Monday, August 19, 2013

Mythical Monday (23)

It seems there are many books based on or influenced by Myths and Mythological Beings.

There are so many different Mythology and Mythological Beings recorded. Some are very popular and well known, others not so much. There are many similar beings, yet different depending on the culture it’s based in.  The definition of Myth covers about anything in the Urban Fantasy/Fantasy realm to me.

I’ve invited authors to share briefly the Mythological being or Myth that influenced their character(s) or story, or what their character(s) are based on influencing their books.  Hosting here, one author and being or myth per week.

This week we have:
Fantasy author Tim Pratt
Talking of Angels.

When I studied folklore in college, I learned that technically "myth" doesn't mean "something imaginary" or "a lie" or "something people from an extinct culture used to believe." A myth is a sacred story -- a narrative that a people use to explain how the world was made and how humanity rose up, developed, and reached its present circumstances. So I hope it doesn't offend anyone that the mythical creature I'm writing about today is one many living people still believe in: angels.

But, oh, there are so many kinds of angels. There's a modern notion of angels as humans who've died and become something greater in the afterlife, and it's a lovely idea, but the older versions of angels have always been more interesting to me. In the ancient Judaic and Islamic traditions, angels are frightening, strange, and powerful. They are messengers of God, created to serve but with the capacity to rebel -- though perhaps not with the same quantity of free will given to humans. Some of them act almost as small gods themselves, given dominion over particular parts of the world -- frost, flowers, the north wind. And of course in later traditions angels have the capacity to fall, and oppose the god who made them. There's an Islamic depiction of angels who have 700,000 heads, and on each head 700,000 faces, and in each face 700,000 mouths, and in each mouth 700,000 tongues, each capable of speaking a different language; oh, and they had 700,000 wings each, too. Like Rilke said -- "Every angel is terrifying."

My collection "Antiquities and Tangibles and Other Stories" has a story called "Luminous," set in a world where there are rogue angels -- wild, feral angels -- who sometimes attack people and bite them. They might be fallen angels, or on an unknown mission, or something else. The story is related to a poem I wrote, "Angel Bites," which you can read here:

In my poem and story, those bitten by angels are changed, in unpredictable ways, by the teeth of the not-quite-divine. (Humans are always changed by interactions with angels, whether they're given life-altering news or engaged in a wrestling match.) It's not exactly a reverent idea of angels, I'll grant you, but it respects the power of the beings. In my story, a husband-and-wife burglary team have their lives changed (and nearly ruined) when the wife is bitten, and begins to shine with the terrible, blinding light of an angel. It's hard to be a cat burglar when you're shining as bright as the sun. But they're clever people, so they work something out...

If you want to learn more about angels, like the name of the angel who put the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Pistis Sophia) or the angel who hardened Pharaoh's heart (Mastema), or about how "Satan" was originally a job description for loyal angels and not an individual fallen angel, and where Dante and Milton got their idea that Lucifer was the Devil, I heartily recommend Gustav Davidson's A Dictionary of Angels, Including the Fallen Angels. Just paging through it will fill your mind with wonders, and there's an extensive bibliography if you want to dig deeper into angelic lore.

Find Tim:
Site:  Tim Pratt SF and Fantasy Writer
Twitter:  @timpratt


  1. Cool, Pistis Sophia, half me then ;)

  2. Oh I like all kinds of mythology lore. I'll have to check out that book.

    Interesting and different way to show angels.

    1. Melissa (B&T), I've not read this one by Tim yet, but I think I need it as well. :) Thank you!

  3. books about Angels are always very interesting. It's nice to see all the ideas each time. thanks for the post

    1. Melliane, I've not read this book, but have read others by Tim. I think I need this one. :) Thank you!

  4. Fascinating! There is a lot in Tim's post that I didn't know. Thanks for the tip about the Dictionary of Angels.

    1. Lark @ The Bookwyrm Hoard, so glad you enjoyed the post! Thank you!


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