Mythology In Writing

Please excuse me if I bring up LOST in this post.

Mythology is a pretty big part of human culture, whether we notice it often or not. Think about Egypt and Greece for a moment. And Norse mythology too. There is stuff we see every day that relates to it. There are weird creatures and interesting people and useful lessons in the mythology of all cultures that we encounter in reading (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and many, many others) and in movies (Inception had a lot in there) and in television shows (cough, cough, LOST; I could go on and on about this one) and maybe we have even used it in our own writing.

This is a broad topic, and there are many things to discuss here, so why don't we just have a little comment chat, you know, if anybody actually reads my humble blog. So whether it's naming characters and giving them traits that correspond with it or it's using mythology to reveal your theme, what is it that you do in your own writing, no matter what the culture?

Peace, Aimee


  1. Can we start with what Myths are not?

    Myths are not packs of lies – Myths are metaphors.

    Myths are not religions – Myths are the internalization and projection of world view. Religion is what you get when Philosophy fuses with Myth.

    Myths are not the adventure stories told by ancients (btw we have our own “modern” Myths) – The adventure stories are the vehicles that bear the metaphors.

  2. I don't want to dominate the discussion, but feel like my first comment doesn't address the discussion at hand.

    More to the point of your question, and without “bleeding” my WIP all over the internet since its central theme is Greco-Roman History and Mythology, I explore the recurring themes of “twins” – Kastor and Polydueces (Castor and Pollux), Romulus and Remus, Sun and Moon – Light and Dark. I do this because of this weird propensity of the “modern” mind to define the in between space as “grey”. The space between Light and Dark is not Grey; it is Color.

  3. My present children's book, Thin Time, touches on the Green Man and characters from Norse mythology, yes, I know an odd mixture, but it's great fun, whatever you call it. Have fun too.

  4. Well, I steal a lot. Is that wrong? But myths are juicy and archetypal and full of the primordial conflicts of man. How can we not steal from that?

  5. Watcher55, yeah I meant mythology as in the ancient stories, and in writing we use them as metaphors. Myths and mythology, while they share the same thing, have different connotations. "Modern myths" are things like walking under a ladder gives you bad luck or you don't have to exercise to lose weight. You seem to know a lot about mythology, and since you're WIP focuses on Greco-Roman history, that is perfect for this discussion! I like the grey vs. color thing.
    And Bryan, it's not stealing! It's alluding. Allusions I guess are kind of borrowing, but since mythology is common knowledge (supposedly) it's perfectly fine to use it in writing. There's no copywrite either, since these stories were usually spread by word of mouth back in the day, and the people who created them are all dead any way.
    The themes in mythological stories definitely apply to life today, which is why they are so popular in writing today.
    Have fun "stealing" you guys, and thanks so much for the comments!

  6. I've been using mythological creatures and figures in my urban fantasy. It's great fun speculating on how they would adapt to the modern world. I also love getting into the culture behind the mythology and using that to say something about modern life.

    Ink, I'm pretty sure Cafe Press has products (t-shirts, hats, mugs) that say something like "writer: professional liar and thief". I really want those. :)

  7. I often use names from Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology in my writing, usually to name some place important. I have a city in my dystopian zombie novel called Minerva. It is a great hospital/research city. Presumably, those that built the city took some degree of inspiration from the name, as if invoking her name would help them find a cure.

    Of course, referencing mythology in fiction can backfire too. I have a coworker who is reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods. She hates it. It is taking her weeks to plod through it and after talking to her I think it is because she is not familiar with most of the mythology references. I thought it was a wonderful book, but I've read a lot of mythology.