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Mythopoeia (from the Greek words that mean "myth-making") is a narrative genre in modern literature and film where a fictional mythology is created by the author or screenwriter. The word mythopoeia and description was coined and developed by J. R. R. Tolkien in the 1930s. The authors in this genre integrate traditional mythological themes and archetypes into fiction. Mythopoeia is also the act of making (creating) such mythologies. Notable mythopoeic authors aside from Tolkien include C. S. Lewis, Robert W. Chambers, H. P. Lovecraft, George MacDonald, and Lord Dunsany, among others. While many literary works carry mythic themes, only a few approach the dense self-referentiality and purpose of mythopoeia. It is invented mythology that, rather than arising out of centuries of oral tradition, is penned over a short period of time by a single author or small group of collaborators.

As opposed to fantasy worlds or fictional universe aimed at the evocation of detailed worlds with well-ordered histories, geographies, and laws of nature, mythopoeia aims at imitating and including real-world mythology, specifically created to bring mythology to modern readers, and/or to add credibility and literary depth to fictional worlds in fantasy or science fiction books and movies.

Mythopoeia can be created entirely by an individual, like the world of Middle-earth, or can be formed as a result of an amalgam of writings, like the Cthulhu Mythos. An Expanded Universe can result in the creation of one of these, particularly for Long-Runners.


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  • American artist Trenton Doyle Hancock's paintings take place in an elaborate mythical framework involving a race of plant persons called the Mounds and a shaman figure known as Torpedo Boy.

    Comic Books 
  • The Sandman (1989), though it borrowed elements from the "parent" DC Universe (as well as many mythologies). And Neil Gaiman seems not to have planned it all in advance.
  • Monstress has a mythology that is relayed to its readers largely thru the classes of Professor Tam-Tam. There's lore about the emergence of the main races of the world such as the creation of the Arcanic race, bits of lore about the coming of the Monstra or Old Gods and the subsequent war that banished them and etc.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Silmarillion contains the mythic backstory of Middle-earth, told in the style of a collection of ancient legends. And since it was compiled posthumously by an editor from numerous texts written in different decades, with differing amounts of detail and sometimes contradicting each other (with said texts published later in The History of Middle-earth), the end result feels very much like a collection of ancient texts from multiple authors (complete with partly deciphered ancient languages!). Furthermore, Tolkien originally created Middle-earth's histories as a mythology for England, since he was really torn up about the English not having one.note 
  • The Gods of Pegāna forms a complete cycle of myths, from Creation to The End, complete with multiple contradictory versions of The End. Lord Dunsany's mythology predates The Lord of the Rings and has a completely different feel.
  • The Cthulhu Mythos created by H. P. Lovecraft, with many contributions from other authors to form a dense corpus of stories.
  • The rabbits' myths and legends present in Watership Down, which were expanded in a series of short stories set in the same rabbit society.
  • The Wheel of Time uses many real world myths and legends in its work, from African to Norse. It's very strongly implied, and confirmed by Word of God, that the world may be the same as our own. The books say that time is cyclical, and a handful of garbled myths and fragmentary legends have persisted from the Age before last. All of them correspond to important figures from the 20th century or earlier, allowing for linguistic drift in the names of individuals.
  • The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist has an extensive mythology, which has gotten tangled up in its history at several points.
  • The Dark Tower with the titular Cosmic Keystone being an extension of Gan himself.
  • The term is often used to describe the narrative poems of William Blake and his complex system of gods and demigods. However, given the profound mindfuckery of his poems — in which characters can symbolize emotional states, allegorical relationships with the world, relationships with eternity, political action, and can exist in multiple planes of reality (including our own minds) and temporality simultaneously — critical opinion is heavily divided on just what the myth is.
  • George MacDonald's fairy tales and fantasy stories were cited as influences on later mythopoeic authors like C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, making him the Trope Codifier, if not the Trope Maker.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has a backstory which reaches back thousands of years. Its stories tend to be vague and dark.
    • George R. R. Martin also did this with his "Thousand Worlds" Science Fiction stories. As is the case with A Song of Ice and Fire, there are many vague hints about the wider world and the backstory of the universe, but as Martin hasn't published anything from it in over twenty years, we aren't likely to get much more detail.
  • Tanith Lee has done this quite a bit in her career, but perhaps her most notable standout is the Tales of the Flat Earth series which takes place in a mythical distant past when the Earth was flat and the gods had retired to contemplation, a group of Anthropomorphic Personification and one demon ruler influence the world over the span of many millennia if not millions of years.
  • Gene Wolfe does this in his far future Science Fantasy Book of the New Sun where the end is nigh as the world faces an onslaught from the undersea beings Erebus and Abaia, meanwhile the reborn Concilliator will undergo a test to reconcile humanity with the rest of the universe.
  • The Arts of Dark and Light by Vox Day features a fantasy world with a long history, multiple cultures and myths and special attention paid to religion.
  • Tasakeru, with the core story of the Three Gods, which is interpreted in different ways by each of the eight species.
  • In Gregory Frost's Shadowbridge duology, the background world was born from an unending dream by the gods of Edgeworld. Through the actions of a storyfish and the first man, there came to be a bridge that stretches forever over the endless sea. Different cultures and kingdoms live on every segment, with each having their own tales of gods and heroes. The protagonist Leodora is a travelling puppeteer who tells short stories of myths she knows as she goes on her own quest to find her mother and stop the evil Lord Tophet.
  • The Orphan's Tales has a young prince go into the garden where he finds a mysterious homeless girl with strange markings and starts a budding friendship with her, as she narrates the stories written from these markings. These stories tell the myths and folktales of that world.
  • In Night Gem, the basis for the type of magic Aera becomes interested in is a mythologically constructed system of archetypes created by Erica Xenne for the series. The system seems to draw on real world archetypal classification systems like the Enneagram of personality.
  • Discworld:
    • The Discworld has, over the years, developed a deep mythology that includes the Old High Ones, who exist above the gods and were responsible for stopping the Mage Wars, multiple pantheons of gods that have formed a generic "default" pantheon, Anthropomorphic Personifications, the Ice Giants (who continually war with the gods because they borrowed the lawnmower and won't keep the noise down), and the Things From the Dungeon Dimensions. Many of these myths contradict each other, but the nature of belief on the Disc is such that they're all true anyway.
    • Hogfather: A major theme in this novel is the ability to bring deities into existence for a specific task. Teatime tries to destroy the Hogfather by making people stop believing in him, while Death has to fill in for him to restore that belief. Susan points out at the end of the novel that people believed in the Hogfather so that the sun would come up, which makes no sense as nature dictates the sun will always come up, but Death points out that believing in anything, no matter how stupid or needless, is an integral part of humanity.
  • While Endo and Kobayashi Live! The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Lieselotte is mostly a romantic drama, the story dipped mildly into this as part of the lore. The Magikoi world's Creation Myth is relatively similar to the one in Abrahamic religions, with an important difference: The Maker divides into a God Couple when descending. How the relationships among themselves and the first humanoids they created affect the Magikoi universe up to Lieselotte's time.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: The Minbari and the Narn cultures are the best examples of mythmaking on this show.
    • In some ways the whole show is designed to be a myth in itself.
  • The Stargate-verse creates some of its mythology from whole cloth, but also integrates aspects of real-life mythology into the story. The best example is probably the altered Camelot mythos in seasons nine and ten of Stargate SG-1.
  • Star Trek
    • There are hints at the myths of various races. Vulcans and Klingons are most noticed.
    • Star Trek: Picard: Romulan mythology is explored for the first time since Vorta Vor in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. In Season 1, we're introduced to the Romulan (and possibly proto-Vulcan) The End of the World as We Know It story that Rios compares to Ragnarök or Judgment Day. Narek provides the most detailed account of the tale. note 
      "A story of the end of everything. Some say it dates back from long before our ancestors first arrived on Vulcan. The story of Ganmadan ("the Day of Annihilation") begins with two sisters, twin khalagu ("demons") who come at the end of time to open the way and unleash the ch'khalagu ("very bad demons"). One sister is called Seb-Natan, the Foreteller. She plays a drum made from the skin of children. She strikes it with a chain of skulls so hard and so long that her heart bursts from the effort. The other sister is called Seb-Cheneb ("the Destroyer"). She carries the horn from a great pale hellbeast called Ganmadan. When she blows a blast on the horn, it will unleash all the ch'khalagu who have been waiting since the beginning of time. The sky will crack, and through the crack in the sky, the ch'khalagu will come ravening. You know about the Thousand Days of Pain. The streets will be slick with entrails of half-devoured corpses. The worlds will burn. And the ch'khalagu will feast and nurse their brats on blood, and pick their teeth with bones."
  • Twin Peaks: Twin Peaks has its own layered symbols, its own centers of goodness and evil (the Lodges), and its own prophesies ("That Gum You Like Is Going To Come Back In Style").
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: While the series is based largely on Greek mythology (and anything else that didn't ran away fast enough), it accumulated background so fast that one is tempted to declare the result a genuine "Xena mythology" (this viewpoint having the advantage to explain away a whole lot of headscratchers).

    Myths & Religion 
  • Though not created as "intentional" fiction, the Lost Continents of Mu and Lemuria were created out of whole cloth a century and a half ago, one to explain a now-discredited anthropological theory, the other to explain a now-discredited theory of continental formation, and both kept afloat by Spiritualists and Theosophists who wanted mysterious but unresearchable lands to say that their dead friends came from. Atlantis, also, was created by Plato as a moral metaphor, not a literal location.
  • One critical approach to the Old Testament argues that some of the pagan Canaanite religions were, if not invented by the Israelites, then at least exaggerated in their evil (e.g., the frequency of child sacrifice) in order to retroactively justify the violent displacement of the Canaanite people. Notably, the cult of Moloch and the god Moloch itself may never have existed at all, which would make it mythopoeic—this theory is, of course, highly disputed by Old Testament scholars. On a similar note, the story of Canaan being cursed for his father Ham looking at Noah naked (or raping him, depending on the interpretation) may also be a better example, as few take the story literally anymore, plus it seems just a bit convenient to say Canaan's descendants would be slaves for the Israelites.

  • Adylheim uses this extensively, not only creating an internal mythology which mimics parts of real life greek and norse pantheons, but also making references to an ambassador to faerie named Tamlin, a dragon hunter named George, and so on.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Nobilis, a Tabletop RPG centering on the machinations of beings for the most part above our ken.
  • Exalted, with its involved cosmological backgrounds, also has some stories about the gods, demons, and titans, and ancient legends about the Exalted themselves. The game is strongly inspired by The Gods of Pegāna.
  • Glorantha from Runequest. It has many elaborate mythologies, from the barbarian Orlanthi deities to the monotheistic Invisible God.
  • Warhammer has developed a rich and diverse mythological background to complement the histories and cultures of its many peoples. There are several pantheons of gods, a handful of different creation myths and cosmogonies and many details of how the peoples of the world relate to their gods and myths. Generally the mythologies are race-specific, however, and it is altogether unclear how, for instance, the families of the gods of men relate to the gods of the elves, the Ancestor Gods of the Dwarfs, the Old Ones of the Lizardmen or the Gods of Chaos.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has built one up over time. Originally Warhammer Fantasy Battle IN SPACE!, the gradual fleshing-out of the backstory has created a mythic atmosphere. The most obvious is the 10000-year-past Horus Heresy, where the Emperor of Mankind and his ten loyal Primarchs (demigods in their own right) fought off the ten traitor Primarchs and the Dark Gods of Chaos, which directly lead to the sorry state the galaxy is in. Many of the figures involved in the Heresy are either still around (most of the traitor Primarchs are now immortal Demon Princes), or the echoes of their actions are still felt in the current day. Further back, there is the Fall of the Eldar, an orgy of excess so violent that it gave birth to the Chaos God Slaanesh and destroyed humanity's interstellar empire. Going back even further, there are the wonders of the Dark Age of Technology and the disastrous attempt at artificial intelligence known as the Iron Men. And all the way at the dawn of the setting, millions of years ago is war between the C'tan and the Old Ones.
  • Microscope: This Worldbuilding RPG will very often include a mythic elements. The game is not meant to be an exhaustive or precise history—broad themes and arcs are the rule.

  • Transformers has a considerable background mythos including a creator God (Primus) and a Satanic figure (Unicron).
  • The BIONICLE universe. The first few years had some influence from Maori culture, but the franchise has deliberately moved away from that and now has a complex mythology of its own. The best part is that it tends to subvert All Myths Are True by explaining that the characters tend to come up with their own explanations as to why things happen that may not be entirely accurate, making it a case of in-universe Mythopoeia.

    Video Games 
  • Achaea is an extremely unique example in that 90% of the mythos actually happened in game, and most of it was player written. That is, the players did some random thing that caused a game-world-spanning chain reaction, probably resulting in something very big dying and that player becoming a permanent part of Achaean history. It helps that all the gods of the world, which seem like they would be NPCs, are actually players.
  • Dark Souls is lauded for its deep, nuanced, and emotionally-charged lore almost as much as it is for its difficulty. The prevailing theme is the inevitability of death, with the world both having arisen from darkness and destined to return to it. Its opening cutscene is a creation myth. The game's cosmology is somewhat similar to Christianity in its emphasis on a god's sacrifice and the fallen, imperfect nature of mortal men, while the helplessness of the gods to save their dying world is a characteristic of Norse mythology.
  • Dragon Age was made to present a fully developed world right from the start of the first game. There are references to past events and people all the time and many characters that are foreigners to Ferelden, with the natives reacting to them depending on the relations of their countries.
  • Touhou is going this way; it's built upon (mostly-Japanese) folklore on one end and the fans creating (staggering amount of) fan materials to cover the holes on the other end. Sounds familiar, hm?
  • Rayman
    • Starting in Rayman 2, with Polukus and the Lums, and going deeper in Rayman 3, where we are presented to the dark side of the Lums. Rayman 3 also has an ancient desert people known as the Knaaren, who worship the Leptys (also known as the Bringer of Night).
    • Rayman Origins seems to go into this even further, establishing Rayman's role as The Chosen One.
  • For The Elder Scrolls, this is one of the more widely celebrated aspects of the series. There are several divergent mythologies, creation stories, and conflicting historical accounts of events, and of course All Myths Are True to at least some degree. Unlike many instances of the trope, this is presented as an actual in-universe force as well. The fabric of reality in the Elder Scrolls universe is malleable through various means of Reality Warping. Mortals can ascend to godhood and often perform Cosmic Retcons of their own pasts, which can bring together multiple timelines, regardless of conflicts. These and other divine events also tend to have Time Crashes as side-effects, which can further tamper with reality in various ways.
  • Brütal Legend has a mythology spanning from the creation of the Heavy Metal world, through the rise and fall of Ormagöden, rise and ascension of the Titans, enslavement of humanity by the demons, the Black Tear Rebellion, to the events taking place in the game itself. Read more here.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The series first gained a fictional mythology with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which introduced the Three Golden Goddesses as the creator deities, along with the origin of both evil in general (men warring over ownership of the Triforce) and Ganon in particular (a cunning human thief who got the Triforce and was subsequently sealed in the Sacred Realm/Dark World).
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time went into further detail, fleshing out the individual Goddesses and the nature of the Triforce while also portraying the Start of Darkness for Ganon/Ganondorf. Later games have brought the focus away from the central Triforce myth to flesh out the broader Hylian mythos and pantheon.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword takes this even further, by establishing life prior to the founding of Hyrule and the wars that sprung up even before that. Most notably, it also delves into the origins of the Master Sword and introduces both the goddess Hylia, the one who in ancient times defended the Triforce against demons and was reborn as Zelda, as well as Demise, Hyrule's equivalent of Satan and the originator of all monsters, including Ganon.
  • Final Fantasy XIII's actual plot focuses more on 6 chosen people and how they deal with it. The background story and the lore are a bit cluttered and mishandled but if you take time reading in-depth, you will find one of the more interesting mythopoeia about how the Gods decided to create the Fal'cie, which in turn annoints a L'cie.
    • The sequels delve much deeper into the mythos, introducing two of the gods as main characters. The trilogy is part of a sub-franchise, Fabula Nova Crystallis: Final Fantasy, which is where the mythos originate from.
  • Xenogears and Spiritual Successor Xenosaga have extensive cosmologies.
  • The goal of Dwarf Fortress is to have all worlds be randomly generated mythopoeias, each update making the worlds you generate even more complex than before. The game even has a specific "legends" mode just for looking at the generated histories of the worlds.
  • Masquerada: Songs and Shadow has a codex containing the settings backstory, you get most as the story progresses but some entries can be gained by exploring locations.
  • Dragon's Crown has a surprisingly cohesive mythology that mixes bits of Christianity and heretical beliefs within that religion, along with Greco-Roman mythology including an artwork that alludes to Gaia's birthing of the world and various myths and folklore such as Ali Baba and the 40 thieves and Renaissance ideas about fairies rather than medieval beliefs of the Fair Folk. The most relevant in-game mythos is of the Red Dragon (which is treated in a manner of medieval belief of dragons as the symbol of the Devil himself) and its binding at the hands and self-sacrifice of the 3 goddesses who correspond to Artemis, Athena and Venus Aphrodite.

    Web Comics 
  • Andrew Hussie's work, Homestuck, initially revolves around four kids playing a reality-altering video game that constructs a mythology around them, casting them as legendary heroes, with all the details of their world and their mythical powers tailored to their personalities and interests. What is easily dismissed as a fun quirk of the game, however, slowly develops into a more and more elaborate plot involving the fate of reality itself. Eventually the legends and prophesies becomes so pervasive that almost every event in the plot can be tied back to some part of the previously-established mythology, adding layers of bonuses for the attentive reader.
  • This is one of the draws of Ursula Vernon's long-running webcomic Digger, in which the various cultures encountered have their own myths and traditions, often combining real-world examples with facts of their world. This is most obvious with the creation myth of the hyenas, which explains both their tendency to be female-dominated and the frequency with which firstborn cubs die, both traits of real-world hyenas, but more subtle examples can be seen just in the oaths and sayings characters from different cultures use and some of the prejudices they hold.
  • While Rumors of War borrows a great deal from Classical Mythology, it combines magic, idealism, Mood Whiplash, and Loads And Loads of Arguing About Nothing in Particular into what is probably a Crossover Cosmology. Or something new entirely.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons features extensive mythmaking in the form of the Atru mythology, which builds a cosmology, a multigenerational pantheon and a large body of religious scripture full of the deeds of the gods and heroes of the setting. Even the plot itself is part of a larger myth, the Prophecy of the Rising King. While it takes elements from Hindu mythology and Gnosticism, it's very unique and largely resembles neither.
    • There's not only cosmology, gods and scripture, there's also a philosophy: Atru also features a unique and very strange set of tenets mostly presented as the teachings of YISUN.

    Web Original 
  • The Slender Man sounds like an old folktale or urban legend but was actually created whole cloth by a member of the Something Awful forums. Some writers have even tried to expand the mythos by linking it to other web-based horror entities such as Zalgo and The Rake.
  • The Fear Mythos, which established Slender Man and Rake as a part of their fear-based pantheon.

  • The Nobilis game designer writes the web fiction Hitherby Dragons which also has a mythology of sorts.
  • Websnark creator Eric Burns-White's Banter Latte blog had a running series devoted to creating modern-day myths. And it was awesome.
  • The SCP Foundation might have gone into that territory, though we only get small hints and glimpses of divine or demonic origin of some SCP and one of the researchers.
    • Articles involving the Department of Mythology and Folkloristics feature this trope in spades. Examples include the Voice-Taker, Granny Rat Tail, the Black Wyvern and the Cogcows.
    • There's also the island of Hy-Brasil which, along with its accompanying tale, offers detailed exploration of a fictional mythology drawing heavily from Celtic folklore, featuring hero-kings, sacred stones and selkies.
  • Inglip has accumulated a vast mythologic background (which is even canonized by the rule that only Reddit posts with 100+ upvotes are declared canon — if one would add the non-canon stuff, it would become a Doorstopper).
  • Mark Rosenfelder wrote out the Creation Myth for his Constructed World of Almea (or, rather, the myth of what would become its dominant culture) called The Count of Years, which may be read on his website. Though the story is fantastical, it’s implied that at least some of it is a distorted version of what really happened on Earth That Was.

    Western Animation 
  • While it does take a couple of cues from Buddhism, the background mythology of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra it's pretty much its own thing, particularly its Messianic Archetype Physical God figure in the Avatar. Some mythological creatures (Such as the Lion Turtles) are an original creation from the series.
  • All the "urban legends" from Hey Arnold! (Usually told by Gerald) are an exclusive creation of the series, with none of them adapting a real-life urban legend in particular.