Monday, January 2, 2012

Worldbuilding: Using Mythology

Posted by: Eleri Stone
Demon Crossings is the story I talked about in my inaugural post at Here Be Magic. I think it was actually the inaugural post at the Here Be Magic blog. It’s a little bit of an odd duck because it’s half fantasy (set in another world) and half more traditional paranormal. Last year, I asked for help figuring out how to label it. Today, it releases from Carina Press. So almost exactly one year later, here we are full circle.

Otherwise, I thought I’d talk about how I used Norse mythology in my world building.

Why Norse mythology?

I picked Norse mythology because of the concept of interconnected worlds and the legends about gods visiting us here on earth via bridges like Bifröst. I also liked that the Norse gods and goddesses, while extremely powerful, aren’t perfect. They have flaws and they make mistakes, sometimes catastrophic ones.

The basic premise of Demon Crossings is that Ragnarok (the apocalypse) has already happened to Asgard. Before Odin died he cast a spell on the Æsir survivors who were preparing to abandon Asgard. The spell changed their DNA, bound them into clans and invested them with his power. Needing to maintain a connection to their home planet, the refugees on earth settled in places where the wall between worlds is thinnest, where the faded power from the ruined Asgard seeps through the fault lines, enabling them to survive.

What I used from Norse mythology?

I didn’t want a superhero world. Instead, in Demon Crossings, when Odin invested the refugees with his power what that meant is that in every generation children are born to fulfill certain necessary “roles”. For example, a child would be born with the skills necessary to assume leadership of the clan when he’s grown. There are Odin’s counselor crows, healers and witches. Huntsmen and hounds to fight the fire demons that manage to slip through the portal after Æsir blood.

I used the legend of the Wild Hunt to describe the clan hunting the demons. That actually ended up being a little problematic. The Wild Hunt is a widespread myth but in our culture most people seem to be more familiar with the English version which associates the hunt with the Fae rather than the Norse version which associates the hunt with Odin. So…I did my best to establish that in the book and I’m just going to have to hope that people either take my word for it or look it up to verify that I’m telling the truth.

I also used some of the legends surrounding Ragnarok. This is the Norse apocalypse wherein a whole slew of gods perish, including Odin, Thor and Loki. And of course, I used the concept of interconnected worlds and the idea that it’s possible to pass between them.

I found that it’s a tough line to walk trying to honor the original legends and also create a new and interesting world that feels fresh and relevant to readers. What do you think?

I’m running a series of posts on my blog about the world of Demon Crossings. If you’re interested, you can find the links here.

And here’s where you can find me online:


  1. Mythology is such a rich resource! Interesting to hear how you've worked it into the plot of your wishes with Demon Crossings!

  2. Respecting mythology and re-imagining it is a tough gig. Happy Release Day, Eleri!

    PS. I love the images...almost as fab as the cover for Demon Crossings :)

  3. Thanks, Veronica! Thanks, Jenny! Speaking of covers, I should update the sidelink with the new one. Yikes. A million things to do pre-release day. Missed that one.


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