Please bear with me for just this one post while I indulge in some shameless self-promotion (something, incidentally, with which I am uncomfortable) by giving a brief overview of a trilogy I have written. It is The Dogwood Legacy, and it has been available on Amazon and Kindle since late May of this year.
The first book of the series is Jacob Leviathan, set in the Ozark Mountains of the midwestern United States. This is my personal re-invention of a real Ozark legend involving an imaginary beast called a jimplecute (or jimplicute, as I have chosen to spell it). It is, therefore, a fabricated folktale. Clickherefor sample chapters. Click here to purchase on Amazon or Kindle.
The second book is Nathan Turner. It is an urban legend of my own creation and takes place in the midwest. Clickherefor sample chapters.Click here to purchase on Amazon or Kindle.
The third book is Obadiah Holt, and it is my attempt at a trans-continental myth. It was also inspired by Kaiju (enormous beast) stories. Clickherefor sample chapters.Click here to purchase on Amazon or Kindle.
Collectively, these three books comprise an invented mythology with which I am honestly pleased as an author. I apologize if this post seems inordinately self-serving. But, hey, I believe in what I have written, and I want people to read it.
Okay, so I lied in my last post, or at least I was mistaken. I decided to go one more week on the topic of animated mythology. Those following my blog might be a little surprised by this next and final selection for the series. Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast from DisneyToon Studios is obviously meant for a younger audience, but it contains the necessary elements of a myth. It features fairies, a creature with prescient awareness, and a a legend of prophesied cataclysm, so it should qualify as a suitable example. Some adults will be pleasantly surprised by the sophistication of the story line, and the artistic concept and image composistions are interesting and unique for the Tinker Bell video series. This is especially true for the monster’s transformation sequence, and the role played by this creature is different than one would expect.
So the last statement of the previous paragraph requires a full disclosure statement. Michael Greenholt, the Animation Supervisor for this project, is also my son-in-law, and I am obviously proud of his work. I do not think this invalidates my comment, however. A look at the quality of the animation on this video should confirm what I have written. To view some additional examples of Mike’s art, click here. To see a gallery post about Mike from More than Monsters (my other site) click here.
Obadiah was a gray, weathered block of a man, one with a peculiar heritage. He was an experienced boatman and a lighthouse keeper by trade. More importantly, this reticent and obdurate individual was also a teacher in need of a student, and his opportunity to pass on the craft of his ancestors wandered onto his pier in the form of a small, neglected girl with exceptional capabilities of her own. Confronted by a mythical monster of unfathomable wickedness, they would embark on a quest for something even more formidable, something in which an unprepared world no longer believed. But first, this magnificent creature had to be located and awakened.
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The world had changed out from under him before he was born. It seemed to some that Nathan had been designed for a different century. Possessed by a strange sense of loss, he longed for the ways and beliefs of his ancestors. His life was marked by difficulty with the expectations of others, and conflict pursued him despite his best efforts to avoid it. On the day this principled young man was expelled from high school for fighting to defend a weaker classmate, his parents decided to send him on a journey to the one place where he could discover his calling. From there, his path would ultimately lead to a series of confrontations with the supernatural predator that stalked an unprepared and vulnerable city.
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The Ozark Mountains of Jacob’s habitation were far more remote and unsettled than at present. He lived in a time when technology and modern thinking had not yet rendered certain things impossible. Unbeknown to the world at large, he battled creatures of fearsome dimension and incalculable malice. They were bred in the forbidden reaches of reality before the right combination of circumstances washed them down hidden corridors and into the world of men. On the day that Jacob found a lost child, his quarry had learned her scent, and that was the beginning of the problem.
I received a thoughtful comment to my first blog from April 13, 2015. Ali Buck (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote that some people might object to the notion that mythology is created or manufactured because such reasoning might be used to invalidate their religion. In response to his observation, I was reminded of a quote from C. S. Lewis:
“Now the story of Christ is a true myth: a myth working on us the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.”
By using the above quote, I do not presume to prove the truth of Christianity to all or any who might wander into this website, but it does address a point I wish to make. Although there are different definitions, calling something a myth need not inherently mean that it is false.
Deciding whether the myth of Christianity or any other religion is true should be a demanding and disciplined intellectual endeavor. What are the claims of a particular religion? Is there any objective evidence which confirms or contradicts these claims? What do different religions have in common? How are they different? The logical order in which one should proceed when thinking about or discovering deity is learning the characteristics and resulting actions of that deity, deciding whether this information is true, and asking what this information requires of us. Unfortunately, human beings have a tendency to think in the reverse order, often accepting or rejecting a set of beliefs as true or untrue solely because they either do or do not like the implications.
The main purpose of PNEUMYTHOLOGY is to explore new (manufactured) myths while keeping in mind the more historical kind. The angle I am particularly drawn to as a writer is the use of something I made up as a symbol for something I did not. It is especially meaningful for me to use allegory as a means of representing that in which I truly believe, and if there is a good monster in the story, so much the better.
At the outset of this little diatribe, I think it necessary to get one fact straight. All mythologies are manufactured. Every myth, no matter what its age, was once new. To condemn new efforts in this area because the resulting works are not historical (translated “old” or “old enough”) can have the effect of stifling further creativity.
One might object that modern, manufactured mythology is not valid for the plain reason that people do not literally believe in it. But how much do we really know about what the members of ancient cultures actually believed? Perhaps significant numbers (even a majority) of them did not believe in the tales, either. We don’t really know. The Aenid by Virgil, for example, was a politicized re-telling of The Iliad and The Odyssey, but it is still considered a classic. As long as a new book is marketed and sold under the designation of fiction, it is reasonable to assume that the reader is intelligent enough to understand that the contents are not describing things that are literally real.
The criteria for judging new mythologies should be the quality of the writing and the possession of some degree of originality. That The Lord Of The Rings is sometimes criticized for being manufactured does not alter the fact that it is a resonant story that a good many intelligent and educated people consider to be good writing. As a starting point for his work, Tolkien (a scholar of Anglo-Saxon literature) borrowed elements from older lore, but this is not a problem. His telling is still original, and it reads well.
I understand that there are those who dislike mythology whether it is old or new, and they should not be required to defend their preferences. Neither should those of us who genuinely like this sort of thing. Individual taste is individual taste. My advice to those overly prone to analysis and criticism is therefore simple. Ignore the genre if you wish, but if you choose to read a story, start out by trying to enjoy it. Bad writing does not require vigilant exposure. It has a tendency to expose itself.