A Soldier’s Journey – The Classic Monomyth
By Sabin Howard
Two years ago, I was faced with the task of: How can I tell a story that everyone will understand clearly? How can I tell a story that has universal meaning?
And in so doing create a WWI Monument honoring the men and women that went through this horrific moment in global history?
Sculptor Sabin Howard working the small-scale maquette for the new National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC.Well, now I'm on the other side of that in terms of the storytelling for the nine-inch sculpture maquette. What WWI looked like is told through a visual narrative called A Soldier’s Journey. It is a story of a soldier and father, who departs from home and family, traveling to the distant shores of Europe, experiencing the horrors of war, only to return home again, forever changed.
35 years ago, when I began learning the craft of making art, I was always taught to work from general to specific. And that lesson became my mantra as I proceeded in this incredibly complex design.
It took nine iterations over twelve months, with 12,000 pictures taken of re-enactors in my Bronx studio to create a story of transformation and change that would explain this war to the Memorial visitor. The strangest part of this process is that I was unaware as I assembled the scenes and drew out the final drawing that I was working in the template of what Joseph Campbell calls a ‘monomyth’. It has also been referred to as the hero's journey.
It is only recently that my wife, Traci Slatton, an internationally published author and a gifted storyteller, looked over at me at 6am one morning over breakfast and said, “You know that Soldier’s Journey that you are doing is right out of the template that has existed for ages in many different cultures of myth.”
Joe Weishaar, my designer partner, had said to me back in the fall of 2015, “Create a beginning, a middle, and an end." But I was completely unaware that what I was doing visually fit an age-old way of telling stories.
Traci continued and filled me in. “You ought to read up on this. Joseph Campbell refers to it as ‘mankind's one great story.’ This structure of narrative involves a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory (just to name a few, it is found in Native American culture, Greco-Roman culture, and Judeo-Christian culture.) The protagonist then comes home changed or transformed and wiser by his passage through this perilous task.” My wife has always been very instrumental in helping me find the right track for the story in my art. When you live with somebody that's gone to Yale and Columbia, there is bound to be an intellectual conversation at the breakfast table! Picking up one of Joseph Campbell's books on the dining room table, she filled me in on the road that I had taken. It was a little shocking to realize that somehow I had downloaded a storytelling template that had existed for ages in many different cultures to explain the story of WWI.
Read more: A Soldier’s Journey – The Classic Monomyth
Four Questions for Jo Ellen Hayden
Horse Heroes "served with heart, with obedience, with loyalty" in WWI
By Ashleigh Shaw
For three years prior to the nation's entry into World War I, the United States shipped approximately one million American horses and mules to Europe, to assist the war effort as they worked for the British and French armies. These animals carried men into battle, and wounded men to safety. They carried food, water, medical supplies, ammunition, gun carriages and other supplies to the front lines across difficult terrain, in brutal weather, often surrounded by dead and dying men and animals. For peace-loving animals, the sights, sounds, and smells were as dreadful as they were for the men.The story of these animals is one of courage, and also of tragedy. Brooke USA is charity dedicated to improving the welfare of horses, donkeys and mules in the developing world. They have a special project to honor and remember the story of these animals. Brooke USA is a Commemorative Partner to the WW1CC, and we are honored to host their new section on our website, which goes live this week. We discussed Horse Heroes, and the efforts by Brooke USA, with Jo Ellen Hayden, Brooke USA's Horse Heroes Special Project Volunteer
Tell us a little bit about the new Horse Heroes section on the Commission’s website.
The Horse Heroes site honors and documents the use of American horses and mules in World War 1. Approximately 1.2 million American horses and mules served Allied forces in Europe during the war. Many were used by the British, French, Italian, and even German armies well before the United States entered the war.
Jo Ellen HaydenThe first wave of American horses and mules arrived in France in late 1914 – only a few months after the war began in Europe. Though hard to understand today, horsepower was an essential part of every army during World War I. Most were used as draft animals, pulling everything from ambulances to guns to water carts. Some were pack animals, carrying food, medical supplies, and ammunition. And some horses were used by officers as saddle horses. Just as an officer might be issued a Jeep in later wars, he was issued a horse in World War 1. Horses served on or just behind the front lines, across difficult terrain, in brutal weather, and often surrounded by dead and dying men and animals. They did their part, in spite of being terrified and often while sick and wounded themselves, and they worked until they were annihilated by guns or poison gas, or simply died in their harnesses from exposure, disease, and sheer exhaustion. In total, eight million horses and mules died in WW1 on all sides, including hundreds of thousands of American animals.
Only 200 horses came back to the U.S. after the war. When the war ended there was neither funding or political will to bring the working animals home. Horses were a commodity, and just as armies today routinely abandon motor vehicles, so these armies sold off their horseflesh. Some went to slaughter, if too old, worn out, or injured to be sold as working animals.
The Horse Heroes website delves into where all these animals came from and how they got to Europe. We also set the scene so that our readers will know where the fighting took place and what the conditions were like – including why there was so much mud! We explore, and in our future releases will show hundred-year old film clips, of their training, veterinary care, and life in the field. The site contains hundreds of photographs, many gathered together in one site for the first time.
Read more: Four Questions for Jo Ellen Hayden