Making Use of Myths and Legends

Some writers seem to put an absolutely enormous focus on striving for complete originality. That’s not a bad thing, but I also feel as though it’s not entirely realistic. Look closely enough for long enough and you’ll find that a lot of recent work shares striking similarities with things that have been around a lot longer (even if only by sheer coincidence: there are a lot of stories out there, after all). But that’s not a bad thing either. Personally, I quite enjoy spotting echoes of one story in another – especially if I liked it the first time around – so I thought I’d share a few occasions when something I’ve written has borrowed from a myth or legend that’s already out there.

Face of Glass – The Exodus

Face of Glass is fundamentally a story about stories, so despite the unusual island setting it probably won’t come as a surprise that it draws on more than a few existing myths and legends. However, I think partly because the characters themselves so regularly pause to tell tales, people overlook one in particular that’s quite similar to the book as a whole: an unlikely leader who travels up a mountain, where he receives a vision of a powerful supernatural being whose help he accepts, allowing him to save his people from slavery.

The Blind Pegasus – Icarus and Daedalus

Given that the story takes place in a world shaped by ancient warring titans, the influence of Greek myth on The Blind Pegasus in general is probably obvious. It has more than a little in common with elements of the story of Bellerophon in particular, with a prince riding a winged horse in order to defeat a chimera. But although those two stories share a number of features, the plot draws far more heavily on the myth of Icarus and Daedalus: a man uses a device invented by another in order to save himself, but becomes seduced by the power it lends him and is thrown into the sea for his hubris.

Silent as Still Water – The Fall of Satan

File:Gustave Dore Inferno34.jpg

KaloKa, the protagonist of Silent as Still Water, is blessed with supernatural gifts that complement his innate skill at hunting: his arrows kill instantly and so his prey has never learnt to flee him. Throughout his life he remains kind and humble, but is murdered by his envious brother and becomes obsessed with taking revenge from beyond the grave, seeking ever more terrible methods of inflicting suffering. Ultimately his quest causes his powers to fail him and he becomes trapped in a prison of his own making, existing as no more than a grim parody of his former glory.

The Crown of Steel – Beowulf

File:Beowulf death.png

The parallels between The Crown of Steel and this particular epic are a lot more direct than the others listed here, and to be honest I’m kind of surprised that nobody’s commented on them. Though the bulk of the story focuses on a different trope – the king’s failure to realise that his authority comes from his deeds and not his material possessions – the ending (and at least one line) is lifted straight from Beowulf: an elderly king faces a dragon, but in doing so is mortally wounded; he bequeaths the kingdom to his only follower not to flee from the battle.

Sicklefox – Kuchisake-onna

Sicklefox isn’t based on any particular mythical figure (though has a lot in common with the Feldgeister), but in his first appearance shares a fairly substantial similarity with the Japanese legend of the Kuchisake-onna. He appears before his victim and asks yes-or-no questions that will result in a gruesome punishment either way.

These are hardly the only stories I’ve written that borrow from elsewhere, and they’re definitely not the ones that borrow the most, but I think they go some way towards showing how much of one thing you can incorporate in another without making it any less of a new story.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.