Respecting Mythic Archetypes
When Thor was made a comic book hero by Marvel Comics, it was tip of the hat to obvious. The modern world might be separated from the Old Norse by a different world view but still we have a fondness for writing about heroic super beings fighting scary monsters. We are still a myth making people. And just as anthropologists tell us that our forefathers reused and borrowed elements of their myths from even earlier times so we to set our myths upon a mountain of archetypes that have been given to us by our ancestors.
From the Norse alone we have inherited the elves, dwarves, and many other things. But it is more than just names for non-human creatures that have come down through time to us. We have inherited the idea of “quests”, character types like evil wizards and beautiful princess, magical objects, and many other countless things. These things all form the archetypes that we use to create myth.
In creating myth, archetypes serve as a type of language by which mythmakers can communicate. In theory, one could create a perfectly good myth without relying on previously used archetypes just as in theory, one could create a perfectly good story in a made up language. But in practices a story in a made up language will never get very far because few people will take the effort to understand it. In the same manner if you create myth without relying on previously established archetypes, most people are not going to take the time to learn your world. That is why a successful myth relies on long established archetypes.
Since we have equated archetypes with languages, the rules governing their use should be obvious. First, be respectful of the original meaning of archetypes and don’t try to change it anymore then you would try to change the meaning of words. Second, use the appropriate archetypes for your audience for the same reasons that you would not try to tell a story in Chinese to an English speaking audiences. But even though these rules seem obvious, many aspiring myth makers don’t seem to understand them. Therefore we shall explore them in greater detail.