Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 135

The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth

by Isabel Greenberg
Genre notes: storytelling, mythos, fable, romance
176 pages
ISBN: 0316225819 (Amazon)

Greenberg's earlier book set in her world of Early Earth (that is, our earth before human beings existed that was populated by human-like creatures that are basically indistinguishable from humans) is even more about Story and its uses than The 100 Nights Of Hero was.

Story has long been the primary way in which a society teaches itself about itself, in which it teaches its members how it's all supposed to work. In the old days, you would have the mythos a culture creates to explain its place in the world, what is valuable, and how its members ought to live. Things like Aesop's fables or the Gilgamesh Epic or the Hebrew Scriptures. In today's age, you have... well, the same thing. Our stories in movies, films, comics, music, etc all are there to inform us of our place in the world and how we are to then live. (Only it gets a little confusing because we have more stories hitting us from varying cultural representatives and those stories are far more likely to conflict than when they just came from one shaman who learned the story from the last shaman.) All of our stories are programming in some sense. It's their nature.

Isabel Greenberg gets at both of these ideas in her story The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth. She features very primitive societies, certainly, with nearly monovocal storytelling sources, BUT she gives us a main character who is a traveling storyteller. He travels for a very particular reason (he was split into three parts but when reassembled, he felt he was missing an undisclosed fourth part and has to go looking for it), and along his way he tells stories and listens to stories. Many of these stories feature the same characters, gods, and demigods as his own stories, but the lessons emphasize different values and the characters of the gods modualte from place to place according often enough to need.

So we see the value of Story, how it touches the heart and stirs the soul, how it bends the world to its goals. But we also see how the world bends story as well. It's a fascinating dynamic and it's nearly as if Greenberg is telling us: cherish stories for their beauty and power but be wary of stories for their beauty and power. And so her own work stands as its own pedagogy.

I've included the first five pages of the book because I think its a great little love story.

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