What Is the Power of Myth?

Part 4- Inspiration

There's a much-used quotation regarding the creation of new artistic projects: "There are no new stories, really, just new ways to tell old ones." There is a certain amount of truth to this, if one views things from the 'Archetypes' perspective. For instance, there are, for the fantasy genre, the following stories to tell:

1)Evil Wizard Tries to Take Over World, Neophyte Stops Him
2) Mysterious Swordsman Comes to kingdom, turns out to be lost heir to throne here to depose false ruler
3) Magical Girl saves the world with sass, self-confidence, and power of friendship
4) Small but righteous band of adventurers rights some world-threatening wrong.

There are others, yes, but these generally form the basis for a TON of stories in the genre. But mythologies of old also serve as excellent inspirations for modern narratives, and some are almost one-to-one skeletons that get blown out into fantastic productions.

Neil Gaiman's "American Gods", for instance, is a classic 'Hero's Journey' tale, a la Joseph Campbell, wrapped in bits and pieces of folklore and mythology from various sources, notably Norse myth. Disney's Princess films are almost all birthed from fairy tales of various origins (though I absolutely love the insert of Vodun lore in 'Princess and the Frog', and who doesn't love Keith David's voice work?), and they are beloved by so many people.

One needs not even go back to mythology sourced from more than a century to see modern takes; look you to 'Event Horizon' or 'The Color Out of Space', and try telling me that the lore of 'Cosmic Horror' doesn't play a heavy hand. You can't.

Even my own work comes draped in bits and pieces of prior lore, with my Tamalarian Tales owing much to Donaldson's 'Thomas Covenant' novels and old-school Dungeons and Dragons, and my horror taking a decidedly Lovecraftian bent. These older tales inspire new ones all the time, and modern storytellers owe it to themselves and their audiences to admit up front that we aren't spontaneously and with NO motivation from other sources spinning our tales.

Inspiration is a sacred thing, after all, and mythologies of all stripes can serve it well. This is just another example of myth's enduring power, and why those of us who fall to a fascination with it, continue to love it so.