>Our Own Worlds<

A Speculative Fiction Community for Independent Writers & Readers

Gods & Mythology: Why We Love Reading Legends

2 min read

by Sarah Buhrman

People didn’t realize it, but they needed myths to survive, just as much now as when their forebears were alive. Perhaps more. Mythology embodied the world’s dreams, helped to make sense of the great human problems. Just as the dreams of individuals exist to give subconscious support to their conscious lives, so do myths serve as society’s dreams. They uncover the dark, hidden places where mysteries dwell and can turn to nightmare if left untended.

CHARLES DE LINT, I’ll Be Watching You

We love books about gods and goddesses, heroes and legends. The only thing we seem to love more is the claim that now is the “first time” mythology has “really” been used/explored/etc. But it’s not.

We love mythology so much that we have created a literary cycle of using myths and legends in fiction. Or maybe it isn’t a cycle so much as the natural ebb and flow of subjects.

A Classic Subject
Durga as Mahishasura-Mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon
Durga as Mahishasura-Mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon

Either way, we’ve enjoyed the stories of the gods integrated into modern paranormal fiction for decades. Whether it was reimaginings of our mythologies into fictional worlds or using myths to tell stories of this world, we keep bringing the gods back from the brink of being forgotten.

The only thing that has really changed is that we often see stories of lesser-known or lesser-loved gods re-told in ways that make them more accessible and understood. Sometimes that means bringing unknown tales to life. Sometimes that means turning the myths on their head to suggest that previous stories misunderstood or misrepresented the subject.

Often, myths are used to tell our own stories – the strange and marginalized ones – from a perspective that is less personal. This is especially true of the use of mythology in LGBTQ+ stories. After all, many of the gods were queer, and that can be validating for many.

Tales of pain, failure, and more are also addressed in many myths, making our own experiences ones that are shared with gods and legends.

Reading List

Some of the more well-known examples of using myth includes: the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, the Lords of Avalon series by Sherrilyn Kenyon (as Kinley MacGregor), American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and Lords of the Underworld by Gena Showalter. There are dozens of indie books on the subject, too: The Sons of Zeus series by Tamara White, the Road to Hell series by Brenda K. Davies, The Red Khémèresh by Mab Morris, and my own Runespells series.

What are you favorite mythology-based books? What do you like, love, or even hate about fiction based on ancient religious tales?

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