For years and years I have had a longstanding love of folklore. Stories of the black forest of Germany which influenced the creation of Grimm’s Fairytales. Stories of princesses kissing frogs were just the start as the stories inherent in parts of Disney movies drew my interest deeper, and deeper into the legends that helped to frame modern narratives. Many people grow up reading about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, it is one of the pre-eminent modern mythologies that shaped the modern interpretation of fantasy. Tolkien himself drew stories from Norse, Finnish, and Anglo-Saxon Mythology. In many cases these stories of ancient Kings, Knights, and Dragons are the bread, and butter of Western culture.
But the truth is I always wanted to go deeper. Throughout history we have had stories of dragons, goblins, mermaids, and sirens. Then we had stories of epic heroes such as Herakles, Perseus, and Odysseus. But what about heroes such as Haiawatha? What about stories about ancient kings such as Pakal of Palenque? Both are historical figures far younger than Herakles, but had just as a gigantic impact upon modern society.e
For years the collective mythos of human cosmology has driven my interest in not only fantasy, but the supernatural. Seeing how people collate all that information into different interpretations from the Soul Society Bleach to the Demons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Each story interprets mythology on some level or makes it up..
Pagan versus Judeo-Christian
For years Western Society has in a way flirted consistently with a mix of european Pagan and Judeo-Christian mythology. I’ve seen plenty stories where one is often above the other, or in other cases where both work in tandem. What I have always found interest however, is how things always seem to clash at some level. One series that seem to resign the balance in many ways quite well was the Hellboy Universe which was heavily inspired by a mixture of Lovecraftian fiction, and older stories. Mike Mignola is a fantastic artist, and much of his universes work have influenced my interest in melding mythologies.
When I first started to work on Altear, and later Oak Cross, I wanted to cast off Abrahmic mythology. Then at the same time I did not want over time to bring any mythology to the forefront in many ways. I did this because in general I see sources as not only interesting, but important to be aware of. Mythology hides lessons of piety, ethics, and much more. Through reading stories from ancient society one can glean an idea of how they treated people, and what those people considered the pillars of their morality.
Pagan Mythology in Europe often speaks of not just the typical stories of the Old Norse, or the Ancient Greeks, but the stories of the ancient Celts, the Slavs, and Iberian peoples to start.
Building Worlds from Current Stories
Some authors take names, ideas, and influences from Mythology. I attacked it from a different angle, and instead decided to tackle and age old myth I’ve seen in stories since I was a child, the -otherworld-, or the idea of alternate realms. For some this is Shangrila, for others it is the realm of the Fae. Stories of otherworldly characters have been a means of explain things for years. Unlike some who connect them to aliens, I wanted to create a fantasy world where all stories originate. An idea that perhaps there really was a King of the Faeries named Oberon. Perhaps Oisin really did ride a horse in Ireland and die when he fell off it. Perhaps the Jade Emperor lived and founded an Empire whose scions eventually created the infamous Spring and Autumn period of Pre-Chinese History.
Much of what I use for societies, and how my world is structured is based upon our own history. The Sidhe of Cels are drawn from a mixture of ancient celtic societies. The Sidhe then being a subspecies of the High Folk a indoe-european like people who share a mixture of mythologies with strong feminine over-gods such as Danu, Don, and Ishtar.
The more complicated a universe, the more I spend time researching not only mythology, but also folklore. I draw a distinctive difference as much of what I draw from in both cases is based upon what I want to flesh out. For creating a royal family I will often use a pantheon of gods, and then create racial traits from legends of each deity. For things such as animals, weapons, or even customs I draw from folklore, and faerie tales. Stories of dark hounds, or great strange spirit like dogs gave birth to the Faehounds of Altear. Stories of Knights and the epic warrior tales of the Samurai helped me to create the Errant mecha pilots of LiTS. I used the Tang Empire, the Achamedian Empire, and the Holy Roman Empire to develop the Star Empire of Avalon.
For Walk Between Shadows I use a diverse mixture of mythology from all over the world. Most of which is in part derived from stories I learned of native American legend, but also taking greatly from other legendary modern myths. Perhaps some of the most prominent being the legends of the lost lands of Lemuria, Atlantis, Shangrila, and Hyperborea.
Building upon turn of the century Myticism
Another aspect I draw greatly from the is the era of Mysticism that preceded the turn of the 20th century. It was a time when Asia was under the thumb of Europe and the mysteries of the ‘Orient” were becoming something of a fad for locals in Europe. The Spiritualist movement was in full swing and spirits were all the rage. To me it was this early gothic time of writing, and exploration into the wild theories of the day that I take a page from writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Howard, and Lovecraft (minus all the misogyny and racism on some parts).
So like many writers before I pull from what I know, and what I like. I do this to build a theme for each my universes to set a tone for each one. Some are filled with grim hope, and others with whimsical wonder. Each has its own unique feel, and its own stories. Some may be repeated in a way such as the quest, the damsel (damsel being unisex in this notion), etc. But each story will have its own feel because of the collective mythological tropes that are woven into the world it takes place in.
Feature image by phantastes