[It's such a pleasure to welcome Nanette Jula to the HSL blogging team! Nanette's a passionate podcast listener who will be sharing some of her favorite podcasts in this space. —Amy]
I will forever picture the Black Hills of South Dakota when I hear Harry Potter and we still laugh about the fact that I had to pull over on I-78 while listening to The Mysterious Journey of Edward Tulane because I could not see through my tears, one sob away from crashing the car. Audiobooks and road trips go together like peanut butter and dark chocolate, but for our around-the-town carschooling, I rely on podcasts. The right podcast is engaging, informative, and bite-sized. It can delve deeper into a current interest or it can light a spark, introducing you to something you didn’t know existed and igniting a new love.
And so, without further ado, I present to you... Podcasts for the People, a monthly-ish review of podcasts that will make your commute more educational and more enjoyable.
What has a Korean fox-demon, Vikings, a boot-wearing cat, and appeals to everyone from 6 to 96? It’s Myths and Legends, a podcast brought to you from the mind of Jason Weiser. “Some are incredibly popular stories you think you know, but with surprising origins. Others are stories you might not have heard but really should.” Jason compiles different versions of the same classic story, infuses it with his dry sense of humor, and retells it in a modern, almost conversational way. With the finesse of a gymnast, Jason walks the line between ridiculing the asinine while still honoring what makes these stories great. Myths and Legends strikes the perfect balance between nerdy and cool, which totally appeals to my kids (aged 7 and almost 10) as much as it does to my husband and me.
Dan Ivette, from The Podcast Digest, interviewed Jason last year. In the interview, Jason talks about how after spending years rolling the idea around in his head, he was uninspired by his day job and needed a creative outlet. He recorded the first three episodes of Myths and Legends and spent months questioning whether he should even release them. His first shows were recorded in his car with such low expectations for the podcast that he was just hoping to make enough to buy books while pursuing his graduate degree. It took about four months for the podcast to gain popularity, which Jason realizes was a blessing in disguise. Had his show gained immediate fame, he wouldn't have had the chance to develop his voice. The turning point was when BuzzFeed randomly mentioned the show online and the next day, Myths and Legends was in the top 10 on iTunes. Jason’s story of following your passion appeals to me on so many levels, but more specifically as a homeschooling mom, I appreciate how reassuring these stories can be.
Now, two years later, Jason has recorded 99 episodes and Myths and Legends is his full-time job. He research, writes, and records each episode himself, typically working on three episodes at once. He gets his ideas by casting a wide net and reading a lot, evident in the spectrum of stories he covers. One of my son's favorite stories is episode 58-Monster, a Native American tale from Cree folklore where a monster skunk farts everyone to death, because as Jason points out, "This is a serious podcast that takes itself very seriously." One of my favorites, on the other hand, is 38A-Korean Literature: Crossing the Threshold, the two-part, heart-breaking story of Hong Gildong. It is a tale of self-discovery and an important part of Korean culture. Gildong is born to a concubine and spends his life trying to escape the shame of his ignoble life. His father, who loves him and is pained by the circumstances, is bound by societal expectations and becomes sick with grief. As someone who lives outside societal norms, I appreciate stories that explore the struggle between living your truth and honoring your authentic self and societal expectations. The story of Gildong is a dramatic and engaging one, and there are dragons and magic—what more could you possibly want? The majority of episodes end with a Creature of the Week, which is always interesting and ranges from shape-shifting Amazon river dolphins to my personal favorite, the barbegazi, a bearded gnome with enormous feet.
On his website, Jason has a page called Where to Start, and I recommend beginning there. He lists his five favorite episodes, the ones that require no background knowledge. He also has the podcasts organized by categories, such as Disney, Greek Mythology, etc.
As a final note, many of the episodes have violent undercurrents—think Vikings and pretty much all of Greek Mythology. The episode where Prometheus, who betrayed his fellow Titans and has his liver pecked out by an eagle, could be upsetting to some more sensitive readers—I listened to it with a car-full of kids and we all shrieked and gagged. Jason starts these episodes with a disclaimer, alerting you to creepy or violent content. He never gets too graphic and we can’t remember him ever cursing, but some episodes do contain mature content.
Myths and Legends episodes are available on iTunes and for Androids and can be found at https://www.mythpodcast.com/.