Rewriting Myths: A Worthy and Challenging Writer’s Exploration

tumblr_m0sacwHAsz1r9xp88o1_500Tigers Above, Tigers Below

In a way, that old cliche that there are no new stories is true. The web of story vibrates with human nature, and the millions of stories we’ve told ourselves. The trick is to transform the story we’re telling so it’s fresh, so it sings! Here’s a great example, a poet who takes an ancient Buddhist story and makes it her own.

I’ll let Pema Chodron tell you the ancient story:

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”
From The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness by Pema Chödrön, page 25

Now see what poet Eliza Griswold did with it:

by Eliza Griswold

What are we now but voices
who promise each other a life
neither one can deliver
not for lack of wanting
but wanting won’t make it so.
We cling to a vine
at the cliff’s edge.
There are tigers above
and below. Let us love
one another and let go.

“Tigers” by Eliza Griswold from Wideawake Field. © Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

Pretty powerful, right? Inspiring! This week’s assignment is to choose a story and make it new, however you can in whatever genre you write.

If you’re interested in Writing Coaching or editing, contact me at  My new workbook, Storyweaving Playbook One: Answer the Call to Adventure, will be published in October 2015.


One thought on “Rewriting Myths: A Worthy and Challenging Writer’s Exploration

  1. love it! wonderful parable and beautiful poem, too. Magically, 😉 I am already doing this. Inspired by the short stories I took to the beach, I am weaving real dreams into tales. It’s a very interesting process.


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