Saturday, October 13, 2012

On myths

Illustration from Tanglewood Tales (1921, public domain image)

I don't know much about myths - only what has come to me through pop culture. I have a vague sense of some of the characters. Like, Diana the Huntress.  I always thought of Justine Jones as a bit of Diana the Huntress. But, I don't know if what I think of as Diana the Huntress is the true Diana. And anyway, Diana was part of the scaffolding. 

I never worry about basing characters on people I know or figures, like in myths - in the writing, they usually evolve into their own unrecognizable entities. They grow totally apart from the original. People I base characters on would never recognize themselves, not even with a gun to their head. 


Illustration from Tanglewood Tales (1921, public domain image)
I think we all totally own myths. I look at the image above, and I think it's somebody who was set an impossible task, or is up against some deadline he can't handle. A lot of myths seem to be about those things, and I really relate to that. Or like, Narcissus, in love with his own reflection. Not being able to overcome personal things. I love the tragedy of that. I love the trickster myths from Africa. 

I'm definitely in the school of twist it all up. Take what you want and discard the rest. Make a collage. Nothing is sacred! 

Illustration from Tanglewood Tales (1921, public domain image)

I love Jeffe's example of the sparkly vampires. And Gaiman's gods at the Split Rock house. Who says you can't twist anything beyond recognition? I love what Kresley Cole did with the valkyries, for example. 

I think you need to have the psychological parts right for the story to ring true, but the outward parts are just there to be used and abused. But this is the myth-ignorant word whore talking. Maybe if I had ever studied them I'd feel totally differently. 

 


7 comments:

  1. Kresley did TOTALLY COOL things with Valkyries. Absolutely agree!

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  2. The thing I enjoy about Ancient Egyptian myths is that there are so many variations on any given god or goddess. I can pick and choose and even invent my own wrinkles, with at least some foundation. Gives me an excellent starting point, as you say, but then anything is possible, which is fun! Excellent post!

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    1. Thanks, Veronica! ooh, I don't know about ancient Egyptian myths (aside what came through on Wonder Woman) but I love the sound of that flexibility, as if they were enjoying it even in the myth-making process!

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  3. I'm a Norse myth girl myself. But the great thing about mythology (as Veronica pointed out) is that the more you study the more flexibility you realize you have. The "Norse" gods worshiped in 11th century Iceland are the same gods revered by the Germanic "barbarians" described by Tacitus in the 1st century BC. The same and yet wildly different in interpretation.

    As somebody who loves myth and tries very hard to get the mythology mostly correct in my own works, I hate listening to other people rag on authors for making changes. Half the time the critic is stuck on the way a myth was told in a certain time and place and ignoring (or ignorant of) the fact that a century later and a few tribes over, the author's vision was more accurate. Plus, there is simply not enough information out there to fully flesh out a character.

    I, too, love KC's valkyries (and her books in general). Even though they don't follow the Norse Lore perfectly, I can see how she got there from the mythology. She's done some homework and it really comes through in the details and backstories she puts together. Plus those real bits of myth dropped in make awesome Easter eggs (Ostara eggs?) for those of us up on that mythology!

    ~Jax Garren
    http://www.jaxgarren.com

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jax! It's a good and interesting point you make that a deep familiarity with myths can allow for more flexibility instead of less. Oh, I'll admit, I'm slightly envious of people who have such a good base of knowledge on myths!

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  4. Myths are man made things, they change a little with every telling to suit the people's needs...so why can't a writer take a myth and rewrite it to fit their needs. I think that is a wonderful ability.

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