Floating on Myths and Legends

A review of Marie Bilodeau’s The Kevlar Canoe in Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories (Tyche Books Ltd, 2013).

By Derek Newman-Stille

Marie Bilodeau re-visits Quebecois mythology in her story The Kevlar Canoe, reinventing legend and tying it to a modern legend, a myth for modernity: the superhero story. Taking the story of La Chasse-galerie, often translated into English as The Flying Canoe, Bilodeau inserts modernity into the tale, transforming the canoe into one made of Kevlar and lined with Tasers and other weapons attached by Velcro to its surface.

In the Quebecois legend, La Chasse-galerie is maneuvered by a voyager who has made a pact with the devil to gain the ability to fly a canoe through the skies like a leader of the Wild Hunt. But, Bilodeau’s modern Voyager searches for demons, protecting the world from their intrusion and policing the thin veils between the worlds. Like a fisherman of the sky, he feels the flow of the clouds and air currents around him to sense the presence of demons causing trembles in the surface of the world.

Playing with the religious character of the original story, Bilodeau inverts some of the assumptions. Church bells, normally symbolic of warding off evil presences, here are extensions of demonic power; their openings gaping mouths capable of biting the unwary, their chimes rupturing the world, and their influence controlling nuns, their passive servants. Rather than resurrecting a myth that reifies religious assumptions about the world, Bilodeau inverts them, reminding the reader that part of loving myths is questioning them and that myths should be speculations about the world rather than black and white presumed “Truths”.

The Voyager in Bilodeau’s story, like the tale of La Chasse-galerie, is one of the few of his kind, one of only a few voyagers remaining on scarce canoes, which were getting slower and older with time. But, far from being worn out, Bilodeau gives new life to this tale, illustrating that we can always find new meanings in our stories.

Bilodeau reminds the reader that our stories are still haunted by our mythic past, by the stories that pre-date us, but still continue to shape us and our understanding of the world. She shares the secret with her readers that myths are made to be changed, re-told, re-shaped to reveal new understandings, to adapt to the world’s questions and concerns by shifting with social currents.

You can discover more about the work of Marie Bilodeau at http://mariebilodeau.blogspot.ca/

Visit Tyche Press to find out more about Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories at http://tychebooks.com/books/masked-mosaic/ .

Derek Newman-Stille

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