Thursday, September 6, 2018

Why is mythology still relevant?
When I first started writing, I didn’t realize I was such a fan of mythology. Of course I studied the Greek myths in high school and college, but they never really inspired me. But then I researched some Norse myths for another project years ago, and I was hooked. That obsession turned into my Urban Fantasy series, The Norse Chronicles (on sale now for $0.99!). Since then, more and more mythology has seeped into my writing. My short story “Handful of Seeds” (appearing in Wicked South: Secrets and Lies coming October 31, 2018) relies heavily on the story of Hades and Persephone, and my upcoming paranormal romance Touch of Smoke draws from middle-eastern and Islamic lore about djinns (a.k.a. genies).

I could make long lists of popular writers who have written about or included mythological elements in their books, but I bet most readers could make their own lists. Mythology is pervasive in both classic and modern literature as well as pop culture, and it doesn’t appear to be losing favor. The ancient myths derived from mankind’s need to explain how the world worked. Thousands of years later, science has unraveled many of the big mysteries (we know a horse drawn chariot isn’t pulling the sun across the sky) but we crave an understanding of the world on a personal level, and mythology still exists to serve that purpose. It makes the complexities of life relatable.

I believe that’s because, in its roots, mythology addresses basic human philosophies using highly identifiable archetypes. By that I mean the characters of any mythology (Greek, Norse, Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Native American, etc.) are embodiments of core human characteristics and emotions like courage and fear, strength and weakness, love and hate, generosity and greed, peace and violence, wisdom and foolishness, ambition and apathy. In any time period, in any setting, and in any culture those themes remain significant and relatable.

I think that’s the same reason super heroes continue to survive in pop culture year after year. Super Man is today’s Hercules, Thor, Prometheus, Achilles, Samson, and Moses. Batman is Hades. The Joker is a trickster god like Loki, Anansi, or Sinbad. Wonder Woman is Athena, Freya, the Amazonian. Superheroes are somewhat literal interpretations of the ancient archetypes, but those epitomic characters exist everywhere. The strong warrior, the seductive beauty, the betraying sneak, the mother, the wise teacher, the father—we see bits of ourselves—or the people we wish we could be—in these characters, and the proof is in the fact that they show up over and over in our favorite books, movies, and TV shows.

Here’s a few specific examples that illustrate my meaning:

Neo from The Matrix series: Christ, Baldur, Dumuzid, Osiris, Adonis,
Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean series: Loki, Anansi, Coyote
Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City: Aphrodite, Venus, Inanna, Bastet

Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series: Jason (of the Argonauts) or Perseus
Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Athena, Frigga, Neith, Saraswati

Humans are hardwired for stories—it’s how we’ve exchanged information since the dawn of time. In, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories make us Human, Jonathan Gottshall says: “We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” This, to me, is the ultimate explanation for why Mythology is still alive today.

Mythology is the fountain of life from which all stories spring. It might evolve, or be reinterpreted for the times, but myths and legends will continue exist as long as humans continue to crave a connection to and an understanding of the world in which we live.


Cheryl Oreglia said...

I totally agree Karissa, mythology informs not only our core values, but I think it has a lot to do with our identity. Such important narratives, I’m inspired to check out your work!

Karissa Laurel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karissa Laurel said...

I was recently reading Neil Gaiman's "Norse Mythology" book and was struck by how stories so ancient can still be so relatable today--the characters are so familiar. You can pluck them out of the past and stick them in present day stories and they don't loose their identity or meaning. And thanks so much for the comment!

Mary Fan said...

I love this!! So true... stories tend to revolve around core human truths, and mythology lends itself so well to retellings because of it

Brenda St John Brown said...

I remember when The Boy was reading all of the Percy Jackson books and he was obsessed with mythology. It was so cool to see him really diving into it and he knew the myths better than I did!

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