Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mythic Characters

I am, and have always been, fascinated by myth. When I was a kid, while siblings watched regular movies, I loved The Ten Commandments, Clash of the Titans, and Ben Hur. Now, two of these are particularly Judeo-Christian, but, unlike many people, I consider them to be myth in the same lines with other kinds of myth, including Native American, Greek, Norse, Chinese, etc. The term myth doesn't assume such stories are unreal. If anything, myth suggests the stories are more real than we even know--not literally, but intuitively real. 

You see, rather than telling us literally how the story began, creation myths suggest the meaning of life, its purpose, and our role in our own existence and world. Who ate the apple isn't truly that interesting... it's the why that fascinates me.

Another blog friend, Exchange of Realities, sparked this thought today, and I realized that much of what I wrote was based in myth. My second novel was based on Noah's Ark and Ovid's flood version--Pyrrha and Deucalion--and I am now considering creating a YA version of Job. I'd love to do other spin-offs, too. I'd have to avoid most of the Zeus stories, though... too much rape, and I don't write rape (at least not at this point).

But I'd like to take names. What stories do you find fascinating in myth? Any fairy tales that still interest you? Robin McKinley's made a pretty extensive career out of writing new versions of "Sleeping Beauty" and "Beauty and the Beast" (her book Beauty is still one of my all-time favorites), so why can't I? I'd love to do a cool version of "Thousandfurs."

What would you like to see? What would you like to write?


  1. Darling, if you spark ANOTHER path and another book idea for me to juggle I will have to punish you.

    I'll send you some sausage. :)

    (I love mythology and would LOVE to retell or expand on a gillion myths, fairy tales and classics. But where will I find the time.)

  2. Pretend I ended that last sentence with ? please. I'm still ?-challenged.

  3. But I am challenged is so many more ways...

    Time is definitely our enemy...

  4. Oh man. Myth is my bread and butter, my lifeblood, my breath. I am wild for myth. (Though, interestingly, not every myth system. I don't seem to have any affinity for North American traditional myth systems. It's all Celtic, Norse, Ancient Near Eastern, Greek, and Roman for me. Oh! And Hindu!)

    Ahem. But your question. I write a lot of stories with the Divine Twin motif. (The Light and Dark twins, often with a woman between them.) The novel I'm trying to get published has the myth of Shiva dancing the destruction of the world woven through and through it, contrasting with the Jewish "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one God."

    My NaNoWriMo project for 2006 (which I had to stop) involved a Canadian woman of Greek heritage dating a young man of Indian heritage, and had the gods of their respective heritages starting to stroll around the streets of Toronto. I may pick that one up again sometime, because it was loads of fun.

  5. great blog and great taste in topics, i love all the movies you have stated. and i indulge in Greek mythology as well, the idea of it draws me in calling to my inner child to dream of what i might have been if i lived back then...

    i would like to write about the city/civilization of Atlantis, their technology or rumor of it intrigues me. writing a book about what i dream it would look like; and how life would be like fighting in battles against many other great civilizations. ending in the heroic down fall of a great nation...
    sorry to ramble. but you get the picture

  6. Phyl--Ahh, Hindu myth. I didn't mention that one... and the Divine Twin motif sounds automatically tension-filled. You should DEFINITELY work on the NaNoWriMo project some more. It sounds fascinating!

    Jeff--Why not write about Atlantis? I love books dealing with alternate realities... and you'd have the chance to build an entire world, one leaning on the past mythic systems, but with all sorts of unknown nuances. And you aren't rambling at all...

  7. The Atlantis myth provides such a wealth of ideas for a story, doesn't it?

    And one author I knew (Guy Gavriel Kay) told me that the Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot myth was "so deep" for him that he just had to write something that revolved around it. So his whole "Fionavar Tapestry" trilogy was born.

  8. I wrote much of my dissertation about Arthur... and about myth, including Christian myth, for I examined god-rape... and how it was the means by which the greatest heroes were born (Arthur, Merlin, Christ, and Hercules are only a few examples).

    Mythic patterns are completely fascinating, for they say more about our psyches than we are probably comfortable knowing.

  9. Oh man. That "god-rape" subject would be so fascinating! Horrid, in some ways, but fascinating.

    I was raised very literalist, as a fundamentalist, so although I loved myths, I never regarded them as "true." When I finally shook free and widened by view of the world, and really immersed in myths, that was when I recognized that they are probably the most profoundly true things that exist. But try explaining that to my relatives, heh.

    I once brought all my dragon stuff (paintings, ornaments, key chains, stories) to a class of kids that my sister-in-law was teaching. After I talked about the Norse myths, with Nidhogg gnawing away at the roots of the World Tree, one very unsmiling, deeply literalist 9-year old boy informed me that these were all lies because the world doesn't have three levels and there are no such things as dragons. It made me deeply sad, that the bright imagination had already been trained out of him.

  10. I'm fortunate to go to a church that takes nothing literally. My pastor even calls the bible "myth"... but he makes the same argument I do about it all... it doesn't matter if its literally true, but myth is myth because it's "true"... it holds meanings and says things about us that are definitely true, that "ring true," so to speak, without being taken literally.

    When I teach various religious texts in World Literature (Bhagavada Gita, Koran, Greek myth) and then include stuff from the Old Testament, I always get journal entries from a few students explaining that finally I'm teaching something that is "true."

    I just write back that I don't care what's true or not, that it's immaterial within the context of the classroom. All of it has some truth for me, or it's not worth teaching (or reading).

    So cool that you have all that dragon stuff. And how wonderful of you to be willing to share what you know.