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Ida Pettersson in her artwork "Rosalie". 2003

The story about the Vegetable Lamb made me recall one of the most unusual and wittiest tales I’ve ever read; as a child, I came across it in the book Latvian Folk Myths and Fables. It’s the story of a hungry man who, out of anger at his famine, threw his stomach into the bushes and left it there. The stomach just lay there sadly because there were no leaves left on the bushes—it had chewed them all up. But it couldn’t get away, since it was just a stomach, without arms or legs.

I can’t remember how this fable ends, but it reminded me of the incredibly creative imagination with which cultures have always been blessed. But what, to your mind, is a myth? Is it an attempt to explain the inexplicable? Or perhaps an attempt in oral culture to surprise and engage the listener as much as possible?

Some myths are definitely an attempt to explain what isn’t clear, to make it more accessible. Today we are accustomed to a scientific prism in which there are facts, the clear truth. Long ago, our view of things was perhaps more free. The boundaries of truth were more pliable. You could believe, or you could choose not to believe. The world was much more magical.

Have you been interested in colorful myths since childhood, or is this a new interest?

There was a period when I was interested in tales with a sad ending. For example, the Vegetable Lamb eats grass and then at one moment dies, because it has a short life cycle. The Squonk is a beast so ugly that it constantly cries over its ugliness. Sometimes it transforms into a big puddle of tears. Then there’s the story of the whale, or some other enormous sea creature, whose back looks like an island; seamen disembark on it, but then perish when the whale dives back down into the sea. [Ida has draw each of these creatures, including an ant with a lion’s head, and included them in her exhibition. –A. I.] I worked on the exhibit for about three years. At the time I lived in London and went to the London Natural History Museum, to libraries, and studied information available on the internet.