Drawing on Myths and Legends
Definition of a Myth: Merriam-Webster Dictionary
1 a : a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon
b : parable, allegory
2 a : a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone; especially : one embodying the ideals and institutions of a society or segment of society <seduced by the American myth of individualism — Orde Coombs
Definition of a Legend — Merriam-Webster Dictionary
a : a story coming down from the past; especially: one popularly regarded as historical although not verifiable
There are thousands of myths and legends in the world. With so many different cultures past and present, myths and legends give a writer a whole host of ideas to play around with.
Before humans discovered science, they used myths to explain such things as the creation of the world, why the sun rises and sets, and why it rains, and where thunder comes from. By the way, if you don’t already know, the storm gods make the thunder when they go to war. They created their own explanations for why the moon changed during a span of days, why the sun seemed to disappear from the sky during an eclipse, and why stars fell from the sky, while others passed overhead with a fiery tail.
One of the most famous myths of all is The Great Flood. You can find such references to a Great Flood in many myths from around the world, all created before the one written about in the bible. It does make you wonder if some catastrophe hit the earth, and the survivors created the myth to explain what happened to their people and their land.
Bringing gods and goddesses from the past into our current world to mess things up for us lowly humans. Creating secret cults that worship a god or goddess from mythology and have them manifest in our world, taking control of the cult. However, you should put a few constraints on the deity in question, so the protagonist in your story has a chance of killing them or at least banishing them.
For fantasy writers, creating your own myths is a fascinating way to explain the way certain cultures are.
I love reading Norse mythology, Irish mythology, Native American, and Greek mythology.
To get a better idea of myths and how they are written, head to your local library or do a search on the internet.
Legends are similar to myths in that they are unverifiable, but there might be a kernel of truth in the legend. Take one of the most famous legends of all: King Arthur. During that period of English history there were rulers and one of them might have been Arthur. It’s also been suggested that he was a warrior and his legend grew up around that. Either way, a legend can be used for fantasy stories and alternate earth history.
Then you have the legend of Atlantis. Wow! This can give you a boatload of writing material for a story. Personally, I believe both Atlantis and Lemuria existed. With so many finds in archaeology, it’s only a mater of time before something is found that proves they really did exist.
Here’s a list of some of the most famous legends:
Treasure of the Templar Knights — The Templar Knights amassed a great deal of treasure which the King of France would have loved to get his hands on. Just because the Church disbanded the order doesn’t mean the knights suddenly ceased to exist. They weren’t stupid and knew which way the political winds of that time were blowing. I bet they took steps to keep the order going in secret.
The Fountain of Youth — Who wants to live forever? I do! I do! Think of all the books you could read and write.
Eldorado — who is to say that this place didn’t exist at one time? They are still uncovering forgotten cities in South America and Mexico hidden in the jungles.
Holy Grail — Are you the one to find this item?
The Ark of the Covenant — Need I say more?
Ideas for writing are waiting for you in the past. Don’t let such a great opportunity go to waste.
May the words ever flow!