Wednesday, 31 October 2012

From Reality To Myth

To us, the Gods of Olympus and Ys are myths. In Poul and Karen Anderson's King Of Ys tetralogy, Gratillonius, the last King of Ys, directly experiences the power of the Ysan Gods yet, if he were here now, he would agree with us that they are myths. That process had begun:

"...Ys Whose Gods he had in his heart forsworn and Who were fading away into myth." (Gallicenae (London, 1988), p. 88)

These are two powerful premises for works of fantasy -

First premise: the Gods existed exactly as described in all the stories about them.
Second premise: the Gods are myths.
Corollary: Their ontological status has changed.
Conclusion/Story Ideas: Their status has changed because - (fill in the blank).

In The Sandman no 50, "Ramadan," Neil Gaiman presents an ingenious answer to this question asked not about Gods but about the fabulous Age of Baghdad, complete with flying carpets and bottled jinni. That Age now exists only in the realm of dreams and imaginings because Morpheus advised Haroun al Raschid that that was only way that it could live forever. It exists in the mind of a boy hearing a story in ruined Baghdad.

For Gratillonius:

"The Gods of Achilles, Aeneas, Vercingetorix were dead: phantoms at most, haunting glens and graveyards and the dusty pages of books." (p. 94)

Can there be ghosts of gods? Gratillonius here envisages three stages for Jupiter:

on Olympus;
as a phantom;
in books.

The God has reached that third stage in our era. Thus, the text imaginatively reconstructs a mythical age while also recognizing the reality of the current period when Gods are to be found only in books.

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