VII. Myth in Mary Poppins
VII.Myth in Mary Poppins
[Mary Poppins], had she lived in another age, in the old times to which she certainly belongs, would undoubtedly have had long golden tresses, a wreath of flowers in one hand, and perhaps a spear in the other. Her eyes would have been like the sea, her nose comely, and on her feet winged sandals… (George Russell qtd. in Travers’s speech “Only Connect” (publ. 1967))
As George Russell, intellectual “colossus” and Irish poet, (cf. Ch. 5) observed, the character of Mary Poppins and the adventures the children experience are to a large extent informed by mythology. That is to say, while Travers’s use of fairy tale structure and themes is predominantly overt and more or less confined to distinct spaces (as demonstrated in chapter 6), her use of myth is more subtle and, at the same time, much more pervasive as she draws on Greek and Roman mythology, mythical archetypes and motifs.
The reason for that, as Valerie Lawson explains in her extensive biography on P.L. Travers, is the author’s obsession with myth and the esoteric–an obsession which both led her to and made her susceptible to the theosophical thought of Blavatsky and Gurdjieff’s teachings as a means to make sense of the universe. Travers was taught her first lessons in myth in Allora, Australia, by one of her father’s odd-job men; he gave her lessons about the stars and the constellations, turning heaven into a “celestial suburb (…) inhabited...
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