Monday, July 26, 2010
But this is not a blog about computers. This is a blog about mythology. So what about artificial mythology. Well, it seems that this predates artificial intelligence. The correct term is mythopoeia and was coined by Tolkien, although it predates him as well.
to make it look good, you decide to create a whole pantheon of gods and goddesses. You develop rules for how magic will be able to work and all that stuff. Voila! You have created an artificial mythology. Tolkien is most famous for this for his Middle Earth stories. He is not, my precious, the only one to do this.
I found one source that puts the first mythopoeia at Pherecydes of Syros, written in the 6th century BC. Not having read it myself, I don't know for certain. But apparently it takes the Greek gods and kind of mutates them for his own purposes. I believe the main god was Zas. Maybe someone who has read this can leave a comment further explaining this work.
Today, we have several of created worlds like Star Wars, Dragon Lance, and World of Warcraft. However, these do not fit the definition of mythopoeia despite their well ordered worlds and belief systems. The reason is that a mythopoeia must take an existing mythology and modify it in an effort to bring out mythology in modern culture. Tolkien took Norse and Christian beliefs. Davide Gemmel took Celtic beliefs.
Campbell says that the modern world has need of these to fill the gap needed by society for a mythology. We no longer have it so we fill this gap with mythopoeias and comic books and video games.
So what are your thoughts? On the one hand, it is nice to think that mythology is that important that we need these fake versions to replace our lack of them. On the other hand, does it cheapen mythology to say it can be replaced by Tolkien?