Mythological creatures in fantasy

I was going to write about just faeries but I thought a general topic could be more useful.

Are you writing fantasy? And you have mythological creatures there? Let’s talk about it! Let’s talk about what we know about them, what we come up with ourselves.

And like I kind of implied, I especially want to talk about faeries.

I’m starting to plan and write a graphic novel about faeries and especially changelings. I’ve been reading about the subject a lot, but I only know about mythological aspects. I don’t know how this has been portrayed in literature.

Have you written about faeries? What were they like? Simplified creatures, more like animals, or complex beings? And how much did you use mythology, how much did you come up with yourself? What do they look like?

I kinda want to come up with stuff myself because the story takes place in Finland, and I haven’t found much info on the local fae mythology. Well, not faeries, a lot of other stuff like trolls. So like I think I’m going to take what I want from other mytologies and kind of make it suit my needs. It’s going to be a lot of work, especially since it’s a graphic novel. I need to design these creatures and it’s just going to be a lot of hard work. Ugh.

But like, what creatures do you have in your stories? How much are you taking from mythologies or other media?

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My 2017 novel was about fairies! I still plan to rewrite that first draft and polish it into an actual, good story one day when I have the time.

In my particular 'verse, I kind of cherry-pick from the folklore and add and subtract as I like. I’m roughly working around the idea of a Seelie and Unseelie division, with each “side” having various subspecies of fairies, in which selkies, banshees, the standard smaller winged creatures etc. all count under the umbrella of “fairy”. A lot of them are at the very last humanoid, and most of them are on the same level of sentience as us, though they might have characteristics that seem animalistic, supernatural, or otherwise “off” - selkies and other shapeshifters might have characteristics more in line with their animal/shape of choice, winged ones more birdlike or insectlike, banshees more corrupted and dark, etc.

In general, I do try to suck up a lot of the existing folklore and mythology and media regarding them before writing - not necessarily to copy, but to at least inspire my own version! Sometimes my brain will get stuck on things like fairy/mushroom circles, transcendent music, odd places in forests that serve as portals, courts, brownies, or other things that I think would work well in the story or that I just think are, y’know, neat.

I also toy with how much politics is involved in the fairy world and how much of it would actually make sense to a human. On one hand, I like to imagine they would have some very different issues to us, and some that would parallel real issues in our own world, but at the same time I can’t help but also giggle at the concept of fairies glamoured to look their very best and shiniest, all arguing about whether iridescence is still in high fashion or if one should be beheaded for crimes against the Queen’s delicate eyes. :wink:

I’d love to hear where you’re at with your fairies!

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I’m toying with the more “Tinkerbell” type fairies in my current project. Tiny, vaguely insectoid, glitterdust… But I also made them a sentient symbiotic race that needs to occasionally dump it’s hivemind into a larger sentient creature (think of them as tiny zip drives with very limited storage) they’ve pretty much teamed up with the unicorns, because the unicorns appreciate the fairies hands and don’t mind carrying around extra memories and experiences for the fairies.

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Right now all I know about my fairies is that they leave changelings… And also I think they are probably going to change their form from like regular form to like a terrifying battle form when in the story they are attacking the changeling character. I haven’t really figured out politics of the fairies or yet a reason why they’d want to kill the changeling character, but I’m going to come up with something soon. … I hope.

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I write urban fantasy almost exclusively, so I use a lot of mythical creatures in my stuff. That said, my favorite thing to do is to figure out how creatures would work as plausible, biological beings. (Brainstorming how and why gryphons would have evolved and what ecological niche they occupy is probably not everyone’s idea of fun, but I love it!)

Usually, if I’m going to use a mythical creature, I research what the oldest descriptions of the creature were, then work from there. (Though I am guilty of picking and choosing if something sounds particularly neat). Since humans once held a variety of wildly erroneous beliefs about various real-life animals (such as thinking that barnacle geese hatched from barnacles), anything particularly outlandish is usually explained as being human misconception.

Right now, I’m writing about merfolk, so I’ve been writing up how their anatomy functions, how and why they evolved, and how their society works. (At least, in the area where the story is set. Just like how humans don’t have a single homogeneous culture, merfolk vary greatly across the world’s oceans). I dislike using magic as an explanation for things unless absolutely necessary. For example, this time I got stuck trying to figure out why merfolk would re-evolve gills when no other marine mammal in history has managed this. I finally had to say “well, since merfolk are a type of humanoid fae creature with a closer natural relation to Earth’s magic, they sometimes evolve in unexpected ways due to it’s influence”

TL;DR, I really love trying to merge mythical creatures with scientific understanding and reasoning.

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When I created the vampires and werewolves for The Wyndham Papers I went back to the older folklore about the monsters in the night and re-imagined them forward in the understanding that they were people – sapient, sentient, self-willed creatures with full moral agency – rather than monsters.

Thus my vampires are dead but have their souls bound to their mortal flesh – cursed to be unable to access the Final Judgement – and dependent on the life-force in blood for their continued existence. They can exist on animal blood alone (or even on the minimal life-force present in fresh, raw meat – though at the barest subsistence level), but their powers are dependent on the amount of human blood they’ve had recently.

How to obtain blood both safely and ethically is a major concern for most of my vampire characters.

I modeled them on leeches as a more benign parasite – vampire saliva being antiseptic, analgesic, and euphoric – and the vampiric curse on leprosy as a much-feared but low-infectivity disease.

My werewolves are involuntarily changed for three days centered on the full moon. When changed they are old-school monsters – rabid dire wolves on steroids and angel dust. (Full conservation of mass means that werewolves are considerably larger than actual wolves (wolves are smaller than most people think they are)).

Werewolves who wish to retain their human awareness while wolf can either wear silver collars, which are painful, or, since the 1960’s, take awareness retention medication (early versions had horrible side-effects but modern meds are much improved).

While human, werewolves can be identified by their extra mass of muscle and bone. They’re particularly robust and resistant to both injury and disease, retain heightened senses in either form (most werewolves carry some form of hearing protection), and supernaturally strong.

The werewolf curse is genetic. Ww is werewolf, ww is human, and WW is lethal early in the second trimester (the WW babies are the only “wolfman” forms – otherwise it’s either human or wolf with no transitional form).

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I am writing some stories about a witch who lives in this era (around 2009, something like this).

In one of the stories I’ve planned to write, I may have a “Servan” (a kind of goblin who live in the alpine chalets in the Alps area (around French /Italian /Swiss places).
Now, i am looking to make another story with werewolves. I am not sure about this, but the idea could be nice.

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I’m writing in a world that’s a loose hybrid of western Europe and East Asia so when it came to fantasy creatures I wanted to take inspiration from both continent’s folklore.

The first and easy instance was having the western region house your typical 4 legged, winged dragons and the east housing your more Chinese style serpent-like dragons.

So then I decided I wanted some kind of creature resembling a gryphon, but they would be in the east so I went to see if Asian folklore had anything similar and I found out about Qilins. And they fit the bill for the plot point I had in mind so I just tweaked them a bit and adopted a slightly different name.

And my final major fantasy creature stems from Welsh mythology. Cŵn Annwn, aka hellhounds. Long story short I needed some ghostly dogs to start appearing and hunting down a long most heir to a throne and this legend was a good starting point.

I would go into more detail but my internet is very patchy right now :sweat_smile:

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I’m not writing it for my 2019 NaNo, but sometime in the next year I want to get started writing an urban fantasy story that seems like a standard sort of “all these different supernatural creatures are real,” except the only two actual things that are real other than bog-standard humans are a)faeries and b)humans who’ve been in some way Touched By Faeries.

Usually this involves one of the Fair Folk having taken something from a human, because many of the Good Neighbors are hungry. Not necessarily for food, but many are lacking something and are drawn to humans because humans have something they want. So ghosts aren’t dead, exactly, but are humans who have had their bodies taken by the faeries. Vampires are humans who have had something taken from them and it’s left a hunger behind. Shapechangers (including but not solely werewolves) likewise. I’m not 100% sure about those humans who can use magic, but they might have been people who came out slightly ahead of a Faerie Deal.

Speaking of which, I pick and choose from certain faerie legends, but faeries having certain rules that might seem completely nonsensical to humans but whoo boy you’d better not break them anyway is definitely a thing. As is a faerie always keeping their word if they give it… sometimes to the detriment of one party or the other (or both). And not all faeries are evil in my story; it’s just that they have their own realm and usually the ones that involve themselves with ours even for a moment are the ones who want something from humans and therefore prove dangerous to us.

Also, someday I swear I’m going to write a YA story with a young girl whose family member is very sick and she winds up finding the head of a dullahan and deciding to take it and keep it hostage so the dullahan can never “cause their death.” Basically going to keep a lot of the dullahan stuff in, but deviate just slightly to make it more of a personification of death than just a herald, have the whole story be very metaphorical about her not accepting things, etc.

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