I am recycling history

Quoting from a Time article by Lev Grossman:

“When Virgil wrote The Aeneid, he didn’t invent Aeneas; Aeneas was a minor character in Homer’s Odyssey whose unauthorized further adventures Virgil decided to chronicle. Shakespeare didn’t invent Hamlet and King Lear; he plucked them from historical and literary sources. Writers weren’t the originators of the stories they told; they were just the temporary curators of them. Real creation was something the gods did.”

Thus the dark high fantasy series I am writing is quasi-historical, drawing inspiration from the lesser known nooks and crevices of the actual medieval history.

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9 thoughts on “I am recycling history

  1. Very true. I read somewhere that there isnt an original idea left in writing, but its your version of it which makes it unique… or something along those lines. I weave my stories around existing characters and events from Irish mythology. Sometimes that makes it harder than writing something you can totally make up. But more often than not it makes for good reading. Next step… to write some stories based on Irish history… now there’s a challenge!

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    • Tolkien used a lot of themes and characters from Norse and Finnish mythology and created an entirely original world. It is quite possible, though a lot of hard work. I also use actual Near Eastern and some Central Asian mythology and folklore elements in the series I am working on right now. I’d love to read something using Irish and Celtic mythology, especially Tuatha De Danaan.

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    • Precisely! Shakespeare wrote fan fic. Even Tolkien wrote fan fic (Turin Turambar from The Silmarillion is based on Kullervo from the Finnish epic Kalevala).

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  2. All literature is derivative. I love the looks on people’s faces when I tell them that the AENEID is technically fanfic of the ILLIAD and the ODYSSEY. Or that half of Shakespeare’s plays were technically fanfic of historical people – or even mythology, in the case of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.

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    • The subtle distinctions involved in the creation of fiction are sometimes amazing – the only thing that takes a work from being ‘derivative’ or ‘inspired by’ into the realm of fanfiction is whether or not someone owns the source material. And the difference between ‘fanfic’ and ‘licensed work’ is often permission and publication.

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