Friday, October 15, 2010

Seeking Mythologies

I'm starting a new novel. It is going to be amazing fun to write. I cannot wait to get started on it in earnest.

However, I have a problem. It resulted from the solution to another problem, namely that there were only so many false leads I could send the characters on before they (and my readers) got angry. I needed something else to be happening, and if it fit into the climax—kind of weak right now—so much the better.

I brought that problem up with a friend who kindly serves as a sounding board and helps me brainstorm. And she said, "It's a fantasy, right? Are there any mythologies out there that might work?"

"Yes!" I said. "Yes, that's it, that's perfect!" And then I realized that I only know a handful of mythologies decently (Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian) and that they're somewhat overdone in the fantasy world and pretty familiar to boot. Not a problem! I can read! I've been wanting to read more mythology! But I don't exactly have time (or, sorry, inclination) to read about everyone's myths in depth, and I'm not entirely sure where to start. I'd kind of like to narrow my focus to the ones which might prove most useful.

So I'm going to hope that someone reading this can help me. I'm looking for:

  • myths that involve a cataclysmic event
  • mythologies that involve frequent human-supernatural interaction
  • books that will give me an overview of a number of mythologies or mythological tropes in one go
  • websites that will do the same
  • seminal books on a mythology (the one book people should read, if they're only going to read one)
  • websites that archive myths and folklore
  • really, really cool mythologies that don't get enough press these days
Internet hivemind, the floor is yours.


Amalia T. said...

I think it was @kristenyard who shared these links with me, and so I now pass them on to you:

I haven't had a chance to look too deeply into either of them yet, but it might be a good place to start.

There's also godchecker which is totally searchable by any number of ways, if you're looking for a particular god-of___ or what have you:

Usually I cross-check any information from one of these places with whatever source material/references/primary sources I can find. is a good place to look for online translations.

DeAnna said...


I can't remember if it's you that I recommended this to earlier or someone else, so if I'm repeating myself, apologies.

I'm having to do research for a 2012-themed book. Fun stuff.

I particularly liked the Popol Vuh, but that's going to give you the POV of the people that were living at the time of the Conquistadores.

I particularly liked the Dennis Tedlock translation; he didn't just make a translation but did research with the current Quiche people and was initiated into their rituals.

I've mostly cobbled together other references from websites like:


Good luck :)

Hannah said...

What about the Sanskrit stuff? Upanishads, etc. I don't know much about them, but I've always wanted to learn more -- although I don't know if you're trying to avoid mythologies that still form the basis for major religions...

Anassa said...

Amalia - Thanks for the links! I've got them bookmarked now and suspect I'll be using them extensively. Especially Sacred Texts, because at-home access is always good!

DeAnna - You're thinking of someone else. We've never discussed the Mayans. But yes, they do have an interesting mythology. I'll have to look more into it. Thanks for the tips on where to start!

Hannah - I'll look at Sanskrit/Hindu stuff because it would be a shame not to. Not sure I'll use it, though. Messing with current religions is a bit of an issue, and there are plot reasons for avoiding modern-day stuff as well. But yes, shall look at Sanskrit myths in more depths.

Nerdy Girl On A Mission said...

Not a lot of mythology from Canadian aboriginals and Native Americans makes its way into fantasy.

If you know what city/region the story will be set in, you could look up the indigenous people and see if they had any myths that would work.

This article on Wiki gives you a list of indigenous people based on geographic location:

Anassa said...

This is true, and I'd thought about using one of their stories. I'm fairly familiar with the local stories, and know those don't quite work for what I'm after, but I'll certainly take a look at elsewhere in North America. (Story's set in Everytown, USA, right now.)

Luna Lindsey said...

There are a couple of good biblical myths about cataclysms, particularly the Tower of Babel, The Flood, and a number of culture-destroying wars. (Don't forget the Wall of Jericho). Some of these tales are shared in common with not only modern Christian beliefs, but also Judaism, Islam, and civilizations now gone (some are based on Summarian and Persian myths, for example).

I know it's still Western, but I do a lot of research on fairies, which routinely interact with humans. I blogged a summary of this in my series, "The Science of Fairies", which includes a lot of links, including to some non-western fae lore (Arab, Japanese, Native American, etc).

Here's a site I've been using a lot lately, that groups folktales and myths based on archetype or theme. Totally fascinating, and most of these fairytales involve humans and supernatural beings interacting:

Lastly, my favorite source when I need a quick monster, is Monstropedia:

I'll let you know if I think of anything else. :)

Anassa said...

Thanks, Luna. I want to stay away from Biblical myths, because there's an urban fantasy series (at least one, anyway) that uses them already and I want to be different. They're certainly good for cataclysms, though!

I've already considered fairies. I'll need to do more research into the lore, of course, but they're definitely an option. (Again, though, the Celtic ones have been done.)

Thanks for the links!

Luna Lindsey said...

No problem. :) Keep in mind that a lot of the "fairytales" at that folklore link are about giants, trolls, witches, demons, and other creatures. Most are European, but many are from elsewhere, like India.

It's also a good place to cross-reference how tales are similar worldwide, so your character can discover this in their research and use this universality as "proof" that there is truth to the myth. :)

Good luck!