The creatures of fantasy, myth, and legend are as versatile as they are mysterious to a fantasy/sci-fi writer. They can be good or evil, strong or weak. intelligent or half-witted, magical or mutation. The possibilities are endless, and that’s so exciting.
As a fantasy writer, I love to research the monsters I use in my stories. It makes you wonder how much is myth and how much is fact. There are so many stories about these creatures from different countries and cultures that there must be some semblance of truth behind them… And that’s freakin’ awesome.
“There was a nice brown egg, lightly boiled, for each of them, and then sardines on toast, and then buttered toast, and then toast with honey, and then a sugar-topped cake. And when Lucy was tired of eating, the Faun began to talk. He had wonderful tales to tell of life in the forest. He told about the midnight dances and how the Nymphs who lived in the wells and the Dryads who lived in the trees came out to dance with the Fauns; about long hunting parties after the milk-white stag who could give you wishes if you caught him; about feasting and treasure-seeking with the wild Red Dwarfs in deep mines and caverns far beneath the forest floor; and then about summer when the woods were green and old Silenus on his fat donkey would come to visit them, and sometimes Bacchus himself, and then the streams would run with wine instead of water and the whole forest would give itself up to jollification for weeks on end.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Look at the sea monsters that mariners have seen for thousands of years. No one believed that a giant squid could exist, and yet through modern technology, we’ve found them lurking in the depths of the ocean. This proves that there are some facts behind the ancient legends.
I know most people would be scared of a dragon, and it probably would be, but it would also be amazing to see. To me, dragons are creatures of pure magic, living to be guardians of humanity, not enemies. They are such majestic creatures that seeing one would send chills down my spine. It’s like that scene in the original Jurassic Park when they see the dinosaur for the first time. It would be that kind of feeling.
Writing about these monsters is even better, because as the writer, I can create their origins, abilities, and appearance. You always want to stay true to the characters, but adjusted to the world you create. For example, the goblins of Avalon from my novel series, Forever Avalon. Here is a deleted excerpt from my second novel, The Dark Tides, which describes the goblin hierarchy on the island of Avalon. I cut this from my edited novel, but I think it demonstrates how versatile creatures of fantasy can be.
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The cavern seemed to encompass the entire center of Idlehorn Mountain… A huge pocket, like a magma dome, underneath the mountain, as lava flowed like water from the walls. It fell and circulated in streams and pools throughout the cave interior. Not only did the lava provide light and warmth for the goblins, it made it easier for them to forge a constant supply of weapons for their massive army. Goblins had nowhere to call home, except for the cave itself. They climbed along the walls like spiders in a web, able to move anywhere and everywhere throughout the cavern. They ate, slept and worked wherever they could find a rock to lean against or a piece of meat to gnaw on.
As Ragnar took them deeper into the voluminous cavern, Bryan got a sense of the social structure of the goblins. It was a society based on “survival of the fittest” mantra: The stronger, more powerful goblins bullied the smaller, weaker ones, as an inbred form of slave labor. They were forced to carry heavy loads in the belief that it would make them stronger. The intense labor culled out the weaker goblins from the rest. Those that survived either continued their toll as slaves or they volunteered for experiments conducted by goblin warlocks and alchemists as they strive to make a goblin warrior that was unbeatable. They were a collective, striving for the betterment of the goblins and the defeat of their enemies.
At the heart of the cavern sat a throne of iron and stone. It was a monument to the machine that is the goblin empire. The twisted metal frame and jagged rock reminded all who stood before it of the pain and suffering that is the life of a goblin.
In the throne sat a brute of a beast… The Goblin King P’tah Mnenok. His skin was black and scarred, ripped and torn by battle. His face was long and twisted, with yellow eyes piercing out from dark slits. His fangs were so long that they pierced from beneath his lower lip, giving him a constant scowl, even with his mouth closed. On his head sat a crown of braided iron, a cold reminder of his black heart.
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Author Gabrielle Massman said, “So deliberate writers should be careful of how they portray fantasy creatures (ahem– I am looking at all of you, dragon writers) and how they make new fantasy creatures. If there is already a mythological creature that embodies the idea that you want, then there may be no need to create something “new.” The centuries of the mythology of a creature can add depth to fantasy and are fun to explore in a more modern way.”
It’s simple… The best advice I can give you is to research your subjects carefully, but make them unique to your world. Mythology has given us all these wonderful, magical creatures to chose from. It’s how you use them that will make them your own, a part of your world, a part of your stories.
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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.