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I would greatly appreciate any info or resources for building an appropriate artificial mythology for a world.

For reference, I am reading "The Gods of Pegana" and I already went through the Silmarillion and the Cthulhu Mythos. I would like to do something similar for a world of mine but have trouble organising the macrostructure.

Some good sources of themes and archetypes would also be very useful.

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  • James George Frazer, The Golden Bough, 1890. The Wikipedia article has links to several on-line editions. Warning! (1) It is a massive work. (2) It is addictive. (3) It is somewhat out of date anthropologically, but that shouldn't matter as a source of artistic inspiration.

  • Robert Graves, The White Goddess, 1948. Warning! It is a poetic / fantasy essay made to look as a scholarly work. Do not take anything in this book as serious anthropology or scholarship. It is a great poetical work, best compared with the Silmarillion.

  • Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949. Maybe not as engrossing as the previous two, and maybe a little reductionist, but indispensable. Warning! This is a massive high-density work.

  • Edith Hamilton, Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, 1942. One of the best English presentations of both Greek and Norse mythologies. (Link goes to Amazon.)

And, of course, start with the Wikipedia article on Myth, follow the links, and consider the bibliographies. This will give you the basics of understanding what mythologies are about, and how they empowered artistic creativity through the ages.

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The Hero with a Thousand Faces (wiki link here). This is the book to read if you want to get some interesting perspectives on the commonality of mythology and stories throughout cultures. The author's thesis is that much of mythology follows the same basic story, which he calls the "monomyth". It is comprised, basically, of the following story, quoted from the book:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Obviously the book goes into much more detail and studies the mythologies of many cultures and how the hero journeys in said mythologies. Basically required reading for myth making :-)


In addition to Campbell's monomyth, take a look also at the heroic paradigm. You can see this in action in a wide range of heroic literature from kids' stories to serious adult myth & legendary literature.

In addition to Silmarillion, I'd also recommend you look into the Letters of JRR Tolkien and perhaps Carpenter's biography. You can glean quite a lot of his thinking and process through those sources.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is an awesome answer, and I personally don't see much need for any competing answer from me. I'm just going to add a bit with a by your leave. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Sep 12 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. Add as you feel fit, although I'm sure there are tons of other resources that are worthy of their own answer $\endgroup$ – Michael Stachowsky Sep 12 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ No doubt! But as I read your answer, I thought, this could make a nice "all in one" resource answer. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Sep 12 at 14:19

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