If you want to know what a society fears, read their stories. Not just fairy tales, not just the warnings we pass on to our children. All stories reflect some level of fear. Don’t believe me? Read zombie stories through the ages. What causes zombies? Communist pod people? Martians? Nuclear war? Viral terrorism? GMO’s? Cancer curing drugs gone wrong? The cause changes with the time as do the zombie-symptoms. Zombies themselves aren’t zombies, they’re symbols of some unknown fear that can change the people around us and will change us if we’re not lucky. Why and how are the relevant details.
Archetype myths like Cassandra or her opposite, the boy who cried wolf, are like that. They appear over and over and over again in story after story as veritable harbingers. Warnings. Why? What about these two tales has captured our collective unease?
Losing our voice.
Cassandra was beautiful, spirited, and a princess to boot. Even ignoring the fact that she was clairvoyant and literally never wrong, if any woman in her time should have had a voice, it was her. She had wealth, power, beauty, intelligence. She was confident enough to spit in a gods face when he propositioned her. She represents everything everyone strives to have, and yet she was still ignored, powerless because she was stripped of her voice. She represents that niggling little fear in the back of our mind that we should have listened. She represents that outright terror that keeps us awake at night that no one will listen. The fact that she’s a woman and she lost her voice after saying no to a man in position of power adds this whole other layer to her myth, especially when you compare her to her opposite, the boy who cried wolf.
The boy who cried wolf was a shepherd and a child hardly a prince. This is not an archetype of a powerful figure brought down to his knees, but a bored child crying out for attention. His every warning isn’t ignored. He’s responded to instantly and on multiple occasions. He didn’t lose his voice despite being right, he lost it for being wrong. He was wrong, and then he was wrong, and then he was wrong again, then too late he was right, but no one listened. He represents the same fear that worries away in our minds. We should have listened. What if they won’t listen because i’m not good enough, smart enough, or I didn’t do everything right?
They’re two sides of the same coin. The fear we didn’t listen when everything said we should have and the fear we didn’t listen when everything said we shouldn’t have. The fear that despite being the absolute best, being silenced and the fear that we’re not good enough to be heard. It’s no wonder their stories have been with us for so long.
There’s nothing more frightening than not being heard.