GUEST POST: Monique Snyman, The Reinterpretation of Mythology

Monique SnymanMonique Snyman, temptress author of the Charming Incantations series, explains the background of why she likes to write YA fiction with clear links to popular (and less well known) mythology.

Defining Mythology:

Mythology, often referring to any traditional story, is a pivotal part of human development. It gives us a little bit of culture here and a little bit of intelligence there, rounds us off and makes us somewhat more creative than we’d ordinarily be. But what is mythology? There are four primary characteristics that are shared by most myths:

  • Narrative – a myth is a story. This story may be told: orally, textually, visually, or any combination of these, as in a ritual context.
  • A myth must be a shared narrative, meaning that it exists within a community.
  • A myth deals with material of religious, supernatural, and/or societal importance.
  • Myths are plastic – that is, the narrative has the ability to be reshaped according to the conscious and unconscious motives and desires of the teller and the audience

Classifying ‘mythology’ is therefore difficult. It’s a broad subject that includes everything from truthful historical depictions to fictitious accounts, which allegorises or personifies natural phenomena, explain certain religious subjects, convey ideologies, establish behavioural models, and teach. That being said, even elaborate and imaginative mythological narratives have a perceptible relationship to history. In other words, sagas, legends, lore and tales, all have roots somewhere in history.

J.R.R. Tolkien was a keen supporter of this notion. He wrote that myths held “fundamental things” and expressed those beliefs in his poem Mythopoeia.

Relevance of Mythology:

Mythology is thus a vital influence on cultural aspects like personal development and beliefs. It assists in the improvement of one’s critical thinking, considering that mythology, in general, have intricate themes that are both relevant and crucially influential to literature today. For example, as times have changed the LGBT themes in Classical Mythology are no longer coined as cautionary tales for homosexual tendencies, but rather a socially acceptable description of how same-sex relationships were seen during those times. Reinterpretation of these themes has turned certain characters into icons for the LGBT community.

Vampires through the ages 1

Reinterpretation of Mythology:

Fantasy authors often draw inspiration from the old in order to reinterpret mythology and ‘repackage’ it for modern society. Rick Riordian – author of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, the Heroes of Olympus series, and the Kane Chronicles – is a great example of reinterpretation and reinvention of mythology for a modern audience. Using the Greco-Roman mythos, in particular, Riordian reintroduced a new generation to the beauty of mythology. However, he is not alone in using mythology as a foundation for his work. George R.R. Martin, also drew inspiration from Greco-Roman mythology, stating that he avoided the conventional good versus evil setting typical for the genre by using the fight between Achilles and Hector in Homer’s Iliad as example, because no one stands out as either a hero or a villain.

Bram Stoker based his famous 1897 novel, Dracula, upon the legend of the vampir and the 15th Century prince, Vlad Tepes (1431 – 1477) – also known as Vlad the Impaler. Our man Vlad had a reputation for cruelty though, whether through truth or propaganda, it doesn’t matter and his ‘thirst for blood’ became the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s famous character; Count Dracula. Through reinterpretation, reinvention and inspiration, a creature was created that inspired a whole genre of literary work.

Countless vampire books have been written ever since Dracula and interestingly enough, the mythologies of each of those works differ considerably to the original myth of Stoker’s Dracula.

Own the myths:

Whether the reinterpretation of facts is a good thing or not is a whole other debate, but in an interview with Hy Bender, Neil Gaiman states: “We [authors] have the right, and the obligation, to tell old stories in our own ways, because they are our stories.”  Enticed

Sanguine

Bibliography

Guxens, A., 2012. George R.R. Martin: “Trying to please everyone is a horrible mistake”. [Online]
Available at: http://www.adriasnews.com/2012/10/george-r-r-martin-interview.html
[Accessed 02 06 2014].

Menion, M., n.d. Tolkien Elves and Art, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Aesthetics. s.l.:s.n.

Morford, M. P. & Lenardon, R. J., 2003. Classical Mythology. 7th ed. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press.

Natishan, G. K., 2012. Returning the King: The Medieval King in Modern Fantasy. [Online]
Available at: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/theses/available/etd-05072012-232018/unrestricted/Natishan_GK_T_2012.pdf
[Accessed 02 06 2014].

Pequigney, J., 2002. GLBTQ Encyclopedia: “Classical Mythology”. [Online]
Available at: http://www.glbtq.com/literature/classical_myth.html
[Accessed 02 06 2014].

Rester, A., 1999. Women, Cattle, and Sacred Drink: The Legitimation of Kingship in Three Mythic Contexts. [Online]
Available at: http://aaronrester.net/writings/honorspaperCCL.pdf
[Accessed 02 06 2014].

Simek, R., 2006. Slavic Mythology. In: J. Parker & J. Stanton, eds. Mythology: Myths, Legends, & Fantasies. Cape Town: Struik Publishers, p. 263.

Snyman, M., 2013. Charming Incantations: Enticed. 2nd ed. s.l.:Rainstorm Press.

Tolkien, J., circa 1931. [Online]
Available at: http://home.ccil.org/~cowan/mythopoeia.html
[Accessed 02 06 2014].

Wood, R. C., n.d. Biography of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973). [Online]
Available at: http://www.leaderu.com/humanities/wood-biography.html
[Accessed 02 06 2014].

 

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