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Mythical Creatures and Representation

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Devor, Jul 23, 2018.

  1. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Okay, go easy on me now.

    The MCs in my story are a pair of sprites. But the way their species works in this story, sprites are kind of a subrace of a group that includes several different groups of little people. Fairies can either be born a "Hob" - and every Hob is different and weird - or into one of the "Vaki," which are groups like Sprites, Asrai (tiny mermaids), or your typical Smurf-looking types (among others).

    I've gone through wikipedia on little mythological beings for research on the different hobs (under names like goblins, kobolds, etc.). There's two I want to ask about.

    The Duende is a type of household creature in Latin America that tends to little children, clipping their toenails, and sometimes accidentally cutting off their toes.

    The Trasgu is a creature from Spain and Portugal. They have a hole in their left hand, and whenever it tries to be helpful, it keeps dropping things through that little hole.

    The way I was hoping to design the story, "Duende" and "Trasgu" would be the names of two of the several Hob secondary characters in the big city, many of whom are equally goofy and weird, and others of whom (based on their folklore) might be mean spirited. Another example of a hob would be Lyerg, a creature from Scottish Folklore that roams the country side looking for people to kill in duels.

    I'm at the point where I want to convert the Hobs from notes on folklore creatures into actual characters in the story. Taking Lyerg for example, he was one of the hobs that were granted a pardon for their past mischief in exchange for characters like one of the Sprite MCs joining law enforcement to keep them in check, so that now Lyerg might get into duels and barfights but doesn't kill anyone.

    Generally the hobs are "light" and humorous side characters unless they get the spotlight, in which case I want to take the time to explore some of their flawed personalities more seriously.

    So there's plenty of room inside the story for me to change Duende and Trasgu to correspond to any problems, including changing their names if necessary. But, as they essentially become Latino and Spanish characters, and as Hobs they're goofy and weird, what considerations should I keep in mind? What can I do to do right by Latino readers?
     
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  2. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    I think that so long as they have unique goals and emotions that feel 'authentic' than it doesn't matter.

    I'm thinking of the film Coco that Disney/Pixar just released. In the film the MC Miguel goes into the land of the dead to get his grandfather's blessing. The entire thing is based on the 'Calaca' (those awesome joyous skeletal creatures that are popular at the Day of the Dead). The characters are all traditional latin stereotypes (the grandmother, the musician, etc) but because their plight feels very human then the stereotypes sort of add to the humour of the story, rather than distract from it.

    I think that some stereotype is actually necessary in humour writing. As a Canadian, one of the things that makes films like "Strange Brew" so hilarious is that it plays on popular Canadian stereotypes, while still keeping the characters distinctly 'human'. Does that make sense?

    I think that in order to do this well, however, you must be very well familiar with the culture you are showing... or at least be close enough with someone in that culture that you can pick their brain on what stereotypes feel 'true' in a funny way, and what is deemed offensive.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2018
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  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    The intention of course is to play with the folklore - not with stereotypes. Totally off the top of my head, Duende might be funny because he comes over and tells a wildly inappropriate story about cutting off somebody's toes, and then dangles the toes awkwardly in front of everyone. And then much later, we might have a scene where he's drunk and sobbing, and he explains that he has the severed toes in a jar because he dreams about someday raising enough magic to restore the toes to their owner, which in turn reinforces the need for the MCs to bring everyone together and resolve the problems their people are going through.

    That's the kind of thing I want to do with these characters.
     
  4. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    I see... hmmmmmmm. so you don't plan on making them 'latino' at all?

    I don't think I'm understanding your question.... you asked:

    "How can I do right by Latino readers" so I thought you were worried about making them too stereotypical...

    I think maybe you might face the problem of not making them stereotypical enough.... I think it might be not quite ethical to "borrow" a traditional creature from a certain culture, but then not address that culture in your usage... do you understand what I mean? Sort of like "white washing".... In my opinion it would be wrong to take a traditional Latin creature and remove all the 'Latin-ness" from them...
     
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    No, no, that's what I . . . . here, hold on. This is a picture of the Duende from wikipedia.

    [​IMG]

    ^ The goal is to capture this character as best I can, as a single character in a diverse city. So of course he would be Latino, and all of the Hobs (each being radically different) struggle with feeling included and facing their flaws.

    I only meant that the goal for including this character is to play with the folklore aspects. The goal for making him Latino is to do right by the character.
     
  6. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    I think that is fine, then. It is a fun idea, and better than most I have seen where there is not enough cultural diversity among creatures.

    So you are worried about using a traditional creature, and doing right by the culture you are taking from? Is that the concern? I had this concern as well in my last WIP, where I was using the creature Quetzalcoatl (Quetzalcoatl - Wikipedia) as a key protagonist... I eventually shelved the story because I did not feel comfortable using a creature with so much historical significance, when I did not understand enough of the culture to give him his due respect. It felt a bit like cultural appropriate to me. But that was my own personal concern. Is that what you are worried about?
     
  7. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Yes, and also part of me wonders if the folklore character itself falls into any Latino stereotypes.

    It's not as key a figure as Quetzalcoatl, it's just another version of ye old Brownie, and it isn't a primary character, so I'm not too worried about cultural appropriation.
     
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