A lecture hall.
An aged professor stands at the front of a class full of sleeping students. In the following way, the professor destroys what love of literature yet burns in the bosom of his poor students.
Professor: Next, let’s discuss The Goddess of Spring. The physical explanation of the myth is obvious. Just look outside the window. Wait… are there any windows in this building? I personally believe education should be a clinical affair; I prefer little or no sunlight and fresh air is anathema, but occasionally, merely as an object of curiosity, a window might be helpful.
The professor looks around the room at the walls as if for the first time.
Professor: Oh, well. We will have to press on without any windows in this room. So, speaking of fresh air, the Norse goddess Idun, the emblem of vegetation—and fresh air!—is forcibly carried away—
The professor pauses here to giggle to himself.
Professor: I’m so sorry, but I find that just delightful! This is one of my better lectures! So, Idun is carried away. Class, when is the spring goddess carried away? Anyone?
The professor pauses for a moment.
Professor: In the autumn. The Norse god of poetry, Bragi, is absent and the singing of the birds has ceased. Birds don’t sing in the autumn or in the winter. The cold wintry wind blows through the land. This wind is personified by Thiassi, the mighty frost giant. It is this frost giant who detains Idun in the frozen, barren north, where she cannot thrive. Why can’t she thrive? Anyone? Anyone?
The professor pauses again for a moment.
Professor: Well, it is just too cold. It is winter, remember? The winter is cold; and, the spring doesn’t like the winter. They don’t get along. They don’t play well together. Then, the Norse god Loki, who represents the south wind in this myth, brings back seeds. Or, according to other texts, he brings back swallows. It depends on which text you read; in one text he brings Idun seeds, but in another sex he brings back—
The professor pauses again for a moment; he has begun sweating suddenly; he pulls a handkerchief out of a pocket and wipes his forehead.
Professor: Text. Text. In another TEXT the south wings back. The south wind blows back—a flock of swallows. As one can imagine, both emblems are emblematic of returning spring. The youth, beauty, and strength conferred by Idun are symbolical of nature’s resurrection in springtime after winter, when color and vigor return to the earth, which had grown wrinkled and gray.
Student: Why is the earth wrinkled and gray?
Professor: It is winter.
Student: What is winter?
Professor: The earth spins on an axis and the axis wobbles so there are seasons; there are four seasons. They are called summer, spring, winter, and fall—although not necessarily in that order. During the winter, the earth is cold and barren; things that are usually green in summer will be wrinkled and gray in the winter.
Student: No, I mean, which god is personified as the winter in this story?
Professor: A frost giant, or Juton, by the name of Thiassi.
Student: Why does the story have a one-to-one correlation to real life?
Professor: Because the myth is founded upon directly observable events outside in the real world—outside a window if we could get our hands on one! Unfortunately, this room doesn’t have any windows!
Student: I have a question.
Professor: Two questions today! This lecture is going really well today!
Student: Don’t you mean allegory not myth?
Professor: Oh, no, it is a myth, an ancient myth.
Student: But the purpose of your lecture today—as far as I can tell—is to show us that the myth isn’t a myth at all but is an allegory.
Professor: Why do you say that?
Student: A myth is a culturally accepted history of a people, while an allegory is a moralizing tale with clear symbols representing abstract ideas. A historical story can be applied or not applied by the reader; the reader is free. An allegory leaves no freedom with the reader: the reader is told what to think.
Professor: And that’s what school is for! This university is teaching you what to think.
Student: If this were a myth, you wouldn’t explain it; rather, you would sing the poem like this:
The student jumps atop the desk and tears off his youthful disguise to reveal that he is in reality an old man with a long gray beard. He places a wide-brimmed hat upon his head, and wraps a faded blue cloak around his shoulders. From across the room—no one who saw the event was sure from where they came, but come they did, damn it—two ravens fly to the old man’s shoulders. Within the cloak the old man draws out an antique lute. The old man strums this lute some quick, festive, strums and begins to sing a song in an ancient language, which no one in the room understands—not even the professor—and the students wake up and look at one another in dismay.
One student writes three large black letters on a paper and holds it up so that his friend, who sits some distance away across an aisle, can read the letters: “WTF” say the letters. The two students both shake their heads and let their mouths hang open.
And still the old man sings. And still he plays the lute. Sometimes he closes his eyes as tears run down his cheeks. No one dares move until the old man finishes his song—least of all the professor who has a morbid fear of animals. The song ends. The old man jumps down from the table and walks to the door of the room. As he pushes open the door and disappears out of sight, one raven calls out one harsh croak, which echoes in the silent lecture hall.