Thursday, November 09, 2006

The underworld stories

Descent to the Underworld: Networked Creative Collaboration

Nora Barry March 2, 2006
I chose the Descent story as the project backbone, because the story of a journey to the underworld appears in every culture, as does a story of creation. In the underworld stories, a lover or child dies, or is kidnapped by a ruler of the underworld. The bereaved person then goes in search of the loved one, wandering the world until he or she finds the entrance to the underworld, gets past the guardian and confronts/overcome the underworld king. Frequently there is one final challenge on the ascent, which many do not pass. The underworld stories most familiar to Western Culture are “Demeter and Persephone” and “Orpheus and Eurydice”. Other versions include the Nordic “Baldur”, the Egyptian “Isis”, the Indian “Savitri” and the American Indian, “Blue Jay”.

All of the students and faculty were sent copies of the different tales, and asked to work with their partner school in developing their own interpretation of the story. For the game itself, we chose the “Orpheus” motif, though we did not disclose that to the students. Ironically, they all chose the “Orpheus” storyline, right down to the gender roles (in the game we designed an option to rescue a man or a woman). While most of them had probably not seen Cocteau’s movie version, “Orphee”, it could be that this was the narrative most familiar to all of them, because it the Underworld narrative motif is found in a number of video games. Or maybe Jung was more right than we know.

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