How it’s all just a Variation on the Fountain of Youth

Serums, detox, essential oils. Ah, the quest for eternal youth. I read today in the newspapers that people are reducing their use of Botox, the injected poison that removes lines by freezing muscles to leave a smooth complexion. These people have realised that after a few times of using this substance they cease to look young, merely smooth and slightly odd.

I can’t blame anyone for wanting to hold onto their youth. Not only wrinkles but creaking bones, aches and pains as well as a host of other ailments are not things anyone would desire. I think this doesn’t apply to me – until I cannot remember where I have placed my glasses, which reminds me of my failing eyesight and memory. We all wish to sup from the Fountain of Youth from time to time.

The ‘Fountain of Youth’ is a mythological spring that promises to restore youth to those who bathe or drink it. These stories have been known in all cultures and have gone back a long time. Records show that there have been tales about such springs that have existed for thousands of years in Europe, Asia and the Americas. And it was not just mankind who concerned with the search. Norse gods, who were not immortal, needed special apples to maintain youth and immortality. The Goddess Idunn supplied these until she was kidnapped by the mischievous Loki. Read about this is my book The Dark Garden – I’m just about to come up to that part.

This search for youth has been a fantastic theme and topic for storytellers, as the records show. Such tales as those about Alexander the Great and more modern ones like The Well at the World’s End by William Morris, Doctor Heidegger’s Experiment by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Magic Spring by Nami Rhee, a retelling of an old Korean folk story.

On similar theme is my favourite story and only published novel by Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray. It is a twisted version of the theme, but I like it. The story is about a young man who has his beauty and youth captured in a painting. Someone suggests to Dorian Gray that the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and hedonism. Gray sells his soul so that he may keep his beauty, but the painting changes into the face of his soul. Gray leads an immoral lifestyle and each sinful act is reflected in the painting by disfiguring his face with the aging process. A great Gothic novel. In the story, the painting becomes so grotesque that Gray hides it in the attic. I have many portraits in the attic. Fortunately they look better than I do. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually make me feel any better.

Of course these myths do have fragments of truth in them. For a youthful complexion and body you need to drink and bathe in pure water, nothing that will give you a disease. Mineral water is known to be therapeutic and help with joint problems. Apples, as I discussed last month, keep the doctor away. But most of all, a good soul means that your portraits will be forever young.

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