"And on the Third Day, God said: Yea, I Am taking the Rest of The Week Off. You Stay Here and Finish Up Without Me."
When creating a fantasy setting, some authors seem to want to both eat and have their cake when it comes to the gods. One almighty Creator
, or a rowdy pagan pantheon? Let's have both!
In the basic version of this scenario, the Creator
first makes lesser gods - or archangels, or what have you - then makes at least some parts of the universe, then tells His divine children to finish the job themselves. Mortals may be the Creator's handiwork or that of the lessers; once they show up, they might worship the Creator, the lesser beings, or both.
This is formally referred to as a henotheistic
scenario. It's handy for letting readers with low tolerance for fantasy believe that "the real God" (aka the Judeo-Christian Father) really was responsible for these worlds, just under a different name.
The Creator deity usually leaves it in the hands of Celestial Paragons and Archangels
to finish the job.
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- In Slayers, the Lord of Nightmares (aka L-sama), the local almighty supreme deity, created all of the worlds. Later she created various Gods and Dark Lords, and appointed one God and one Dark Lord for each world. Then the Gods created themselves lesser gods, and the Dark Lords created themselves lesser mazoku.
- The universe of Lucifer was created by YHWH. Pretty much everything in it, however, was created by the Angels under his loose supervision. This didn't work terribly well (an entire existence designed by committee?), but he had his reasons- as the Angels discovered. When everything started going to shit a few billion years later.
- Lucifer himself makes his own Creation during the comic's run, and a third one is created later, as well. It's also implied that Yahweh wasn't the first one in the God-business, and there may have been others creating worlds before Him; the few survivors from those worlds would like nothing more than to burn His to cinder to get out.
- Tolkien's Legendarium is a very good example. J. R. R. Tolkien himself was a devout Catholic, and always kept trying to figure out how to integrate or reconcile his ideas about a fantasy world with his deeply-held belief in Catholic doctrine. So in the first part of The Silmarillion, he set up the theology of Arda as follows:
- Eru Ilúvatar, "The One" Creator, is God. He sang into existence the Ainur, a lesser form of divine/spiritual being.
- He then directed the Ainur in a Great Music.
- At this juncture, Melkor, one of the more powerful Ainur, decides to make his own melodies dissonant with the Great Music. Watch this guy.
- He then showed the Ainur what the Great Music had wrought: Arda, the whole world. At the time it was a flat and lifeless rock. He sends the Ainur down to shape it as they will. The most powerful Ainur become the Valar; the rest become the weaker (but still powerful) Maiar.
- It might be useful to think of the Valar as a sort of cross between gods, archangels, and major saints and the Maiar as lesser gods/angels/saints. They are worshipped, but they themselves worship Ilúvatar.
- Worth noting that The Silmarillion specifically gives the name of one of the Maiar as Olórin, and that Gandalf, listing the names under which he's known to different cultures, mentions that "in his youth in the West that is forgotten" he was known as ... Olórin. The Balrogs are also presumably (fallen) Maiar.
- Once the Valar and Ainur more or less finished shaping Arda, one of the Valar (Aulë) creates the Dwarves; Ilúvatar chastises him (mildly) for this, then prevents him from destoying the Dwarves and gives them free will. However, he doesn't intend to let his own creations (the Elves and Men) get upstaged, so he puts them to sleep, takes them away, and hides them until later. Some time thereafter, Ilúvatar awakens the Elves, then later (at the first rising of the Sun), he awakens Men. Exactly when the Dwarves woke up again isn't specified, but probably between the two.
- Ents have a similar origin; Ilúvatar seems to have given them sentience (without actually saying anything about it) because Yavanna was worried about what the Dwarves were going to do to the plants, who had no way to protect themselves.
- Diane Duane's Young Wizards novels have the Powers, angelic/deific beings, creating the universe(s). Although the tone of the series is vaguely Christian, references to any being superior to the Powers are hard to find.
- From the fifth book onward, the series makes repeated references to a supreme being referred to as "the One." Speaking of which, look at the final line of the Wizard's Oath:
To these ends, in the practice of my art, I will ever put aside fear for courage, and death for life—looking always toward the Heart of Time, where all our sundered times are one, and all our myriad worlds lie whole, in the One from Whom they proceeded...
- The Creator of the Discworld universe apparently hires other beings, also referred to as Creators, to make worlds. Some (such as the Creator of the Disc) are put-upon workmen, others (such as the Old Man Who Carries the Universe in a Sack, who later patched Fourecks in) are rather more artistic. Gods come later in the process, and don't really do all that much other than smiting.
- In His Dark Materials - in fact, it's arguable that some force (probably Dust, maybe something else), is the true Creator of the Universe, never mind all those angels that take the credit and then argue about it .
- A possible candidate would be the goddess Yambe-Akka, mentioned in the first book by the witches, though like her mythological name sake she is only mentioned as a psychopomp.
- In Lord Dunsany's The Gods of Pegana, creation works this way, more or less. MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI created the 'little gods' and a bit of space for them to work with, then took a long long nap while they created the Worlds.
- In The Belgariad, UL created the universe and then seven other gods, his sons, to make the actual world they would inhabit, while he basically sat around and grumbled at how poor a job they were doing.
- All the lesser gods chose a people. The people that became known as the Ulgos weren't chosen by anybody, so they petitioned UL to let them worship him. He said something along the lines of "fine, whatever" but didn't seem particularly excited about the prospect, so their entire philosophy/religion is "we don't know what might make UL change his mind and abandon us again, but whatever it is is probably something fun, so let's not have any."
- Keys to the Kingdom falls into this indirectly. "The Architect" created the universe, then went off somewhere--nobody knows where. Her instructions were to appoint a mortal as her heir, but the seven greatest (and most corrupt) members of the Celestial Bureaucracy took power for themselves and have been having one hell of a time.
- In Voltaire's short story Plato's Dream, the chief creator Demiurgos makes a number of lesser superbeings and then assigns each of them to create one of the planets in the solar system.
- Orr from David Weber's Bahzell series created the universe and then a whole pantheon of lesser gods and goddesses to help run it, though there exceptions. The realm of demons and devils where Shigu, the wife of Phorbros after he rebelled, came from seems to be separate from but connected to Orr's creation and no one knows where Hirahim Lightfoot, the resident trickster deity, came from even if he does acknowledge Orr's authority.
- Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series features five lesser "gods" (the major incarnations of Death, Fate, Nature, Time, War) and a host of minor associated incarnations (War, for example, has Famine, Pestilence, Conquest and Slaughter ... and yes, they ride horses). God exists, but seems to be a Divine Delegator of the hands-off variety until book six of what was originally conceived as a five-book series, when it turns out that Satan (who has been an active antagonist throughout the series) turns out to be an incarnation as well. Book 7 implies that there may be a Divine Delegator somewhere, but it's some unknowable cosmic principle and not "God" since He's a delegate Himself.
- In Supernatural, God has left heaven and Earth to be run by the Archangels and the angels. Except that in the absence of God, the Archangels decide to start the Apocalypse. Oops.
- Dragonlance: The Highgod from Beyond created the twenty-one gods - seven good, seven neutral, seven evil. Between them, they then create the world of Krynn and its peoples. Note that the Highgod is not the Judeo-Christian God—he's more like an Eldritch Abomination who didn't initially know what his children were doing, and when he discovered that they'd created a world, he started erasing people from existence, and it never occurred to him that the lives he took might have any value.
- The Forgotten Realms universe may have been created by the Overgod Ao, but the world of Toril is the creation of the goddesses Selune and Shar.
- In the Avatar Trilogy, it is shown that Ao has a boss of his own, described as a "being of pure light" which is strongly implied to be the Judeao-Christian God.
- In Nomine has the Archangels shaping the world at God's command, up until humans were created and God told the angels to leave Earth and not interfere. Lucifer took exception to this. As a result of the rebellion, the Archangels can no longer communicate clearly with God and have decided they need to stick around to counter the demons' plans, resulting in a millennia-long cold war between Heaven and Hell.
- In Exalted, the Primordials created the universe, then created the gods to keep everything running while they wrecked shit and played games and then expected the gods to clean it all up. The gods were not pleased by this arrangement. So the gods created the Exalted, who could slip the bonds of the pact between the gods and the Primordials and actually kill them. And after the great war... the Exalted were charged with keeping everything running, while the gods engaged in the Games of Divinity. Yeah.
- It is implied that all the gods actually wanted was a part in the Games. This doesn't make the whole debacle any less ridiculous.
- It's also pretty much stated that the Primordials created the world solely to have a place to rest from their constant struggle against the unformed chaos of the Wyld, where they first came to be. This might to some extent explain their attitude towards it. (It could also be argued that the Primordials, while they did create the world everybody in the setting knows, did not so much create 'the universe'; the Wyld existed before them and who, if anybody at all, may be responsible for creating that is unknown.)
- According to the mythology in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, after the original Pokemon Arceus created the universe, he created Dialga, Palkia and Giratina (representing time, space and anti-matter), followed by Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf (knowledge, emotion and willpower). After that, he went into a deep sleep, and the others took care of everything.
- At least until he got woken up again by a bunch of ten-year-olds with an Azure Flute.
- The Legend of Zelda has Din, Nayru and Farore, "The Golden Goddesses" who left the world some time after creating it. Other beings of varying degree of power are commonly described as gods through the series, generally as implicitly or explicitly having been put there by the Golden Goddesses to maintain and protect in their absence. The threat level of Hyrule generally leaves them the divine equivalent of a Badly Battered Babysitter.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has the goddess Hylia, implicitly the highest ranked of the delegate divinities, who incarnates as the mortal Zelda, leaving her power and soul within that bloodline. Below her, the surface is protected by a trio of dragons: Faron the Water Dragon that guards the Woods, Lanayru the Thunder Dragon who oversees the Desert and Eldin the Fire Dragon who watches over the Volcano, while the skies are protected by the whale-like deity Levias.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has the light spirits Ordona, Faron, Lanaryu, and Eldin, each tasked with keeping one province of Hyrule protected from magical darkness and the like.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has the Deku Tree as a godlike figure for the Kokiri and Jabu-Jabu as a godlike figure for the Zora.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has the Deku Tree as the Spirit of Earth, the great fish Jabun as the Spirit of Water, the dragon Valoo as the Spirit of Fire, and a pair of... frog things as the Spirits of Air.