Stealing Mythology

Oh, Squiders, I love mythology. You guys know that. My friends know that. My family knows that. My husband definitely knows that because every time we go anywhere I come home with new folklore books.

As a writer, mythologies never fail to twitch my “ooh” button. You know, the one that seeps under your skin and lies in wait, slowly perfecting story ideas for you.  The one that gets into your head and won’t leave you alone until you do something with it. That one.

But, and maybe this is just me, I feel like I can’t appropriate other people’s mythologies. Especially not mythologies that come from Native American, African, or Polynesian people. I love their mythologies. There’s some really cool stuff in there. But, as a white person, I feel like they’ve suffered enough crap over the years without me running off with their gods and manipulating them as I see fit.

Now, Shards, out in December, is a mix of mythologies, but I feel like I can lay claim to the mythologies used through my religious and ethnic backgrounds. (Shards is mostly Biblical mythology with some Norse, Greek and Celtic mixed in for extra snazziness.) I am admittedly not Greek in any way but I don’t really feel bad about running off with it, maybe because it’s a European mythology and, besides, many many other people have stomped all over it before me.

Let’s take Hawaiian mythology, though. I love it to death. I have books and books of the folklore. There’s so much potential there, but I feel like I can’t go anywhere near it, like if I give it a try, the Hawaiian people as a collective are going to be like, “Who’s this white chick from the mainland to be messing with our stuff?”

I mean, I don’t know if people actually get insulted when authors twist mythologies for their stories. It probably depends on the culture. Or the person. But this is something I worry about.

(Oddly enough, Central and South American mythologies don’t seem to have the same mental block for me, despite the fact that the White Men were just as oppressive there as anywhere else. It may be because a lot of–though, admittedly, not the most interesting stuff–the stuff I’ve seen has been beliefs that have become a mixture of the original native culture and the invading culture.)

What do you think, Squiders? Does there come a point in my career where it’s more okay than others to steal other cultures’ mythology? Am I blocking myself out of potentially really awesome stories for nothing?

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One response to this post.

  1. I really don’t know the answer to that question, Kit. I’ve never had a problem stealing mythologies. I had wibbled about using Native American mythology, though, because I had a close friend who was Native American. He used to tell me all about their culture, and I was fascinated by it. But I think he’d be happy if I used it.

    Reply

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