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European Mythology Heroes/Deities?

Discussion in 'Research' started by Trauma, Jul 28, 2021.

  1. Trauma

    Trauma Dreamer

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    My world's story is going to focus on legend about a deity. There are so many! What ones stand out to you when it comes to European Mythology?
     
  2. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Inkling

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    Do you have a particular pantheon in mind?

    Do you have a particular kind of deity in mind? Or hero? Does this legend have to do with the central figure doing heroic deeds? Creating the world?

    Some heroes get just anything and everything ascribed to them. Some deities are shared among pantheons but have different backstories in each. The Celtic god Lugh, for example: he's part of several different pantheons, all belonging to Celtic peoples but not all the same, and the only consistent detail about him across all those pantheons is that he's the god of the sun. His backstory, parentage, marriage(s), death(s), and specific attributes differ in different traditions.

    Or you could have a hero who does everything and anything: Ivan in the Russian legends, or Cuchulainn in the Irish ones.

    Who is and isn't a deity, in those old pantheons, can be shadowy. Looking to Celtic tradition again, we have Ceridwen, who is considered a goddess in modern Celtic-based Paganism but was originally just a legendary heroine. She knew some magic, but the idea of her as a deity wasn't canon.
     
  3. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    The idea of pagans having a canon is... misguided at best. Ceridwen might well have been a deity at some point. Medieval Christians often euhemerised the pagan gods; Ceridwen showing up in late medieval legends as a sorceress might well be another example of such.
     
  4. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    Oh dear. Here we are, risking confusing modern paganism with medieval legend (again). For the record, the Ceridwen of Welsh legend was said to be a sorceress who gave birth to (amongst others) the bard Taliesin. Its only much later (read Victorian) derivative works that make her a goddess.

    If you're going to use some existing deity then you need to read up on the source legends, otherwise you risk the sort of confusion we've already seen regarding Ceridwen. Otherwise, I'd suggest reading up on various legends and using these as a starting point to create your own deity (or deities) with their own legends about them.

    Being Swedish I of course like the Nordic legends, but the Welsh legends are almost as much fun.
     
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  5. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    In the interest of being the first person in this thread to give a straight answer: Hercules. Also, known as Heracles if you want to be a snob. Or Alcaeus if you want to be a turbo snob.
     
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  6. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Inkling

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    So using his Greek name is being a snob? :LOL:

    I suppose Alcaeus would be the best name to use for him if you don't want to make it too obvious what legend you're riffing on. It's the least known of his names. Use Hercules or Herakles, and you'll not only make it obvious, you'll have all too many readers assume you're retelling a Disney movie.
     
  7. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    Well, yeah, I thought it was common knowledge that Greek is the snobbiest of all the languages.

    But seriously, I read the original post being that the OP wanted examples of notable European folk heroes, particularly gods, to act as inspiration rather than retelling the myth.
    But I could be wrong. Heracles is arguably the most well known mythological hero in the modern west so I figured that’s a good place to start.
     
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  8. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    I personally have always been drawn to Greek and Norse stories, but I am well aware of many others. I feel those are low hanging fruit though... I found as I got older, I tended to see a lot more connection between mythological stories and have to wonder at who truly should be accredited with ownership of them. I think my current favorite is Xena ;) (Sorry Sorbo, but Hercules was not as good). In all seriousness, I was never really into Heracles as much as the other Greek Heroes. I just kind of like all their stories and care less about heroics as much as what these stories say about the cultures that embraced them. I do find more useful insights in the Iliad and Odyssey. I don't actually think of any Greek or Norse Hero as a personal hero, but I do find Achilles interesting, and Hector much more important to his side as a hero.
     
  9. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    The Odyssey is definitely the gold standard for heroic myths but I didn’t include Odysseus since his divine heritage (descendant of Hermes) plays virtually no role in his story nor is it common knowledge. That’s also why I didn’t go with King Arthur even though he’s as big in the collective western culture as Hercules.

    Iliad is also a very good choice but I think most of its resonance comes from how you interpret the morality of the characters and their factions. It’s kind of hard to say what heroism is inherent to the characters or given to the characters by the writer (be it Homer or anyone who adapts his work).
     
  10. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    If you want something interesting yet unusual as the basis for your own fantasy then you could do worse than Welsh mythology. Places to start include reading the Mabinogion and the Red Book of Hergest. The latter is the inspiration for Tolkien's Red Book, and the original Red Book of Hergest is in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Also, try finding a copy of the Book of Taliesin - you'll need translations, because the originals are all in Welsh.
     
  11. Prester John

    Prester John New Member

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    Fionn Mac Cumhaill's mythos might be worth looking into. As are the Eddas. There is also the Kalevala, a Finnish epic used by Tolkien as the foundation for Children of Hurin.
     
  12. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Maester

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    There is loads of material in Slavic myth, sometimes paralleling the pantheons and legends of western Europe, sometimes going its own unique direction. Veles is a sort of cross between Loki and Pan (and has somewhat the same relationship to the Slavic thunderer Perun that Loki does to Thor). A shape-shifter, sometimes a bear, sometimes a young horned deity, sometimes a bearded old man. And there is a huge supporting cast in varied form in the legends of the many eastern European ethnic groups.
     
  13. Karlin

    Karlin Dreamer

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    As a curious aside, we were in Woodstock NY yesterday and I saw a store advertising "Modern Mythology". I had a hard time wrapping my old head around that. Next door was the Dutch Reformed Church, 1799.
     
  14. scholar-in-distress

    scholar-in-distress Acolyte

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    There is a book entitled Beyond the ninth wave, and it's full of Irish legends. The first time I read it, it felt like a fantasy novel. Especially all the adventures of Cú Chulainn; boy, are there a lot of wonderful magical items and cool taboos or what? :D Either way, you could, perhaps, use one of them. If memory serves me right, there even was an earlier version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in it :)
     
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