Subgenre Study: Mythic Fantasy

Ah, mythic fantasy, where Gods walk the Earth (or…not-Earth), where heroes are born, and where magic imbues the world around us.

A simplistic definition is that mythic fantasy is fantasy that weaves mythology into the world.  Usually each story focuses on a single culture’s mythology, but nothing is ever a hard, fast rule in speculative fiction.  Mythic fantasy can be an updated retelling of a myth to a completely new story where elements of a myth or mythology are present.

Mythic fantasy incorporates all mythologies, from Native American (ala Neil Gaiman or Charles de Lint) to Celtic to Arthurian to Japanese to Norse to a mythology that the author has completely made up.  Mythology is sometimes like porn – you know it when you see it.

While elements of mythic fantasy depend directly on the mythology involved, there does tend to be common elements in the subgenre.  Usually there are prophecies, and if not walking, talking, meddling gods, some sort of higher power.  Legends tend to be, at least in part, true.  Often a Hero’s Journey is involved in some manner.

Mythic fantasy can be mixed with other fantasy subgenres, such as epic or urban fantasy.  (Actually, I am terribly fond of urban mythic fantasy.  I like how ancient themes can mix with the modern world.)

How do you feel about mythic fantasy, Squiders?  Any mythologies that make you tingly?  Any recommendations?  (My friend just loaned me Guy Gavriel Kay’s entire Fionavar Tapestry.  I am excited.)


7 responses to this post.

  1. I too am a fan of the genre. One of my guilty pleasures. I like Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman. Specifically the Dragonlance Chrinicles.


  2. Posted by Bookish Hobbit on 2011/12/16 at 8:04 PM

    Tolkien’s The Silmarillion comes to mind.


  3. I have a mild obsession with Charles de Lint. I love the way that he integrates magic and mythology into everyday life.

    Any other urban mythic fantasy you can recommend? 😀


  4. Ooh, Guy Gavriel Kay! Will be curious to hear what you think.

    Grace, if you like fae or Arthurian stories in a modern setting, Elizabeth Bear’s BLOOD AND IRON is a good one.


  5. Posted by bob on 2013/10/23 at 10:10 PM

    The lost gate, as far as I know, is an urban mythic fantasy. I haven’t read it yet but sounds good


  6. […] Fantasy Dark Fantasy Fairy Tale Fantasy Fantasy Romance High and Low Fantasy Historical Fantasy Mythic Fantasy Off-world Fantasy Quest Fantasy Sword and Sorcery Urban […]


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