Stephen H. Provost, who also writes as Stifyn Emrys, conducted a panel called Using Mythology as a Basis for Fiction. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_pg_1?fst=p90x%3A1&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Astephen+h.+provost&keywords=stephen+h.+provost&ie=UTF8&qid=1489526299
Most people know I love mythology, Celtic, Egyptian, Greek, Native American, African, love it all. If you read the Bowman’s Inn anthologies, you might get a feel for incorporating lots and lots of myths into fiction. So when I saw this panel listed at ConDor Con 2017, I had to catch it.
Story telling has been with man since forever. Myths helped explain the reason the sun rises and sets, the way the world came into being, and the cause of thunder and lightning. There are archetypes of these type of stories.
The best known creation myth in the Western world is found in Genesis. But they all have commonalities. Often an ordinary person is transformed into a hero. Examples of fiction that has followed this arch include Harry Potter, Kickass, and Ray Feist books. The hero must fight to save the world from a grave threat. Voldemort, Sauron, Gilgemesh, although Gilgemesh and Enkidu started as enemies but became good friends. What a great plot for a romance novel! Oh, wait. . .
Heroes also steal from the gods, like Prometheus, to gain a measure of immortality. But the price must be paid eventually for that crime. The ultimate conflict is in Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods, Götterdämmerung. Somehow, the gods end up being defeated. Odin’s name means “seer” which is not a pun on his having one eye. More it is a concept of his role and power as the father of the gods. This is how he managed to foretell Ragnarok which is to happen in the future. I can’t wait for Marvel to spin that one.
Another epic, world-ending battle is Armageddon, the word evolving from the Greek Harmagedōn. From there to Hebrew, it becomes har məgiddô. The final battle between good and evil, god and devil, will be fought at Tel Megiddo, but the details and outcome vary by ideology.
These myths and legends are perfect to use as templates for an epic story. Put into a modern setting and you have something like the Marvel “Thor” movies. Or gather several gods or goddesses and create your own heroes and villains.
That is not a new concept. Robin Hood is probably an amalgam of several real people and maybe a touch of Orion. Roger Godberd is most likely the real Robin. The tale became embroidered with so many different legends that it would be nearly impossible to discover the true man. The original legend makes no mention of Friar Tuck or Maid Marian. Marian, it is said, was added when Robin Hood joined in the May Day celebrations in popular song and story. She came in to show Robin’s devotion to the Virgin Mary, which endeared him to many in England at the time.
Perhaps because we speak English similar to how it was spoken in the centuries passed, another legend that may or may not have been a real person or amalgam of persons is King Arthur. As this legend dates a thousand years prior to Robin, it’s understandable that less factual information is available. And yet, the story grew into certainty as it was told and retold. Arthur is the king chosen by the sword to defend Britain. Guinevere is his queen and Lancelot his best friend, who betrays him. Merlin is his adviser, Morgan le Fe his nemesis, and Mordred his bastard son who eventually causes his death. Arthur was a story of the survival of the fittest, because people, even kings, lived about 30 years average. They would have been astonished at Elizabeth (reigned for 45 years and was 69 at time of death) and Victoria (reigned for 67 years, was 81 at time of death).
Most of these stories come with a Hero who might become a King and sometimes also a Wizard. Like the female set of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Other sets include brothers fighting each other, like Loki and Thor, and a trickster god like Coyote about whom you are never sure which side he or she is on.
So no myth or legend is carved in stone, even if they really were carved in stone like the Epic of Gilgamesh. Provost urges us to be as historically accurate as possible to prevent readers who know this stuff to throw the book across the room. Next week, I’ll finish up the notes from that panel.