Creating Myths

By C. Margery Kempe

"Grasshopper Fire" by S. L. Johnson
Today is St. Urho Day! No, don't worry if you haven't heard of him. He's the patron saint of Finland, who chased all the grasshoppers away from the vineyards, shouting, "Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen!" which more or less means, "Grasshopper, grasshopper, get yourself to hell." People wear green and purple and celebrate by drinking wine.

Sure, it may sound vaguely similar to a fest that happens on the 17th of March, but you know, that Patrick wasn't Irish anyway -- and there never were any snakes in Ireland. Both holidays were created by immigrants in the United States who wanted a way to celebrate their heritage and chose a convenient date to do it. So what if they're "fake" holidays? They fire the imagination!

When I explained the St. Urho story to my friend, the fabulous artist S. L. Johnson, she created this stunning logo of a grasshopper burning in hellfire. That's what these invented mythologies are all about: springboards for our own ideas. For millennia people have borrowed from mythologies to tell new stories woven together with old and new threads. Consider other mythologies we share, not just national ones, but also the recently created ones.

Yes, I'm talking about fan fiction.

While ancient myths may have more cultural weight, a lot of people fall in love with fictional characters and their worlds. Whether it's Tolkien's Middle Earth or Buffy's Sunnydale, they find in the stories a place they enjoy and characters they want to spend more time with than the creator did. So they write them, they film them and they tell new stories. Some creators resent them; some tolerate them; some welcome them. You can't really stop them; people want to revise storylines they didn't quite find satisfying, or fill in "missing" scenes between the events the original creators imagined. A really rich series provides a lot of space for those invented new narratives to happen and people can be quite creative about how they bridge those gaps.

Could we say Shakespeare was writing Ovidian fan fic? Well, maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but I bet he was glad copyright didn't exist back then ;-). Nevertheless, some writers do build their narrative chops in the fan fic world and then move on to creating their own characters and universes. And many others stay there playing around someone else's sandbox quite happily -- which is just fine. We all have stories to tell.


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