Riders To The Sea - Symbolism in Literature by Linda Munson

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"The Myth, like the Dream, offers a Story Occurring in space and time, a story which expresses, in symbolic language, religious and philosophical ideas, experiences of the soul in which the real significance of the experience lies."
 
The Forgotten Language by Erich Fromm, page 195

Many of the individual items mentioned in the play Riders to the Sea seem to be symbolic.
 
We might look to the Latin for amplification of the meaning of sticks and bundles found in the play.
 
This quote relates to a discussion of the meaning of the word fascism:
 
"The word comes from the Latin word “Fasces,” denoting a bundle of sticks tied together. The individual sticks represented citizens, and the bundle represented the state. The message of this metaphor was that it was the bundle that was significant, not the individual sticks. If it sounds un-American, it’s worth knowing that the Roman Fasces appear on the wall behind the Speaker’s podium in the chamber of the US House of Representatives."

Sticks were used in a ceremonial way in Norse funerals long ago. Their rhythmic beating might have produced a type of light hypnotic state.
 
"Hypnotic Strategies...The imagery approach uses analogies, symbols, and metaphors to separate the subject from his external environment. This approach is effective for use with those patients who resist the command approach...
 
The imagery approach is effective because it is difficult for a person to resist suggestions he does not know he is consciously receiving, that is, when the suggestion is disguised in symbolism that only the subconscious mind registers..." (Lung and Prowant, 91)

"The Power of Voice...The most important aspect of any hypnotic induction is the voice of the hypnotist.
The human voice alone can produce a hypnotic state because the preverbal 'lower' brain remains in awe of 'higher' brain's verbal ability." (Lung and Prowant, 91)

Mind Manipulation, Ancient and Modern Ninja Techniques, Dr. Haha Lung and Christopher Prowant, Citadel Press, Kensington Publishing Corp., New York, NY, 2002
 
 


Following are some quotes From Don Quixote that may have similar reference to symbols and language in the play Riders to The Sea.
Trees and Oak Trees in particular:

"They tell me there are big acorns in your village; send me a couple of dozen or so, and I shall value them... La Mancha! And as for the acorns, senor, I'll send her ladyship a peck...I read how a duchess sends to beg for a couple of dozen of acorns."
 
Rope around the neck in the guise of jewelry:

"It is all for thee, my child," said Teresa; "but let me wear it round my neck for a few days; for verily it seems to make my heart glad."
 
"Teresa in reply bade them come with her to her house and they would see the messenger, a most elegant youth, who had brought another present which was worth as much more. The curate took the coral beads from her neck and examined them again."
 
A bundle with clothes to be unwrapped:

"You will be glad too," said the page, "when you see the bundle there is in this portmanteau, for it is a suit of the finest cloth, that the governor only wore one day out hunting and now sends, all for Senora Sanchica."
In the manner of Maurya in her trance state:
 
"God help us," said the curate, "we don't understand you, Teresa, or know what you are talking about."
 

The Female Pope or Empress in the Tarot:

"See that rubbish, that garlic-stuffed fellow's daughter, how she goes stretched at her ease in a coach as if she was a she-pope!' But let them tramp through the mud..."
 
In the manner of the long rest of Samhain:

"When they say, 'Here, here!' to thee with something good, swallow it.' Oh no! Go to sleep, and don't answer the strokes of good fortune and the lucky chances that are knocking at the door of your house!"
 
In the manner of proverbs and symbolism:

"Hearing this, the curate said, 'I do believe that all this family of the Panzas are born with a sackful of proverbs in their insides, every one of them.'"

The Song of Roland was a poem of archetypes celebrating the defeat of Charles the Great by a local hero whose name in English would be Roland.
 
This poem was an example of an early type of French literature known as chansons de geste. The character types in these epic poems were stock characters.
 
In those days, news of battles was often put to rhyme and music to make it easier for the singers to remember the events in order. As is the case of most ballads that survive for hundreds of years, the themes are archetypical. The names and events changed a little, but the gist of the ballad contained the same archetypical themes and symbols that the populace inherently knew and embraced.

What was The Song of Roland?

tre·pan 2 [trih-pan] Show IPA , noun, verb, tre·panned, tre·pan·ning. Archaic. noun 1. a person who ensnares or entraps others. 2. a stratagem; a trap.

Many of the same archetypical symbols in the play Riders to The Sea and mythology related to the play, particularly in reference to Celtic and Norse mythology, are also found in The Song of Roland.  Here are a few examples:
 
VII:
"Ten snow-white mules then ordered Marsilie, / Gifts of a king..." (89) The white horse was a symbolic animal presented as a sacrifice.
 
XVII:
"Give me therefore the wand, also the glove ./ Answers the King: Old man of wisdom pruff; / By this white beard..." (248-249) The wand, as stick symbol, is now associated with magicians. It was used in the ritual White Horse Ceremony and rebirthing of the king. The white beard of age suggests a figure such as Merlin or Odin, both associated with magic.
 
XVIII:
"Answers the King: Be silent both on bench; / Your feet nor his..." (259-260) The feet are usually symbolic in every culture. They were found in superstition about the wind blowing over the feet of a corpse in Celtic legend.
 
XXI:
"There will I work a little trickery," (300) Odin is the most obvious symbol of trickery, but the archetype of the trickster or coyote is found in most cultures, sometimes as a comic figure, but sometimes venerated because of its cunning. At other times the trickster is a villain.
 
 
XXXIII:
"You must receive the holy Christian faith." (431) A theme of opposites, Christianity versus the old Religion, where there is no choice but to become Christian.
 
 
XLI:
The pagan says: "You make me marvel sore / At Charlemagne, who is so old and hoar;" (537-538) The old man with a white beard symbolizes the old ways as does Odin.
 
XLII:
Says Sarrazin: "My wonder yet is grand / At Charlemagne, who hoary is and blanched. / Two hundred years and more, I understand, / He has gone forth and conquered many a land," (550-553) These lines are not exact, but symbolic since he has not been in battle for two hundred years. The implication is that the tradition is old.
 
LIV:
 "They followed him, right to the sea they'll fare;" (685) In Riders to The Sea, the last brother rides his horse down to the sea where the ferries are docking at the shore.
 
"Brake from the North tempest and storm in the air; Then were they drowned, they will no more appear." (690) In Riders to The Sea, all of Maura's menfolk are drowned in the sea.
 
LVI:
"Charles sleeps on nor wakens from his dream." (724) The dream is a device in literature that allows for the supernatural to intrude into the real, providing an way for the spiritual or prophetic to enter into the story. In Riders to The Sea, Maurya seems to be in a dream or hypnotic state as she discusses the dead. She also speaks of the long rest in the nights of Samhain, a Celtic festival honoring the dead.
 
LVIII:
"Oger is here, of Denmark;" answers Guenes," (749)
The name is similar to the word ogre. The Danes may have been some of the ravaging forces on the coast of Ireland that Maurya is remembering in Riders to The Sea. To their victims, the Vikings were merciless monsters or ogres.

The Song of Roland Verses I - LXXXVII

Horses and Men in Rain by Carl Sandburg

Religious symbols:
 
Rope- symbolizes deliverance from bondage
Bee-
Cloth-
Eclipse-
Bone- symbol from the Exodus in Genesis
Wooden Beam

Religious Symbols