Years ago, I bought this rug from a friend who'd traveled to India. This carpet was handmade in Nepal, if I remember correctly. The phoenix captured me then and never let go, with it's body the color of fire, so vibrant, so full of energy.
My fascination preceded Harry Potter meeting Fawkes or Neil Gaiman's "Sunbird" (Fragile Things), in which an eccentric group of gourmands discover the eternal bird.
The myth of the phoenix, rising from its own ashes, shows up since the dawn of civilization and across cultures. It was said the sun god Helios would stop his chariot to listen to the young bird sing. Tales are found in Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia, Lebanon, China and more.
Early Christians modified the mythical bird into a story of resurrection. In the National Portrait Gallery in London is a painting of Elizabeth I with a medallion featuring a phoenix rising. It is conjectured that she wore it to symbolize her road to power. You might recall she had a few difficulties left behind by her father Henry VIII and her half-sister Mary.
I've come up with a few modern phoenix stories (Rowling and Gaiman above). Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Eudora Welty wrote a hardscrabble tale of the regeneration of blacks after slavery in "A Worn Path," which features a protagonist named Phoenix on a recurring journey. Even her apparel is transformative--an apron of bleached sugar sacks and a cane made of an old umbrella.
The British sci-fi show Doctor Who has Time Lords who get transformed over and over. And I can't help but think of the powerful autobiographical work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, in which a horrific childhood is turned into a bright future--much of it beginning with the knowledge and wonder found in books.
So what is it that makes a story, such as the myth of the phoenix, immortal? What plucks such a universal chord? Do you have any thoughts on this or would you like to mention some book you read or wrote that mirrors a phoenix tale? As always, I'd love to hear what you have to say.