Blog Tour Stop!: “Weight of Souls” – Bryony Pearce on making up mythologies!

The Weight of SoulsHi there everyone! And welcome to my stop on the Weight of Souls Blog Tour! Today we have Bryony herself giving us a guest post about making up mythologies, and it should be very interesting reading, considering what we have going on in terms of worldbuilding in that area in “Weight of Souls”. It’s quite creative in that area, and nice and fresh within YA, so without further ado, here’s Bryony Pierce on making up mythologies!

When I was growing up I loved stories that had an element of discovery: the interconnections in Stephen King’s oeuvre, the wow factor of Gemmell’s worlds, the use of recognisable storylines and characters from mythologies throughout my favourite fantasy literature.  I liked it when I could recognise something that I knew about in ‘real life’, mythic elements, that I could pick up, character arcs that reflected stories I already knew.

I still love novels that include grand mythic elements.  Something inside me thrills when I find a story integrating into the vast network of world mythology, the dreamtime of the human psyche.

And this is why I like to use epic mythologies as part of my own work.

Angel’s Fury is about reincarnation and fallen angels.  In it I blend the Hindu concepts of reincarnation, the Christian tenets of redemption and prayer and the Jewish tale of the fallen angels Azael and Shemhazai and their children, the nephilim.

The problem for me was that although the story in the Torah gave me that Eureka moment which enabled me to bring my novel together, it was missing certain elements that I required for my story to become a cohesive whole.

I agonised (fairly briefly) about whether or not it was okay to rewrite an important myth, then decided that I was writing fiction so people probably wouldn’t mind too much and they would still enjoy that element of bone deep recognition if I left most of it alone.

So, in Angel’s Fury, most of the story of Shemhazai and Azael is the original myth that I discovered from the Torah, rewritten for the YA market (i.e. without all the begats and begets and so forth).  In the original myth Azael teaches mankind about cosmetics, medicine, art, music, metalworking, brewing alcohol and making weapons and I loved using all of those themes throughout the book (for example Cassie’s name is Smith – the metalworker – she uses cosmetics for the first time in the manor, she is a weapons expert, the children try to escape to the pub, the place she first discovers that she has been reincarnated is Hopfingen – used for brewing beer – and there are lots of other similar ‘coincidences’).  But as the end of the story comes nearer and Shemhazai is trapped upside down in Orion’s belt, I took some liberties.  I added the ‘fact’ that instead of being destroyed outright, the spirits of the nephilim would be bound into human bodies for three hundred generations (which conveniently takes them to modern times).

Filled with repentance for what his lust had unleashed Shemhazai asked the Lord if there was any hope for mankind. 

The Lord replied: “I will bind your sons into fleshly bodies for three hundred generations.”

Then I added the concept that Shemhazi would be able to escape his heavenly prison if certain conditions were met.

And the Lord set Shemhazai in the Southern sky, a star between Heaven and Earth, head down, feet up. (real myth)

Then He spoke: “Heaven shall remain closed to you and your brother.  Unless the spirits you created in your lust overcome the restrictions of their fleshly bodies you will remain in this prison until the end of the world.” (part that I added)

Finally, in order for my story to work I had to have Azael escape God’s wrath and disguise himself among the humans that he despises, vowing that one day he would destroy mankind and that God would therefore be forced to free Shemhazai and allow the angels and nephilim to inherit the world he loves.

Then the Lord sought Azael.  But Azael was fearful.  Believing that the Lord would be unable to see an angel in human form he took the shape he hated most.  Then he vowed to find the sons of his brother and aid them in the destruction of man.

By blending the real myth with the elements I needed to make my story work, I hoped that I retained the sense of discovery that some readers might find.  I imagined that those who knew the story of the nephilim (or those re-reading the book) would have fun spotting all the literary allusions to the myth, the number of times Orion’s belt appears, the motifs of reflection and inversion (because Shemhazi is pinned upside down) and so on, but by putting my own spin on things I hoped to add to the pool of mythology itself, and lend my story a real epic feel.

I did the same thing with my new novel, The Weight of Souls.  Having already used Christian, Hindu and Jewish traditions, I turned to Egyptian mythology for my back-story.

In The Weight of Souls I write about Anubis, the Egyptian god of embalming and death.  I did extensive research into the god himself and used much of his story, but I also took the same liberties.  I had to come up with an ‘ending’ for this Egyptian god: what happened to him before Egypt fell.

I decided that he would have been trapped by his enemies inside the tomb of Nefertiti (which remains undiscovered to this day).  However, in Egyptian mythology, strangely for a god myth, Anubis didn’t seem to have any great adversary, so I had to make up a rivalry between Anubis and his brother, Horus.  This enabled me to allow the priests of Horus to trap Anubis.

When I visited the Egyptian display in the London Science Museum for my research, I noticed that there was no Anubis, but only a statuette of Thoth, described as judge of the dead.

“In the later history of ancient Egypt, Thoth became heavily associated with the arbitration of godly disputes the arts of magic, the system of writing, the development of science,and the judgment of the dead.” (Wikipedia)

This surprised me greatly because until then I had known Anubis as judge of the dead.  It also inspired me.

With Anubis trapped by Horus, I decided to have Thoth elevated to Lord of the dead, leaving Anubis powerless.  Anubis would therefore have to come up with a plan to both free himself and regain his powers.

He confers a tomb robber with the capacity to see ghosts who require retribution and the ability to send their murderers to Anubis himself for judgement. In that way Anubis would not only be able to gather an army, but also gradually regain the supernatural powers generated by reaping the souls (what he plans to do with his army is a surprise for book two).

I wrote my own curse for the tomb, based on existing Egyptian curses that I researched, dictating that should certain conditions be met (conditions that ancient Egyptians would have believed impossible), then Anubis would be able to escape.

Of course my novel had to set up the meeting of those conditions.

So in the contemporary part of my story (which makes up the majority of the book) I have a girl who sees ghosts, forced to track down their killers and send them to Anubis.

I am hoping to be able to write the sequel (which is sales dependent) because this mythology I have made up has a lot more to give.  In my sequel I intend to make a lot more use of Horus and Thoth, I have a brilliant idea about what happens to Justin and the twists I have planned are making my typing fingers itch to write.

For more information about Bryony or her work, please visit her website, follow her on Twitter @BryonyPearce or like her page on Facebook, which is BryonyPearceAuthor.

And don’t forget her GREAT BIG competition in which you can win a necklace, charm, signed postcard and signed copies of both Angel’s Fury and The Weight of Souls. Details can be found on her blog:

One thought on “Blog Tour Stop!: “Weight of Souls” – Bryony Pearce on making up mythologies!

  1. Pingback: Friday Finds (Aug 30) | Cynthia Stacey

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