Hello lovely readers – and to my American friends: I hope you had a wonderful, filling, and fulfilling Thanksgiving weekend!
I can’t say I was too productive today, I got sucked into a Steam sale and ended up getting the extended edition of Age of Mythology – one of my beloved childhood games. Excited to relive old memories, one hour became two, two became three, three became five — then suddenly it was eight o’clock and I’d neither eaten dinner nor written a blog post!
If you’ve never played AoM, it is Age of Empires but better because centaurs. You get to play as and utilize a number of different cultures and their respective mythologies like the Greek and Norse deities. Each come with their own mythic creatures like the manticore and kraken. It’s all pretty amazing.
I’ve always really enjoyed studying the mythology of other cultures, as well as fairy tales and superstitions. It’s fascinating to see how these ancient populations sought to rationalize the world around them with creation stories and explanations for natural disasters.
In fact, one whole shelf in my library is dedicated to mythology and fairy tales. As a writer, I think it’s important to explore and analyze the origins of creatures, tropes, and archetypes that first appeared in these tales. Not only because it is key to see these elements in their raw and first portrayal, but also because these things are timeless and can provide a ton of inspiration.
“Little Red Riding Hood” is a good example of this. It’s a simple enough tale and such a well-known one that I am not going to bother recounting it here, but you can see it being remade even to this day – looking at you Little Dead Rotting Hood and Red Riding Hood. In fact, a lot of authors (like Robin McKinley and Margaret Atwood) have re-written fairy tales or have allowed them to shape their own writing.
A few books from my own collection I would recommend include:
- Fearless Girls, Wise Women, & Beloved Sisters, edited by Kathleen Ragan. As you may have guessed, this collection focusses on folktales featuring strong female leads. Another neat feature is that it holds stories from around the world, not just European ones. You’ll get a taste of Asian, African, and Native American folklore as well.
- The Outspoken Princess and The Gentle Knight, edited by Jack Zipes. This one is a collection of more recent – or “modern” – fairy tales by authors like Tanith Lee and A. S. Byatt.
- Don’t Bet on the Prince, edited by Jack Zipes. This is another collection of modern fairy tales, some of which have some truly dark themes. Of all the stories, “Wolfland” by Tanith Lee is my absolute favourite. It is a re-telling of “Little Red Riding Hood” and I would highly recommend it.
I think that re-writing a fairy tale can be an excellent writing exercise. By exploring the tales from other cultures, like Egyptian or Norse mythologies, you can step outside your comfort zone and explore new realms of characters, creatures, and themes. The best part is, you don’t have to confine yourself to writing period pieces, any of these can be adapted to the present and even to the future.
So, what I’m getting at is, if you want to be a good writer you definitely need to play AoM. Or maybe, I was just trying to justify my binge today. We’ll never know!
Until next time, dear readers!
x P.L. McMillan