All the Myths I Stole
In this week’s installment of the Shadow of the Sun Read-Along, nrlymrtl posed me this question:
The ancient Irish myth of Cuchulain is woven into the ancient history of this book. Are there other, specific myths that you pulled from in creating this work?
The short version of the answer is that I stole all of Irish mythology, and then went rooting around in the rest of the human mythology tradition for additional toys.
The Irish Myths
As nrlymrtl observes, I snagged Cuchulainn* from the Táin Bó Cúailnge, the greatest of the ancient Irish myths. But once I got there, I didn’t stop with him. Cuchulainn is only one small part of that sweeping epic, and I am also using the overarching war in which Cuchulainn is a late entry: notably the story of Fergus.
I also pilfered the Conquest of the Sons of Mil, in which human men conquered Ireland. This is one of my favorite parts of the Irish myth-set, especially for the wonderful wizard Amergin–who, remarkably, I have not (yet!) co-opted to my tale. From this myth came the tale of the goddess Eriu, who in my story is the founder of Letitia’s ancestral line.
Not content with those thefts, I moved on to the First and Second Battles of Maige Tuireadh, which are two of the wars of conquest of ancient Ireland. In the First Battle, the Tuatha De Danaan conquered Ireland, wresting it from the control of the Fir Bolg. In the Second, the Danaan, having fallen under the oppression of the Fomorians, fought to free themselves. From these tales came the tale of the many-talented hero Lugh of the Long Arm and that of the great healer Dian Cecht, whose magical cauldron could bring the dead back to life. His “technology” is the basis of the Basghilae, the undead warriors in The Shadow of the Sun. And Lugh’s unstoppable Spear, the Gae Assail, became the great treasure of Fiana.
But of course I didn’t stop there. By now you will recognize that I am an intellectual kleptomaniac. I started thinking bigger: I moved on to
The Atlantis Myth
If you dig deeply into the myths of the Tuatha De Danaan and Atlantis, eventually you will begin to notice certain overlaps. The names of the Danaan realms, for example: my Fiana/Finias, Faill/Failias, and Muir/Morias are lifted straight out of that area of overlap. The nation of Banbagor should properly have been named Gor for correct correspondence with the original myth, but early readers noted that the seeming reference to the Conan stories was a distraction, so I wedded that name to the name of the goddess Banba of Irish myth.
Likewise Hy-Breasail: this is one of the multitude of names of Atlantis in ancient myth, and I stole shamelessly from sources attempting to locate that place.
Oh, I stole gods. The Irish/Celtic ones are easy to spot, notably Dana, Beal and Esus. But you can’t swing a dead cat in my story world without bumping up against a god or something named for a deity, and many of them are pilfered from elsewhere: notably just about every body of water, which follow the Celtic tradition of naming them for goddesses that supposedly inhabit them. But it wasn’t just Irish/Celtic gods I stole. I had my way with the Germanic and Greek pantheons and some of their myths as well.
I stole not one but two of these myth-sets: the Irish, including the paradisal House of Donn; and the Greek, albeit with considerable embellishment. Of the veritable buffet of after-life options in the novel, most of it began, er, life elsewhere.
Why did I steal all these things so brazenly? Now that you see the framework of the amusement park ride I have created, what does it mean?
Those questions are left as an exercise for the reader.
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*Did you notice I spelled it differently than nrlymrtl did? Neither of us is exactly right, as far as I can tell. There seems to be a lot of variation in people’s attempts to render the old Irish as English. I’ve been typing it that way for too long to stop now, which only means I had my formative experience of him with a different source than nrlymrtl.