Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Modernizing Myths for Writing Practice

The Greek myth of Pygmalion and Galatea is one of my favorite myths to have students modernize and continue. In the story, Pygmalion, a king and a sculptor, can find no woman he loves as much as the beautiful statue he carved and named "Galatea." He prays to the goddess of love, Aphrodite, for a miracle: the animation of his statue into a real woman to love. His love, of course, is based entirely on external beauty, a point not lost on even my youngest students when I ask, "Can he really be in love with a statue?" to which some have replied, "Not really. He doesn't even know if she's a good person, only that she LOOKS good." At that point, I ask what might have happened after the story, the part not mentioned in the "they lived happily ever after" conclusion. And students from age nine to fifteen have written a variety of fascinating creative endings to show his disillusionment upon discovering that his "love" is either 1) mean and cold inside; 2) dumb as the stone from which she was carved; 3) jealous of his other sculptures and anyone else he might look at with admiration; 4) bent on destroying him and all other men who worship beauty without knowing a person's inner self; 5) stuck in infancy because she never matured normally, just came to life as an adult; or 5) completely uninterested in him.

Nine-year-old A.C. wrote the following new ending that I've decided to feature here. I hope you find it as charming and impressive as I do. I asked her to include a simile that fit thematically into the story, and to include description, action, and dialogue (as I always request). I also asked that she write in the myth-telling style of the original story, which I'd read with her.

What Happened to Galatea After Coming to Life?
by A.C., age 9 (UNEDITED)

          They had been living happily together for the last hour, when he noticed her smile fade away and a face of evilness appeared.
          "I have come in my true form," she said in a musical voice, "and now you shall be king no longer!" She cackled, rubbing her hands together simultaneously. Pygmalion stepped back with fright. Now in his eyes her beauty faded away and she was nothing but an ugly old witch. He ran as fast as a horse pulling a chariot in order to escape. Then he stopped at a dead end. He closed his eyes and prayed to Goddess Aphrodite, wishing Galatea would return to her stone form.

          Immediately, a light came from Galatea's eyes and then there was silence and everything went still. There, standing in front of him was a stone figure of Galatea. He rushed to the temple and thanked Aphrodite (afro-die-tee) for showing him that outer beauty doesn't matter. The next day he met a woman who had ragged clothes and seemed too thin, but as she spoke, she showed she was worth loving and she had inner beauty. After years of true love, they got married and had a beautiful daughter named Galatea.