Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mortimer to Mickey

This time of year tends to remind me that once sacred or serious myths over time morph into children’s tales or entertainments. Long ago, far away—meaning pre-Internet—I once saw an article neatly illustrating this phenomenon by showing how cartoon figures, originally adult and in-your-face, become ever cuter, cuddlier, and lovable. Mickey Mouse was originally Mortimer Mouse, but got renamed, evidently, no sooner baptized, and Mortimer became Mickey’s rival. Thus also All-Hallows-Even, the evening before All Saints’ Day, becomes the trick-n-treating of Halloween. The festival has independent Celtic and Christian roots. In the former it is a festival strongly linked to spirits—and the carved turnip with a candle inside, put in the window, was intended to ward off the evil invisibles. In  the Christian the evening ahead of All Saints’ Day was a vigil. The day itself, November 1, dates to the mid-thirteenth (and the greatest of) centuries.

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