When Toula’s children were young, and facing important life issues, the usual parental advice didn’t seem enough. “Young people don’t want lectures,” she observed, “they’re too busy asserting their independence and ability.” The counsellor in Toula sought how she could do things differently with her children. She reflected upon her past and experience.
Toula grew up with a father who was a “master at storytelling with songs and poetry.” She attended Katherine State High School in the Northern Territory and her mother was responsible for introducing traineeships to the Territory’s First Nation’s youth.
Whilst still in high school, Toula also worked as a domestic on Killarney cattle station with staff from different cultures and backgrounds. As an adult, Dr Gordillo has taught and counselled individuals in medical settings and schools, including International schools. It occurred to her that all cultures, in every age, have handed down important life lessons via stories and images.
“This has been a consistent activity since men and women began telling stories by drawing images on cave walls,” she says. “In most cases, they were fantastic allegories about life, the natural world, and our place in it. These stories and images are universal: they cut across age, time, gender and cultural group; in fact all social classes and divisions.”
Little has changed. Contemporary youth continue to love mythic stories, and the accompanying images that depict the classic ‘hero’s journey’. In fact, the more fantastic the stories and images, Toula has observed, the more young people seem to like them.
“To see how much youth still love the mythic/heroic genre,” she says, “one only has to look at the enduring popularity of mythology-based heroic books, video games and movies.” Toula cites examples such as: Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Riordan’s Percy Jackson, Pullman’s His Dark Materials and others.
“Old world charm has provided the inspiration for many of the most popular classic and contemporary tales. It has also, indirectly, helped generations of youth to charter their way through some of life’s challenges,” she explains. “It does this by allowing them to experiment with new ways of living in the real world, by exploring different personas in the world of fantasy. That is, within the relative safety of their own imaginations.”