Reflections from an emerging writer as she journeys through the creative process.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Quests in Fantasy





Today is the 17th day of the A to Z April Challenge. Participants post on a letter of the alphabet every day except Sundays. If you would like to visit the main web page where the blog hop list is, click HERE.

I chose Fantasy for my theme, and today is about Quests in Fantasy and Mythology. 


In mythology and literature, a quest, a journey towards a goal, serves as a plot device and (frequently) as a symbol. Quests appear in the folklore of every nation and also figure prominently in non-national cultures. In literature, the objects of quests require great exertion on the part of the hero, and the overcoming of many obstacles, typically including much travel. The aspect of travel also allows the storyteller to showcase exotic locations and cultures (an objective of the narrator, not the character).

The hero aims to obtain something or someone by the quest, and with this object to return home. The object can be something new, that fulfills a lack in his life, or something that is stolen away from him or someone with authority to dispatch him.

Sometimes the hero has no desire to return, Sir Galahads quest for the Holy Grail is to find it, not to return with it. A return may, indeed, be impossible: Aeneas quests for a homeland, having lost Troy at the beginning of Virgil's Aeneid, and he does not return to Troy to re-found it, but settles in Italy (to become an ancestor of the Romans).

If the hero does return after the culmination of the quest, he may face false heroes who attempt to pass themselves off as him, or his initial response may be a rejection of that return, as Joseph Campbell describes in his critical analysis of quest literature, The Hero With A Thousand Faces.

If someone dispatches the hero on a quest, the overt reason may be false, with the dispatcher actually sending him on the difficult quest in hopes of his death in the attempt, or in order to remove him from the scene for a time, just as if the claim were sincere, except that the tale usually ends with the dispatcher being unmasked and punished.

The quest object may, indeed, function only as a convenient reason for the heroes journey, woven into the plot by the author. Have you created quest objects for your characters to weave them into your plot? How did it work out?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pegasus





Today is the 16th day of the A to Z April Challenge. Participants in this blog hop post each day (except Sundays) on a letter of the alphabet. To visit other bloggers on the main web page, click HERE.

I chose Fantasy as my theme and today I'm writing about Pegasus.


The Pegasus is one of the best known mythological creatures in Greek mythology. He is a winged divine stallion depicted as pure white in color. He was sired by Poseidon, in his role as horse-god, and foaled by the Gorgon Medusa. He was the brother of Chrysaor, born at a single birthing when his mother was decapitated by Perseus. Greco-Roman poets write about his ascent to heaven after his birth and his obeisance to Zeus, king of the gods, who instructed him to bring lightning and thunder from Olympus. Friend of the Muses, Pegasus is the creator of Hippocrene, the fountain on Mt. Helicon. He was captured by the Greek hero Bellerophon near the fountain Peirene with the help of Athena and Poseidon. Pegasus allows the hero to ride him to defeat a monster, the Chimera, before realizing many other exploits. His rider, however, falls off his back trying to reach Mt. Olympus. Zeus transformed him into the constellation Pegasus and placed him up in the sky.

The symbolism of Pegasus varies with time. Symbol of wisdom and especially of fame from the Middle Ages until the Renaissance, he became one symbol of the poetry and the creator of sources in which the poets come to draw inspiration, particularly in the 19th century. Pegasus is the subject of a very rich iconography, especially through the ancient Greek pottery and paintings and sculptures of the Renaissance.

According to legend, everywhere the winged horse struck his hoof to the earth, an inspired spring burst forth. One of these springs was upon the Muses Mt. Helicon, the Hippocrene (horse spring), opened at the behest of Poseidon to prevent the mountain swelling rapture at the song of the Muses, another was at Troezen. Hesiod relates how Pegasus was peacefully drinking from a spring, when the hero Bellerophon captured him. Hesiod also says Pegasus carried thunderbolts for Zeus.

This is only some of the accounts of Pegasus in Greek mythology. My own thoughts are about Pegasus carrying the thunderbolts for Zeus. What an incredible story. And for so many years I wore a necklace of a Pegasus, not knowing anything except its beauty. Have you used any winged horses in your stories?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Oracles in Mythology




Today is day 15 in the A to Z April Challenge. Participants are blogging about their favorite subjects every day except Sunday. To visit others in this blog hop, you can go to the main web page HERE.

I chose Fantasy for my theme and today I'll be talking about Oracles in Mythology. 


In classical antiquity, an oracle was a person or agency considered to interface wise counsel or prophetic predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods. As such, it is a form of divination.

The word oracle comes from the Latin verb orare "to speak" and properly refers to the priest or priestess uttering the prediction. In extended use, oracle may also refer to the site of the oracle, and to the oracular utterances themselves, called khresmoi in Greek.

Oracles were thought to be portals through which the gods spoke directly to people. In this sense they were different from seers (manteis) who interpreted signs sent by the gods through bird signs, animal entrails, and other various methods.

The most important oracles of Greek antiquity were Pythia, priestess to Apollo at Delphi, and the oracle of Dione and Zeus at Dodona in Epirus. Other temples of Apollo were located at Didyma, on the coast of Asia Minor, at Corinth and Bassae in the Peloponnese, and at the islands of Delos and Aegina in the Aegean Sea. The Sibylline Oracles are a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the Sibyls, prophetesses who uttered divine revelations in a frenzied state.

The term oracle is also applied to parallel institutions of divination in other cultures. In Celtic polytheism, divination was performed by the priestly caste, either the Druids or the Vates. This is reflected in the role of "seers" in Dark Age Wales and Ireland. In Norse mythology, Odin took the severed head of the mythical god Mimir to Asgard for consultation as an oracle. The Havamal and other sources relate the sacrifice of Odin for the Oracular Runes whereby he lost an eye (external sight) and won wisdom (internal sight, insight) to be a consulted oracle.

The list goes on for examples of oracles. Have you used an oracle or a seer in one of your stories? How important was their message?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nobility in Medieval Times



Today is the 14th day of the A to Z April Challenge. This means two weeks of blogging the alphabet every day except Sundays. For those who would like to visit other participants listed on the main web page, click HERE.

I chose Fantasy for my theme and today I'm looking at the Nobility in Medieval Times. I use the medieval social structure in some of my fantasy stories.


In medieval times, most of the people were peasants, farmers who worked all the time just to grow food.  They were protected by the Nobles.  But who made up the nobility? The Nobility included the landowners, the King, Lords and Ladies, and Knights of the kingdom.  
The King: The King was the highest noble of the land.  In theory, the king owned all the land.  The King gave out fiefs to his followers, which put them in charge of a portion of the land.  The fief holder had to pay the king rent, taxes, and provide soldiers whenever the king needed them.  
A Lord: A Lord was given a fief by the king.  The lord was expected to pay taxes to the king and provide soldiers when needed.  To do that, the lord was given absolute power over his fief.  Within it, a lord's word was the law.  Whatever the lord said, the people had to do.    
A Lady: A Lord also needed a wife who was called a Lady.  Her job was to take care of the manor, run the house, and most importantly to have children.  Women in medieval times had no rights.  They were property.  They belonged to their father, husband or even eldest son.  This is not to say some women didn't take charge, but the law said they were property.  
Children: A boy learned how to be a Knight starting at about seven years old.  Sometimes they were even taught how to read and write.  Girls were not.  They were instead expected to learn from their mother all the skills of being a good wife.  

I imagine that it was hard for the nobility to live in a time when the upper class was continually grappling for who would come out on top. There was constant treachery, kidnapping and even murder of the royals, forcing the nobles family to live with body guards, food tasters and soldiers surrounding them. This meant a host of lower class servants that would be loyal to the family. How did they find these servants? Perhaps some Lords treated their subjects with enough kindness to earn respect and devotion, but others ruled with an iron fist and used fear as a way of controlling their underlings, with punishment and death as rewards for disobedience.

Have you used this social structure in your stories? How did it work for you?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Middle-earth




Today is day thirteen in the A to Z April Challenge. Participants in this blog hop post each day on a different letter of the alphabet (except Sundays). To visit the main web page click Here.

I chose Fantasy as my theme and today is about Middle-earth.



Middle-earth is the fictional universe setting of the majority of author J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy writings. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place entirely in Middle-earth, as does much of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. Properly, Middle-earth is the central continent of the imagined world, not a name of the entire world.
Tolkien prepared several maps of Middle-earth and of the regions of Middle-earth where his stories took place. Some were published in his lifetime, though some of the earliest maps were not published until after his death. The main maps were those published in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. Most of the events of the First Age took place in the subcontinent Beleriand, which was later engulfed by the ocean at the end of the First Age. Tolkien's map of Middle-earth, however, shows only a small part of the world, most of the lands of Rhun and Harad are not shown on the map, and there are also other continents.

Tolkien wrote many times that Middle-earth is located on our earth. He described it as an imaginary period in Earth's past, not only in The Lord of the Rings, but also several letters. He put the end of the Third Age about 6,000 years before his own time, and the environs of the Shire in what is now Northwestern Europe (Hobbiton for example was set at the same latitude as Oxford), though in replies to letters he would also describe elements of the stories as a "...secondary or sub-creational reality" or "Secondary belief". During an interview in January 1971, when asked if the stories take place in a different era, he stated, "No...at a different stage of imagination, yes." However he did nod to the stories setting on earth, speaking of Midgard and Middle-earth, he said, "Oh yes, they're the same word. Most people have made this mistake of thinking Middle-earth is a particular kind of earth or is another planet of the science fiction sort but it's just an old fashioned word for this world we live in, as imagined surrounded by the ocean."

Such an incredible imagination that Tolkien had, I am awed. In one simple word comes an entire world. Do you make maps with your worlds? I have and want to incorporate them in my stories.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Leprechaun




Welcome to the 12th day of the A to Z April Challenge. This is a blog hop where the participants follow the alphabet and post every day except Sundays. To visit the main web page click HERE.

I chose Fantasy as my theme and today is about Leprechauns.



Probably the most famous of the Irish fairies, leprechauns are little people in Irish folklore, usually clad in a red or green coat, who enjoy partaking in mischief. Like other fairy creatures, leprechauns have been linked to the Tuatha De Danann of Irish mythology. The leprechauns spend all their time busily making shoes, and store away all their coins in a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If ever captured by a human, the leprechaun has the power to grant three wishes in exchange for their release. However, they are exceptionally clever and tricky and very few mortals ever get the best of a leprechaun.

Popular depiction shows the leprechaun as being no taller than a small child, with a beard and hat, although they may have originally been perceived as the tallest of the mound dwellers (the Tuatha De Danann).

The earliest known reference to the leprechaun appears in the medieval tale known as the Echtra Fergus mac Leti (Adventure of Fergus son of Leti). The text contains an episode in which Fergus mac Leti, King of Ulster, falls asleep on the beach and wakes up to find himself being dragged into the sea by three luchorpain. He captures his abductors, who grant him three wishes in exchange for their release.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Knighthood




Today is the eleventh day of the A to Z April Challenge, where bloggers post on a letter of the alphabet every day except Sunday. To visit the main web page in this blog hop, just click HERE.

I've chosen Fantasy as my theme this month and today is about Knighthood. 


Knights were frequently organized into orders of knighthood, many of which were fraternal of military associations of armed, armored and mounted expert soldiers fervently dedicated to God or some other noble cause. Just as such organizations can evoke colorful and powerful images of their role in history, so too can they be used to evoke powerful images in works of fantasy.


In the Early Medieval period any well-equipped horseman could be described as a 'knight,' or miles in Latin. In the course of the 12th century knighthood became a social rank with a distinction being made between 'milites gregarii' (non-noble cavalrymen) and milites nobiles (true knights). As the term 'knight' became increasingly confined to denoting a social rank, the military role of fully armoured cavalryman gained a separate term, 'man-at-arms'. Although any Medieval knight going to war would automatically serve as a man-at-arms, not all men-at-arms were knights.

(The battle between the Turks and Christian knights during the Ottoman wars in Europe.)
The first military orders of knighthood were of Knights Hospitaller and of the Holy Sepulchre, both founded at the First Crusade of 1099, followed by the Knights Templar (1119) and the Order of Saint Lazarus (1098). At the time of their foundation, these were intended as monastic orders, whose members would act as simple soldiers protecting pilgrims. It was only over the following century, with the successful conquest of the Holy Land and the rise of the crusader states, that these orders became powerful and prestigious.
The ideal of chivalry as the ethos of the Christian warrior, and the transmutation of the term knight from the meaning "servant, soldier", and of chevalier "mounted soldier", to refer to a member of this ideal class, is significantly influenced by the Crusades, on one hand inspired by the military orders of monastic warriors, as seen retrospectively from the point of view of the beginning Late Middle Ages, and on the other hand influenced by Islamic (Saracen) ideals.

I imagine that being a knight was a difficult life for any person who chose to serve in this capacity. Would you want to be a knight?