Hey, Tolkien, Where’d You Get Those Elves? Part 1: Stars and Swans

J. R.R. Tolkien’s tales of Middle-earth have had a profound impact on the fantasy genre, especially his Elves. Rather than the tiny, mischievous sprites found in cookie commercials and some children’s media, his Elves are near human-sized. Immortal and possessing an ethereal beauty, they are generally shown as wiser, more sensitive, and more in-tune with nature than humans. Similar elves have become a common staple in fantasy works. But where did Tolkien get his Elves? Tracing the possibilities turns out to be quite the journey, so I’ll split this into two parts and start with literary and linguistic leads before covering the more mythological ones. Continue reading “Hey, Tolkien, Where’d You Get Those Elves? Part 1: Stars and Swans”

Quarterly Bestiary: Tomte: A Legend of Many Categories

It’s tricky to pin down wee folk, and not just because of their size. Small humanoid beings appear in mythology around the world, and they are especially numerous in European cultures. However, many of the most well-known names are treated as somewhat interchangeable. Research a brownie and you’ll end up with fairies and hobgoblins and so on. So rather than tackle a general category of these tiny people, I decided to focus in the tomte. I’ve been curious about tomtar for a while now, and it turns out the different definitions of them will allow me to touch on a variety of those larger categories without getting in over my head. Continue reading “Quarterly Bestiary: Tomte: A Legend of Many Categories”

The Mythology of Ice Fantasy, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my exploration of the mythology behind the Chinese drama Ice Fantasy! In Part 1, I focused entirely on the original show with only a brief mention of its sequel series, Ice Fantasy Destiny. This time, I’d like to touch on a couple points connected to the sequel as well as more from the original series. After all, this is my last post for 2020 and that was the year Ice Fantasy Destiny supposedly took place. Let’s start with a bit about Destiny. Continue reading “The Mythology of Ice Fantasy, Part 2”

The Mythology of Ice Fantasy, Part 1

It’s that time of year again! In the northern hemisphere, winter has arrived, and in the southern, summer is in full swing. Contemplating these contrasting seasons existing simultaneously has me thinking of Ice Fantasy, the first Chinese drama I ever watched. At first glance, it’s easy to see it as a Chinese interpretation of Western fantasy tropes, with pointy-eared immortal princes and mystical swords. However, look deep enough and you’ll find it actually draws strongly on Chinese mythology with influences from a few other cultures. Since its sequel series is set in then-futuristic 2020, I thought it might be fun to close the year by delving into the mythology within the fantasy. Continue reading “The Mythology of Ice Fantasy, Part 1”

A Pair of Thin Places, Part 2: Kilauea

Volcanoes inspire both wonder and fear. Around them rock can flow like water and burn like fire, reshaping the landscape. It’s not surprising, then, that many have developed the layers of tales and rituals that mark a long-term thin place. In Part 1, we looked at Devils Tower/Bear Lodge, which is not a volcano but may be the crystallized heart of an attempted one. Now I’d like to turn to Kīlauea, a living volcano still bringing destruction and creation every time it erupts. Oh, and it’s also said to be the home of a goddess. Continue reading “A Pair of Thin Places, Part 2: Kilauea”

A Pair of Thin Places, Part 1: Devils Tower/Bear Lodge

There are many thin places around the world. Some are built by human hands and some are natural landmarks with human meaning attached to them. I’d like to cover two of these nature-made thin places in this two-parter, starting with Devils Tower/Bear Lodge. This immense rock formation appears to sprout out of the ground in Wyoming. Its appearance alone makes it stand out, but this rock is also wrapped in the layers of legend and tradition so characteristic of a long-established thin place.  Continue reading “A Pair of Thin Places, Part 1: Devils Tower/Bear Lodge”

Thor and Loki in Modern Media, Part 2: So Far, So Close

Welcome to the second part of my discussion on modern media portrayals of Thor and Loki! Each of these movies, TV shows, and book series could easily take up a whole post, so I’ve split things into two. The first part looked at brotherly depictions from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Norwegian show Ragnarok. These next two works put them in the same story, but they never directly interact. Even without a close relationship, however, they still reflect how their writers approached bringing mythology to modern viewers. For the overview on the original Thor and Loki, see Part 1. Now, let’s take a look at a couple classic Thor and Loki stories before we see how their modern versions work at a distance. Continue reading “Thor and Loki in Modern Media, Part 2: So Far, So Close”

Thor and Loki in Modern Media, Part 1: Brother Bonds

Chances are if you know any Norse gods by name, Thor and Loki are among them. Along with Odin, they are the stars of the Norse pantheon, appearing frequently in modern movies and novels. Sometimes they feature separately, but I find Thor and Loki most fascinating when they appear together. They’re such a study in opposites. Thor has some nuance but is mostly a predictable muscle god, while Loki is a slippery shapeshifter who defies morals as easily as labels. The popularity of this duo means they have been used in stories around the world. I’d like to look at four of those stories and how they compare to the original mythology. I want to discuss the interpretations of Thor and Loki in a bit more detail, so I’ll break things up into two parts, starting with stories that show the pair as brothers. Continue reading “Thor and Loki in Modern Media, Part 1: Brother Bonds”

Quarterly Bestiary: Unicorns: The Power of the Alicorn

I often focus on more obscure creatures for Quarterly Bestiary, but today I’d like to touch on a mythical heavyweight: the unicorn. Now, before you expect sparkles and rainbows, bear in mind there’s a lot more to unicorns than that. Behind the modern image lies a history full of strange, sometimes dark twists. I couldn’t hope to cover it all in one post even if I limited myself to only the unicorn of Western Europe, so I’ll focus my discussion around the unicorn’s horn, also called the alicorn. Even with that limitation, there’s simply so much myth and media on the unicorn that I’m approaching this a little differently. Instead of going over the mythology in one section and the media in another, I’ll take each topic by topic. So let’s take a look at the alicorn, possibly the unicorn’s source of power and the thing that identifies it as more than a horse. Continue reading “Quarterly Bestiary: Unicorns: The Power of the Alicorn”

Red Thread Reblog: Chinese Dragons — Olivia’s Blog

Red Thread
Artwork by Bridget Sarsen.

Welcome to Red Thread Reblog, a feature that pairs a post about media inspired by mythology with a post about the mythology shown in the media.

The dragons in Eon and Eona are based on Chinese mythology, so an overview of that makes it easier to grasp their world. Olivia’s Blog, maintained by Olivia or olichi19, provides just that in this wonderful post on Chinese dragons. It’s one of the more comprehensive descriptions of Chinese dragons I have found in the current blogosphere. It includes the different types, the symbolism of dragons, and even the dragon as an animal sign in Chinese astrology. Goodman’s dragons are each associated with one of the 12 animal signs from this system, whereas Olivia explains how each dragon year is further associated with one of the five elements.  Whether you’re interested in some context for the books or you just want some cool facts about Chinese dragons, this is the place to start!

The Chinese dragon like the Indian Naga’s, are often associated with water and rain and lakes and rivers. Chinese Dragons are divine mythical creatures that brings with it ultimate abundance, prosperity and good fortune. The Chinese proclaim themselves “Lung Tik Chuan Ren”, Descendents of the Dragon. Unlike the the negative aspect associated with Western Dragons, […]

via Chinese Dragons — Olivia’s Blog