fantasy / mythology

Mingling Mythology

Peruvian Death Mask I’ve had people comment many times on the way I blend different mythos into a unified whole, and I thought I’d ramble on about how and why I do that. First of all, let me say that I am in no way a scholar of myth. I have read a lot, and continue to do so. When I am researching for a story, like my upcoming work, The God’s Wolfling, I put a lot of thought into the characters, and choose mythological story characters who fit into my framework. Which is why I picked Mannan Mac’Lir for this book. I wanted a trickster, someone not altogether easy with humans, but not inimical to them. I was originally thinking Loki, inspired by Dave Freer’s take on him in Pyramid Power, but with the recent Avengers movies, reluctantly discarded that idea.

See, the popular perception of the character will seep into my book, and color how a reader looks at my characters, as I am using well-known myths in places, and more obscure in others. Mannan Mac’Lir fits the trickster, he’s less well-known, and it gives me an opportunity to revisit Scotland and Ireland if only in my dreams (perhaps someday I could travel for research, but certainly not yet!). He’s little-known enough that I cornered a friend at LibertyCon last year (Eric Esper, your insights were invaluable, and I’m finally putting them into play!) so I could learn more, and even where to find more about him. I won’t adhere to all the stories, of course, I’m writing a character who isn’t fully of the myths, but a person in my imagination.

I see the myths, and thus the characters who people them, whether they be called spirits, gods, or other, as stemming from humanity. Humans the world round make up stories, about all sorts of things and situations, and this is where the myths come from. I certainly don’t regard them in any religious sense, and in a way, I’m writing fanfiction. By taking age-old tales and manipulating them to tell my own stories, what else is it?

I’ve had fun with this, blending Raven and Sasquatch into the last Pixie for Hire book. I grew up in the area I wrote about, the Pacific Northwest, between Oregon and Alaska, and it seemed fitting to play with the myths there. The Celtic myths I am reading and researching again for The God’s Wolfling are the tales many who went on to become early American settlers grew up with in the Old Country. It ought to be interesting to see what influence that had. And Coyote, of course, an enigma, haunting the West. There are cultures alien to our modern ones that made up tales about beings in turn alien to what we think of as people. Quetzalcoatl, the feathered snake, who is a person of vast authority in Vulcan’s Kittens, but not at all human. By feathering the edges between science fiction and fantasy with that book, I have given myself a way to tell a story of where all myths began, and why they persist.

I see no reason not to blend the different tales. Each has it’s own ‘flavor’ and that makes for a more deeply textured story. I know from what young readers have told me with Vulcan’s Kittens that I have inspired them to find more mythology than just the recently-popular Greek and Roman myths. Stories that have been around this long have inevitably seen some drift already, and there’s the well-known fact that the Romans adopted the Greek myths wholesale with only name changes. So I don’t feel bad at all making up my own versions.

Some stories just never die.

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9 thoughts on “Mingling Mythology

  1. I had to chuckle at the idea of “blending different mythos”. When you study a given mythos, you’ll find that it is a blending of different stories. Often you’ll find stories about a specific being that conflict with other stories about that being.

    By the way, I look forward reading your story. The “Trickster” is an interesting character type and I look forward to your version.

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  2. oh, I well know that the myths are all connected in many ways – why else would there be so many Trickster tales? But I keep hearing that same comment over and over in reviews and conversations about my books, and I needed something to talk about this morning, so… 🙂

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  3. Ooh, I love Trickster archetypes! A Scottish version of Loki is doubly interesting. I’ve never heard of Mannon Mac’Lir before.

    Coyote and Quetzalcoatl are both names I’ve run across before. “Vulcan’s Kittens” is on my wishlist…

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  4. Mac’lir is Celtic/Gaelic/Milesian Loki is Norse. The myth’s bleed at each other around the edges but, in Ireland at least, The Celtic predate the Norse. In Scandinavia of course, the reverse is probably true. Scotland is a bit of an odd duck because at different times it was colonized by both the Irish and the Norse, While having it’s own Pictish underlayer

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  5. Mannan macLir is a great character, and obscure enough to have a lot of fun with. If you’ve ever read the Chronicles of Prydain, I always think of him somewhat like Fflewdeuer Fllam, a king in his own realm, but always off seeking adventure and excitement in realms that aren’t his own.

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      • It’s a classic series that Disney managed to butcher when they made it into The Black Cauldron. But the books have a great Welsh aura, and is a great introduction to that region’s myths.

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