-moving equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Loneliness is one thing. But lonely kids who never meet each other in person gathering together online to compare ways to hurt themselves?
Even in an utterly secular world, that’s just not right. It’s a digital disease.
It’s the daily drive. The kids are in the back. You’re hopeful that the video games they’re playing won’t stunt their intelligence or habituate them to adrenaline rushes as they destroy imaginary enemies. Maybe you’re worried that such casual violence will become normal to them. That as teens, they’ll end up depressed.
“We are a very plugged-in family and never far from electronics and screens. I credit our car rides filled with stories from you for a large reason why my kids never turned on their walkmans/ipods/laptops in the car.”
Plus, frustratingly, the kids are alone in their secret game worlds, and there’s no way to talk about it because you’re stuck in the driver’s seat.
“Unlike most music, the stories you tell invite conversation, discussion, and analysis so as we drove from school to sports to drama to dinner to dance and finally home, we listened and, more importantly, we talked.”
What do old folktales, fairy tales and myths have to do with modern kids’ lives?
“Given the wide range of stories you tell, we could always find connections between what was going on in our lives with some character or situation in one of your stories. Sometimes when a kid was wrestling with something, they’d pick a story they wanted to hear, stop the story somewhere, then talk about what was bothering them.”
Thanks to Valorie Gamer Osterman, a mom from Seattle, for her recent comments.
DISNEY IS GREAT, BUT WHERE’S THE IMAGINATION? (EXCEPT, OF COURSE, AT DISNEY)
ODDS BODKIN STORIES WITH CHARACTERS, SOUNDS AND MUSIC INVITE FAMILIES TO IMAGINE TOGETHER.
Little Proto’s T-Rex Adventure Listening Sample:
GET ALL THE AWARD-WINNING AUDIOS BELOW FOR ONLY $99.
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ADVENTURES FOR YOUNG CHILDREN
The Evergreens: Gentle Tales of Nature (3 & up)
The Teacup Fairy Collection (Very Old Tales for Very Young Children)
The Little Proto Trilogy (3 exciting dinosaur adventures with songs!)
Funny Folktales from Everywhere Collection
The Wise Girl Collection (stories for strong, smart girls)
Paul Bunyan Tall Tales Collection (hilarious American folklore)
The Winter Cherries Holiday Tales Collection (family Holidays favorites)
The Blossom Tree Collection: Tales from the Far East
AUDIO ADVENTURES FOR OLDER KIDS, TEENS AND ADULTS
David and Goliath: The Harper and the King (the great Bible story)
The Odyssey: An Epic Telling (4 hours!)
Giant’s Cauldron: Viking Myths of Adventure Collection
The Myth of Hercules (teens)
The Hidden Grail: Sir Percival and the Fisher King (a knights in armor adventure for teens)
Stories of Love Collection (teens and adults)
From a recent Susanna Schrobsdorff Time article, Teen Depression and Anxiety: Why the Kids Are Not Alright:
“If you wanted to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, we’ve done it,” says Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery. Sure, parental micromanaging can be a factor, as can school stress, but Whitlock doesn’t think those things are the main drivers of this epidemic. “It’s that they’re in a cauldron of stimulus they can’t get away from, or don’t want to get away from, or don’t know how to get away from,” she says.
In my life I meet families all the time whose kids have grown up with my audio stories. At some point the parents found them in this wild, busy world and exposed their children to them during their formative years. For instance, I just met Stephanie from Pennsylvania, a great mom who invited me to perform there a couple of weeks ago. Afterwards she wrote me a kind letter, part of which said,
“I am proud that in our modern age, your stories played a large role in my children’s lives for several years. I can’t remember if I told you that for years we imitated the saluting bedbugs, or that we created an elaborate drip-sand castle and forest at the beach for the lovely Bargaglina after listening to The Little Shepherd on the way to Cape May Point. And of course you know about the Odyssey on the way to the Bay of Fundy. Your stories were such a gift to my kids’ development!”
So maybe part of the cure for kids going off the rails is mythic storytelling. Old tales, filled with the struggles of men and women who are long gone but whose stories tell us that yes, life is rugged and has its dark times, but heroes are people who overcome those obstacles because they never give up. People who are driven by love or honor or just the deep motivation to survive.
And that’s just the story part. The other healthful factor is imagination itself, the natural sort our minds are capable of. When we imagine, endorphins are released into the bloodstream, much like a runner’s high. The cerebral cortex lights up like a fire, drawing on memories and feelings from deep inside, rather than stimulus from that social media cauldron beyond ourselves. It’s a creative act, and quite refreshing. Imagination in childhood becomes creativity in adulthood, and we live in times when creativity and adaptability are premium skills. If there’s one thing young people can count on in their futures these days, it’s rapid change. Unpredictable change.
For younger kids, fairytales operate in the same beneficial way. The Little Shepherd is one I just performed for three hundred K-2 public school kids last week. For twenty-five minutes they sat, still and quiet, for this longest story in the show, all of them lost in fantasy. What’s the value of that? Well, as Bruno Bettelheim wrote in The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairytales, “While the fantasy is unreal, the good feelings it gives us about ourselves and our future are real, and these good feelings are what we need to sustain us.”
The highest hilltop in Greenwich, Connecticut is the location of Sacred Heart, a fine school for girls. On the sunny day I was there last week, Long Island Sound was visible in the distance. In the school’s big empty auditorium, as I warmed up my 12-string guitar to perform The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast, the doors were open. The PA was blasting and the music was lyrical, and as I played onstage I noticed girls peering in from the hall to listen. It takes me a half hour of playing to ready my hands for the seventy-minute story, and whoever’s in earshot gets to listen. They smiled and waved and I waved back. Sacred Heart School enrolls elementary through high school girls, and I’d been told by Megan, the English teacher who’d brought me in, who I’d not met before, to expect 5th and 9th graders. 5th was studying Greek mythology. 9th was reading The Odyssey.
So to give them something to listen to as they filed in, I decided to play them an overture. It’s a free-flowing exploration of my story’s musical leitmotifs. The 5th and 9th graders sat, but then other grades began to arrive. 4th graders, I found out later during the Q&A, 7th graders, and others. The auditorium kept filling up, which was fine with me, of course. I think it was the music’s Siren Song that wooed them in. That and a very civilized faculty willing to let them go, I suspect.
Afterwards I drove home on the Merritt Parkway in rush hour traffic and arrived back in New Hampshire five hours later, somewhat bedraggled and too tired to wonder how the show went. The next morning I received this email. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if things go well. That afternoon, I think things did.
This morning all of the students arrived to school absolutely gushing about yesterday’s performance. In my classes this morning, all the girls wanted to discuss the wonder of the performance. We were all absolutely captivated. It was a magical and transportive experience. Thank you so much for giving us such a gift. We hope you will be able to visit us again.
Megan gave me permission to share her letter. Reactions like this remind me of why I got into this business, and I’m still in it, enjoying every rarefied moment. It’s an aesthetic delight for me, and kids never forget this show. If you know anyone who’d like to invite me to tell The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast at any elementary, middle school, high school or university, send them to this link. Kids don’t forget it. Why? Because their Muse has been summoned. It shocks them, since often it’s the first time they discover they’ve got one.