Often, I wonder if contemporary writers draw from tales of "once upon a time" more frequently than not. Well, I have a theory, and the winner is . . . YES, they do it in every word! They jot every tale they tell. Frankly, planet earthlings draw precisely from the past. Even on the latest tech. Breakthroughs are nothing but fulfillment of ancient hopes, dreams, and aspirations.
Even our tropes are worn and aged. Those same tropes were worn and aged five thousand years ago.
Whether one is writing Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Sci-Fi, or Historical. There is nothing new under the sun. That’s the Bible, and you can take that particular concept to the bank. I used to tell my boys growing up that if they were smarter than their old man and my generation (and we all know they are), why not invent new addictions, new pastimes that prove superior intelligence? You know, put the cigarettes down, the lip tobacco, and develop something new. Replace beer, wine, and whiskey with a more value-added chemical heretofore unseen and unheard. Give the world a new concept. Did they? No, of course not.
That is the reason fantasy writers often struggle with world-building. Even if many of them are successful. Yet, have they actually built a new world functioning on newly discovered concepts? Or have they simply thrown a handful of ancient ingredients into a pot, shook them, and drawn out selected pieces to form a shiny new cosmos? The latter, I’d say.
True to form?
My current WIP, HUNGER MOUNTAIN-Flight 23, is a Historical Fantasy Romance novel. It's from an ancient 2300 BC Celtic myth with a handful of contemporary amenities, comforts, and factual details thrown in. It's a futuristic Hover Craft, just to name one example of "Myths and Legends renewed" through a figurative interracial marriage and mythological interbreeding.
So, am I true to form? Am I a Celtic legend purist? Not so, nor must I be one, because I am faithful to the ancient tale bearer’s process. Why were so many deluge tales, like the Biblical Noah’s Ark story, told around the world? Most notably, ancient writers drew ideas and concepts from their contemporaries and their predecessors in a similar manner, if not identical to the modern writer. The oldies were well-read in their interests, as well as they drew from migratory tales. Whether you believe in literal earth drowning flood or not, the story was told, retold, rewritten, reread, and reshaped to function in a particular geographical location and time slot around the world.
Irish folklore telling of the great flood bears many similarities to Genesis, yet differs in many ways. Eight were saved in Genesis, with no mention of another boat or survivors. Ireland’s myth furnishes us with unknown details to the Biblical Canon. However, it does not give us anything new under the sun.
Mix it up
Search the various legends and lore, familiarize yourself with their content, even if the names and narratives appear unrelated to your future bestseller. What’s not today, might be tomorrow. Here’s the beauty of it all. Although a contemporary author’s work, revamping a mythological tale that may bear the Copyright seal, the traditional fairytales and myths themselves do not.
They beckon the modern writer. Come and see us, find wonderful opportunities, scan through the many inspiring layers we can contribute to the reader's imagination. We are a magical bunch, we will become shapeshifters if you like, cast a spell, or unleash a demon, and all for your reading pleasure. We will die, only to crawl from our graves and exact revenge on our slayers. We love, we hate, we laugh, we mourn, we’re the scent in the breeze, and the rain in the storm.
James A. Rockridge