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The Ritual of Bedtime Stories.

The ritual of bedtime stories, whisper by whisper, year after year, transforms your child.
And it transforms you, the parent.

Ever since bedside stories began, nights are  different.
As the parent, you have become a gleaner of tongue twisters, rhymes, jokes, lullabies, riddles, tales of fear and mystery, of love and horror, stories guided by the whims of fate or fantasy

Two magic words open the windows of the imagination and open the room where ideas are born:
"What if..."

That's where fictions are born, taking a path divergent from stubborn reality.
"What if." And if the wonderful thing happened every day. And if common questions needed strange answers. What if some of our certainties were just inherited conventions.

At the end of the 19th century, the writer and philologist Samuel Butler launched an unprecedented hypothesis: what if the Odyssey came from the pen of a young Sicilian woman and Butler published a book  defending this scandalous thesis

His first suspicion came when he translated the episode of Circe, the sorceress. Without Circe’s assistance, it is doubtful whether Odysseus would have survived his treacherous journey at all.

When his ship sails, Circe sends a favorable wind that swells his sails. Thus was born a feminine archetype that united wisdom, eroticism, power and independence in an unusual way..

She met with other adventurers who she was less willing to help. She was a mother and a jealous woman in love.

Homer remains a ghost today, a name without a biography in the mists of the past. However, we do know that he invented the literary self when he signed, for the first time, a text with his own name.

More than 4,000 years ago, in present-day Iraq, Enheduanna, daughter of King Sargon, poet and priestess, wrote a set of hymns that she proudly initialed on clay tablets. She said, "What I've done, no one has done before." Her poetry bequeathed us a beautiful metaphor of creation as an erotic and, at the same time, maternal experience, but her name continues in silence.

In this "what if" yet to be told, two great pioneers will have illuminated with their voices the birth of written literature.

This is an edited and translated version of an article by Irene Vallejo which appeared in El Pais Semanal on October 28th 2023. Here is the link:

The Economist said that: “Irene Vallejo has a writer's passion for books and a classicist's fascination with the way they came to be. She is also imaginative, lively and contemporary. In her hands written texts are not only a sensual pleasure, but living and frequently disruptive.

The image of Circe is by the German painter, Franz von Stuck .


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