Amused and Bemused

Amused and Bemused

My friend Toni is a professional muse. She has a company called Windword Literary Services which helps writers and aspiring writers to turn ideas into words and words into books. Toni and I went to high school together (and yet she looks 23) and reconnected through Facebook a few years ago. This blog came about as a direct result of Toni trying to use her muse powers on me in order to get me to write a book, and me not wanting to. (Credit also goes to my friend Amy, who suggested a blog as an escape route.)

Recently, I wrote about a Star Trek story that has been rattling around in my head for the last 20 years. Sensing weakness on my part, she broke out one of the most fearsome tools in the musing arsenal: the double-dog dare. So far, I have been able to fend off this challenge, but it is only because I am able to draw inner strength from two truths:

1) I don’t want to write a book.
2) You can’t make me.

Still, as the target of concentrated muse energy (called “museum”), I found myself wondering about the origins of the double-dog dare. So I did a little research, and here’s what I came up with.

As most of you know, there were 9 Muses in Greek mythology, each with a certain domain of influence:

– Erato (love poetry)
– Thalia (comedy)
– Melpomene (tragedy)
– Calliope (circus music)
– Clio (advertising awards)
– Terpsichore (dance)
– Olivia (roller disco)
– Heidi (fashion design)
– the other one

One day the Muses were arguing about which one of them was the most powerful. (Disclaimer: Bickering about who was the most powerful/beautiful/wisest consumed about 80% of a Greek god’s or goddess’s day.) So it was decided that there would be a contest. Each muse would have to take an animal and teach it to perform some artistic endeavor, and whoever’s performance was best would be declared the greatest Muse.

After a number of rounds of competition and viewer results shows, the final two Muses remained: Terpsichore with her dancing malamute, and Calliope’s border collie rendition of “Jingle Bells”. The gods themselves contended in vain to determine a winner, until Eris, the Greek goddess of discord (who had bet a ton of ambrosia on Calliope) challenged the contestants to repeat each performance with another canine added into the mix.

Calliope added a toy poodle to her act, which allowed the two dogs to reach a larger vocal range.  However, Terpsichore’s second malamute had four left feet, and ended up chasing its own tail.  Calliope was declared the winner, Eris was up to her eyeballs in ambrosia, and the double-dog dare passed into legend.

(Note: Variations of this myth exist in many other cultures.  Norse legends make reference to Loki issuing a “double wolf dare” to half-brother Thor.  Tribes in Madagascar tell tales of the quadruple lemur challenge.  And Aztec stone tablets describe a ritual called the “single flying feathered snake-thing dare”, because, really, how many flying feathered snake-things should one Aztec have to go up against?)

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