Mythology 101

You’re not going to be writing any actual myths today-unless you choose to-but it is important to take a look at the mythology of your world. Today’s questions are designed to help you make your world a little more complex, and to give any religious characters you might have some more depth. Mythology is my favourite part of worldbuilding, so don’t be surprised if this exercise takes you a bit longer than usual. It’s not just that it’s my favourite-there are a million different things you can explore with mythology.

Questions&Recommended Reading

~What do your Gods do in mythology that lend credibility to their character? If you’ve already done Religion 101, then you have an idea of what your gods represent. A pretty good one at that. Now consider the mythology of your Gods. If one God is a troublemaker, what kind of trouble do they make throughout your mythology? If one represents water, what is their connection to water in mythology? Were they born of the sea?

You don’t have to spend a really long time on this. I suggest you answer this question individually with each God. Give each God a paragraph about how their role in specific stories echoes their overall role. If you need ideas, take a look at some of these Egyptian Legends.

~Are there humanoid mythological creatures? If there are humanoid mythological creatures, are they real creatures with a lot of myths surrounding them? How do they interact with humans? How are they said to interact with humans? If they aren’t real, how does mythology keep them real in the minds of the people?

If you want to create some unique humanoid creatures, regardless of how real they are on your planet, take a look at this list of 30 Famous Mythical Humanoid Creatures. There’s plenty of mythological inspiration to be had just by looking at our own world.

The Irish, in particular, had some very interesting humanoid mythological creatures. Take a look at 10 Of the Uncanniest Irish Mythological Creatures.

~Is myth passed orally or is it transcribed onto parchment or stone? If myth is passed mainly orally, then there’s a lot more room for variation. If myth is traditionally written, then it will probably make it from one place to the next with minimum damage.

Myth in Llyr is pretty much all the same because it has all been written and everybody in the kingdom is at least somewhat literate. Myth in The Isles of Uruk-Har, however, is fairly different from island to island. I still haven’t worked out how it’s different, but I know that it is, because literacy is only very recent.

~Are some myths extremely varied, and others universal? In any culture there are bound to be some myths that are universal or almost universal, with only slight variations. What are these myths? Which myths exist in most areas of your kingdom, but are varied every time? Which myths are specific to only one area?

The Uruk-Har have similar creation myths and afterlife myths throughout, with only slight variations. They even have the same mythological creatures-but the myths surrounding those creatures vary greatly from island to island.

~What is the mythology surrounding death? Has death always existed in your mythos? Several human mythologies (I don’t have any links, I read it in a book) say that death was an afterthought, punishment for some misdeeds of humans. But what if your mythology thinks of death as another part of life, a necessary evil? That could mean a society with a lot less fear of death.

What does the afterlife look like? Pre-Christianity, people usually all got put in the same place when they died. It was the place where people from all walks of life mingled. Judgement of souls existed and varied from culture to culture, perhaps the most interesting idea of judgement being Egyptian.

In my now-stalled Jihad series, those who die go to a Gray Land, but those who were most faithful and honourable go to the city of Phoenix. In Phoenix they live new, eternal, almost perfect lives.

~What is the mythology surrounding coupling? Is sex a sin? Is there such a thing as marriage? Is polygamy widespread? What about incest? How are these things treated in mythology?

There are many different directions you can take with this. Most pre-Christian faiths did not place so much importance on monogamy. Play with polygamy and remember that it didn’t ruin ancient civilizations, so it shouldn’t ruin yours.

Today’s Prompt

Today I’d like you to write 1,000 words about mythology or folklore.

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About Dianna Gunn

I am a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. My first YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn, is available now through The Book Smugglers Publishing.

Posted on January 7, 2011, in Novels, Workshops, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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