Thursday, October 11, 2012
The puns this week are killing me. And honestly, the timing couldn't be any better - I'm on a panel at NYCC this week talking about this very thing. :) *shameless plug* (And, in fact, by the time you read this, I'll be on a train and heading north. If you're gonna be there - give me a shout!)
I was a big Greek mythology reader when I was younger, same as many of my fellow word-whores (go figure), but I've always been interested in Celtic mythology as well as many others - Japanese, Chinese, African, Native American, Egyptian - I read as much of it as I could get my hands on - so of course I try to use it in my writing. The Abby Sinclair books are loosely based off the True Thomas/Tam Lin poems, which are fairly mythic in scope. And it's a kitchen-sink world, so anything and everything is fair game as far as possibly showing up. Same with the Fox & Willow comic - it's loosely based on fairy tales as well and there's plenty of room to play there.
But really, the thing about mythology stories is that they nearly always have a religious connotation. It's what separates myths from legends or folklore. The stories help connect the average person to what can often be a very broad and sometimes scary idea and help them gain a deeper understanding to the lessons beneath.
I personally enjoy retellings and interpretations very much, particularly since the original stories tend to skimp on a lot of personal details. Some are very short and to the point and while that's entertaining, often times I'm stuck with a lot of questions. It's all well and good to say Hero X went out to slay Dragon Y to win the hand of Princess Z, but where's the emotion? A good retelling of a myth can give it that little extra human edge, in my opinion.
As far as my panel topic goes - it's about why UF writers like to mix up mythology in their books. But that's really a bit of a misnomer - mythology has *always* been mixed up. If you take the Greeks - all those lovely princesses and nymphs and pretty ladies Zeus was always sleeping with? Good stories, sure, but they're also about assimilation. Do a bit of digging and you find out that many of those nymphs were actually the local deities of the small villages the Greeks had conquered.
And what's the best way to help assimilate a less-than-thrilled population into your fold? Mess with their religious beliefs, of course. Only in order to show our superiority, we're gonna gonna have our gods "conquer" your gods.
By sleeping with them, of course. (And yes, there's a huge bucket of worms here about matriarchy and patriarchy that I'm not going to touch, but that's got a lot to do with it too.)
And if Zeus couldn't sleep with her? He'd give birth to her. Athena, anyone? He gave birth to Dionysus out of this thigh too, but only after he killed the baby's mother with a lighting bolt. After he impregnated her. (Messed up, yo!)
Zeus had a tendency to promote his own offspring quite a bit too. Selene, Goddess of the Moon? Nope! Demoted, so Artemis could take her place.
But we can't limit such fun to merely the Greeks - after all, even modern day religion is guilty of the same thing.
Not to pick on Christianity, of course, but there's a damn good reason we celebrate the holidays when we do, and it doesn't really have much to do with Jesus. Again - assimilation of pagan holidays and traditions was the norm and while the Christians couldn't exactly have Jesus going around impregnating local goddesses, the assimilation evidence is everywhere. (I mean, really. Easter? Sounds good on the surface, but what do bunnies and eggs have to do with Jesus. Nothing. But they had an awful lot to do with the goddess Ostara - a fertility goddess who's main symbols were...bunnies and eggs.)
There seems to be less mythical religious assimilation these days (and indeed, many religious sorts are trying to pull away from some of the more pagan traditions - Halloween, for example - always a big one.) Probably just as well, really. Otherwise we'd have stories of Jesus playing cards with Grandmother Spider, and I doubt that would go over too well - though I bet it would make a hell of a myth.