The Mythology of Mythological Places
Here’s a thought exercise that hit me out of the blue while driving to work this morning.
As gamers, we’re used to our entertainment being set in worlds based in “fantasy”, which is a kind way of saying “this shit’s made up”. Sometimes these worlds borrow things from our real world mythologies: unicorns, trolls, orcs, and pretty much everything in The Secret World. We’re used to (and sometimes demand) seeing the things that we know as “stories” incorporated into fantasy worlds as ways of proving that these are fantasy worlds, and are nothing like our real world.
I’m not asking anyone to “leave a comment showcasing your knowledge of The Silmarillion” or to provide a Powerpoint presentation on the lore behind World of Warcraft, but think about it in terms of the fact that if our fantasy is these character’s reality, what fantasy do these characters realities have?
For us, mythology is the representation of what people believed to be possible (deities with human traits) combined with what’s impossible (humans flying or being transformed into things) either to explain natural phenomenon that they didn’t have the knowledge to explain and prove, or to serve as allegories warning against undesirable character traits. We’ve since progressed to the point where we as a species can look back on those days and those explanations and consider them to be “quaint” and sometimes even “backwards”. We now mine those past beliefs as a scholarly pursuit (especially in literature) and to build our fantasy worlds that form the basis of popular culture entertainment, filling them with anything and everything we know about our mythology, but employing it as actual fact within these made-up worlds.
In thinking about it, that asks a question: when your reality is someone else’s mythology, what kind of mythologies does your reality have, and how would you know what’s a story or allegory and what’s real? When it’s fairly common for someone to shoot fireballs from their bare hands, the notion that some bearded dude is throwing electricity from above the clouds doesn’t seem all that far fetched. How weird does something have to be in a fantasy world before the only logical place that inhabitants can dump it is in the “mythology” bin?