Gold and Mineral Wealth

For this semester’s project in Collective Stories, I am going to tackle the topic of Gold, or more generally, mineral/material wealth. It struck me as a large and broad topic to dig deep into, from classical Greek Myths such as King Midas who could turn anything he touched into Gold, to Folk tales such as Rumpelstiltskin, a strange supernatural figure who could turn straw into gold. From these stories to the legends of Cities such as that of El Dorado, there’s no shortage of stories and tales featuring gold or a precious mineral of wealth.

What stood out to me in the museum was the fact that Gold had been displayed as jewelry and trinkets as opposed to anything really ‘practical’ as Gold is a soft metal, it’s uses as a tool or weapon is limited resorting it to aesthetic use only, with the predominant obsession with Gold and even Silver, is it’s value as wealth. It’s interesting to consider this viewpoint, especially through Human History and stories, we’ve been hardwired to revere Gold and other minerals as valuable not for any practical use, but because they are items that can be used as currency.

The stories involved generally have morals that reflect against obsession with gold or riches in general, especially reflected by the terrible fates usually inflicted on the people in the stories. Which has value today, greed as we all know is a flaw, especially if it’s something you don’t need. Now everyone wants to be well off, but what we see as being rich, having an excess of wealth, is usually seen as a point of corruption. However the point I wish to make is that a person with a huge vault full of gold and obviously well off, won’t give any of that gold to anyone, not to a poor person trying to feed them or their families. That’s the excess of wealth that is attributed to corruption, something very prevalent in today’s society.

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3 thoughts on “Gold and Mineral Wealth

  1. This is a really interesting topic. I think that this will be very relevant for modern audiences and you will be able to make a lot of meaning from the stories that you talk about above. At this point, I would start finding particular versions of stories that you want to work with that you can draw the most meaning from. This kind of project will be ripe for interesting annotations about the history and science of gold. I would use gold in particular as a symbol for material wealth more generally because this will help you focus in more on particular stories and the symbolism they contain. Good job and nice picture!

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  2. I like the clear tie between gold as a symbol and the personality-traits that it influences in different stories. I don’t know if this bit of trivia will be useful, but maybe you can tie it in: The Ancient Incas revered gold very highly, and called it ‘excrement of the gods.’
    I remember there being a short fairy tale about an impoverished woodcutter, who was basically rewarded for being honest and refusing gold. (Lost ax in a deep pond, the fairy of the pond asked if gold ax was his, then if the silver ax was his, and he only claimed his original iron one. As a reward for honesty, she gave him all three back. His greedy neighbor tried the same trick, but claimed the gold ax when she asked, and the fairy was so angry at his dishonesty that he lost everything.)
    The original story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves covers a similar problem. But with more death and destruction.

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  3. I like the fact that you recognized that gold is focused on jewels and such and not a lot of people think of gold as being practical. I’m interested to read about how you are going to portrayed gold in your story.

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