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Mythic Fantasy

What is Mythic Fantasy?

In a sense, all fantasy derives from the vast number of myths developed throughout human history. Nature's force and fury, death, disease and prosperity, the fearsome dark and the blessed day were all given meaning through the gods and monsters of every culture's mythology..

Mythic Fantasy (some people may call it Mythic Exploration) are stories that deal in the same universal themes as do myths, but the actual milieu, the names and powers of the gods, and the mythical or supernatural creatures that inhabit the fantasy world vary in some way from their more traditional counterpart. Elements of legend and folklore may be included, although they are just as likely to be completely original as to hearken back to some familiar figure like Arthur or Robin Hood.

One common type of Mythic Fantasy is to bring disparate mythological traditions into conflict, with gods clashing while heroes struggle for dominance not only in their own sphere, but against their opposite numbers. At stake is the fate of the world.

The quintessential Mythic Fantasy example would be Neil Gaimen’s American Gods where ancient gods clash with modern gods, with the destiny of humankind at stake.

But whatever form the action of the story takes, its most important function is to explain why this particular world is the way it is—how it began, what the humans' function is within it, and what they have to do to maintain it as a desirable place to live. Oftentimes this is the crux of the story—the world has become unfit in some way, and the characters struggle to find a solution with the help and ancient knowledge of their gods and otherworldly helpers.

 

Characteristics of Mythic Fantasy

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  • Level of Magic

    Almost every character  that is not human will have a magical, supernatural, or mystical aspect.

  • Level of Characterization

    This varies according to the story and number of characters. The complexity of the gods can be quite high, while the humans are little more than lightly-drawn pawns; or the humans are complex enough to drive the actions of the gods.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    The books can be very obtuse, but similar to folklore, legend and myth, meaning exists at all levels. Readers with a background knowledge of the mythic traditions will enjoy the stories most.

  • Level of Violence

    Violence is generally low, similar to traditional mythic tales. Some lightning-bolt-throwing, perhaps drownings at sea or earth-swallowing occur.

Related Fantasy Subgenres

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    Fables are related of course, due to their explanation of some “way to live”.

  •  Literary Fantasy shares the universal or archetypal themes with Mythic, while Paranormal shares the existence of an almost parallel magical world entwined with the real world.

  •  Dark Fantasy and some Slipstream/New Weird can be considered related.

  •  Other specific genres like Celtic Fantasy and Cross Over Fantasy are related as well.

Mythic Explorations Isn’t For You If...

You have no background or interest in mythology. The stories in this category will appeal mainly to people who are familiar with the mythology of one or more cultures, and who are looking for a new or wider perspective in the same realm.

Popular Mythic Fantasy Books

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