Follow TV Tropes

Following

Newer Than They Think / Mythology

Go To

    open/close all folders 

    Western mythology 
  • The perfect example would be the gremlin (not the car, or the lovable 1980s movie monster). The word first appeared in British airfields during the First World War, and indicated a malicious "thing" (most often in the plural) that would cause aircraft to malfunction. The most consistent explanation for the origin of the word is that a light-hearted reference to Fremlin's Ales in a missive from an airfield commander got mis-typed, i.e. "...no explanation yet for the sudden rise in crashes, although I personally blame the Fremlins." The word (and the as-yet unvisualised creature) spread from there, first appearing in print in 1929. However many people seem to think that gremlins are far, far older than that, due to how "at home" they seem among the more traditional types like goblins and leprechauns (especially after fantasy RPG writers got hold of them).
    • Americans were first introduced to gremlins in a 1943 Roald Dahl book, his first children's book. It almost became a Disney movie.
  • Pinocchio is not a medieval or early modern folktale like many other Disney classics; he didn't appear until 1883 while the Disney movie was made in 1940. To put that in perspective, Charles Judels, who voiced Stromboli and the Coachman in the film, was born in 1882. In fact, the Disney Animated Canon includes about as many films based on 19th and 20th century literature as ones based on folktales or mythology. (Eg. Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, Bambi...)
  • The word "vampire" is first recorded in English in 1734, and even in other languages, it does not appear to predate the 18th century.
  • Many parts of accepted vampire mythology are no more recent than the twentieth century.
    • Sunlight killing vampires. 1922, Nosferatu. In earlier versions, it was at most annoying or somewhat painful, and the original Dracula could walk around in the daylight without issue (save being unable to shapeshift). It does make for fun special effects shots, though, which is why it seems to have been popularized by movies: we went from the trick dissolve of Nosferatu through melting like wax (Return of the Vampire, a 1944 Bela Lugosi film), crumbling to dust (Horror of Dracula, 1958) and wild FX explosions (a practical FX version in Fright Night (1985) and CGI versions in Blade and later films).
    • A good chunk of so-called "traditional vampire lore" dates back to the modern era. Here are a few more: the vampire/vampire bat connection, stakes being an instantly lethal weapon (instead of being used to keep the monster pinned down, unable to rise and leave its coffin), and a "mother/father of all vampires" based off a Biblical figure like Cain.
    • In some of the original legends in Eastern Europe, vampires were actually strongest at high noon when they cast the smallest possible shadow.
    • It doesn't help that Slavic and Balkan folklore have many types of soul-stealing or blood-drinking supernatural creatures that in the course of time got mixed together. And the upir (vampire) is more a representative of a whole class of creatures than one specific being.
    • Nearly everything about how vampires "should" look is an evolution of Bela Lugosi's look in the movie. Vampires were originally often imagined as twisted monsters, mindless ghouls or even semi-material ghosts. Count Orlok from Nosferatu is closer to the original conceptions of how vampires looked and acted. (Note that the plot of Nosferatu was plagiarized from Dracula, and Orlok's appearance works just as well as Lugosi's charming count.) However, this wasn't always the case, in other stories the vampire was still quite human and returned home to live happily with his still human wife, their children being dhampires, which are as varied as vampires on their own accord.
    • There have been charismatic vampires in fiction well before film, usually by conflating the vampire with the incubus/succubus myth: the titular vampire of Carmilla (1872) is quite a pretty young girl, and John Polidori's Lord Ruthven from his short story "The Vampyre" (1819) is a Byronic Hero (and a Take That! characterization of Polidori's friend and patient Lord Byron).
    • Indeed, if one were to do a vampire movie with scrupulously historical Dark Ages vampires, modern viewers would probably wonder why it kept calling these Flesh Eating Zombies "vampires"...
      • Something like Richard Matheson's I Am Legend? (The book, not the movie.) That book, despite being about vampires, is cited as being the inspiration for Night of the Living Dead (1968) — which set up most modern zombie tales.
    • Actually the whole concept of 'classification' is relatively new as it appeared in the late 17th century. Folk descriptions of a vampire could differ wildly between villages not to mention between regions or countries.
    • The first movie that shows vampires having long fangs was 1958 Hammer Horror's Horror of Dracula with Christopher Lee. That's right, Bela Lugosi never had fangs in the movie nor are they shown at any moment despite this being retroactively added as part of his appearance. You can argue that Nosferatu also has fangs thus technically been the first, however Orlock's fangs are not exactly the iconic version of the character and are more bat-like, not the two prominent canine normally associated with vampires. Also neither Bram Stoker's book nor previous works like The Vampyre of Lord Byron nor the previous vampire lore ever mentioned vampires having fangs, they drank the bloood of their victims by biting them normally.
    • Another aspect that was retconned into the "classic" look is the cape ending in points to resemble bat wings (like Batman's). Although more common in animation than anything else., it was never used as such for Bela Lugosi nor Christopher Lee nor most live-action versions. Not even Grandpa from The Munsters had one.
    • A widespread anecdote repeated in many places online states that vampires in traditional European folklore didn't cast reflections because mirrors back then were made of silver, and silver is a natural vampire repellant. Bram Stoker made up the reflection thing when he wrote Dracula in the 1890s, and no source identifies silver as a vampire weakness until 1928, meaning neither idea was ever a part of the classic folklore. The source of this "silver mirrors = no reflections" concept is unknown but it does not appear to even predate the internet.
  • Similarly, many "traditional" werewolf tropes date back to the Hollywood era and no earlier.
    • Serious books on traditional European werewolf lore have sometimes included the famous line "Even a man who is good in heart, and says his prayers by night, can become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright." This was created from whole cloth for the movie The Wolf Man (1941).
    • It is worth noting that the whole concept of the "human-wolf hybrid" comes directly from classic horror films. In traditional folklore the werewolf was either a man changing into a regular wolf, or not changing and just behaving like one (historical accounts of werewolves in the 15th-early 19th century transparently describe what we call today serial killers). Other stories have the werewolf's nature being betrayed by a wolf body part that he consciously hides, like ears, legs, or a tail. While a regular wolf (or a wolflike dog, more often) has been used in some films, a Beast Man is just more interesting.
  • To cross the previous two example groups over, the idea of vampires and werewolves as instinctive or traditional enemies is almost entirely derived from the influence of the Old World of Darkness. In earlier folklore, they were often seen as linked by their bloodthirstiness and supernatural nature, and it was even believed in some places that a dead werewolf would rise as a vampire.
  • The idea of zombies as slow, lumbering creatures that crave human flesh and can only be stopped by destroying the brain comes from Night of the Living Dead (1968) and from other movies. Medieval beliefs in revenants, and the original Caribbean conception of zombies, have none of that. Typical zombies of the early period of film, such as found in the film White Zombie, resembled Haitian "slave" zombies. The craving for brains is even more recent, dating from the 1985 film The Return of the Living Dead.
    • That one pretty much stopped there, too. Zombies eating brains is a classic Dead Unicorn Trope.
      • Brains weren't really intended to be special in Return, either. The idea was, strangely, just an attempt to add some scientific rigor to the idea of walking corpses that Romero and others had never bothered with: zombies have no metabolism, so they can't manufacture their own biological chemicals, and had to eat muscle to restore their muscles, lung and throat tissue to maintain their ability to speak, and brains to maintain a human-like brain chemistry. Kind of weird that the classic zombie franchise thought of as the most lowbrow had the most thought put into the mechanics...
    • The idea of a zombie-making virus or a zombie-making radiation first appeared in the 1948 Roald Dahl novel (!) Sometime Never: A Fable for Supermen, and the victims are described as crazy rather than undead.
  • The Chupacabra really only dates back to 1995, when it was first reported on and named. There was a Mexican "livestock vampire" in the 1970s, but there isn't much connection between them.
  • While Paul Bunyan did originate in stories told among lumberjacks, Babe the Blue Ox was the invention of the Red River Lumber Company, who used stories about Paul and Babe in their advertisements in the early 20th century.
  • The depiction of Valkyries as fat ladies began with Richard Wagner's Die Walküre, since corsets impeded achieving a powerful voice.
    • Carl Emil Doepler's costume designs for the Valkyries in the 1876 Bayreuth production of Wagner's Ring were based on the then most recent archaeological evidence, which was partly influenced by the horned helmets of much later medieval warriors. Cosima Wagner famously loathed the winged helmets, which she said looked less like ancient Germans than "Red Indian chiefs."
      • The "archaeological evidence" were not helmets as one thought, the horns were found separate and actually were intended for drinking.
  • The hippogriff is not a traditional mythological beast the way the somewhat similar griffin is. The word hippogriff first appeared in Ludovico Ariosto's poem Orlando Furioso (written in 1516). Because griffins were believed to prey on horses, the offspring of a horse and griffin was intended as representation of something impossibly unlikely, sort of like when pigs fly.
  • The peryton, a monstrous bird with the head of a carnivorous deer that cast a human shadow, is popularly said to have originated from Classical Mythology. In reality, the creature was invented by Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges in his mid-1900s book Book of Imaginary Beings as a joke. It's generally believed Dungeons & Dragons is responsible for further perpetuating this one, due to Gary Gygax including them in the original Monster Manual since he had used Borges' book as one of his sources of monsters for the game.
  • The modern concept of the psychic dates back to at least Nostradamus, right? Actually, the word "psychic" and the study of the phenomenon is a late-19th century invention. In fact, associating psychic activity with science is itself a modern invention — even during the Renaissance, things like telekinesis and fortune-telling were attributed to either divine or demonic forces, and not to a heightened mental awareness.
  • Bahamut wasn't a dragon in the original mythology. It wasn't even anything close — although exactly what it was varies according to the source you check,note  none of them are anything similar to "dragon." Unlike Tiamat, above, the blame for this one can be laid solely at the feet of Dungeons & Dragons — they just took a name they thought sounded cool and attached it to their dragon god.
    • In 4E, it is written, "of course, in these more enlightened times, we know Bahamut is not really a dragon," and that 'Platinum Dragon' is merely an honorific title. They don't say what Bahamut, in fact, is.
  • The concept of Queen Mab being the queen of the fairies and the associated legends involving her originated with William Shakespeare creating her for a speech in Romeo and Juliet; there is nobody exactly fitting that description in Celtic Mythology or associated legends. That said, Shakespeare could have easily been conflating several characters (which Shakespeare had a habit of doing); if so, the name "Queen Mab" may have arisen from Queen Medb, who most famously appears in the The Cattle Raid of Cooley.
  • Liches — in particular, their name. While some legendary creatures — like Koschei the deathless from Slavic folklore — do somewhat resemble liches, the name is an invention of the 20th century; prior, the word simply meant "corpse". The version that exists in the popular imagination is an invention of Dungeons & Dragons, though influenced by earlier fiction.
    • Clark Ashton Smith was the first to use the word lich to designate an undead sorcerer in "The Stairs in the Crypt". And Gary Gygax said he was inspired by the short story "The Sword of the Sorcerer" by Gardner Fox (1976) when he created the monster in 1977.
    • "Wight" was probably taken from Tolkien's barrow-wights. The word itself was just another word for body, alive or dead. (Byron's Childe Harold is described as being a "shameless wight" precisely because he is too much of a living body.)
      • It also meant any immaterial creature (demon, spirit, soul, ghost etc.)
  • The word "undead" is a fairly recent invention, coined in 1897 by Bram Stoker in the novel Dracula. Within the novel, undead and undeath were terms invented by Doctor Van Helsing as a medical description of the vampiric state. Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings also uses this word when she challenges the Witch King: "For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him." The extension of the word into a broader term for creatures that are reanimated but not resurrected is even newer; Dungeons & Dragons created a category of undead monsters sharing the Revive Kills Zombie weakness, and most fantasy games and stories have followed suit.
  • The Rapture, the idea that God will take all the believers into heaven prior note  to the events in Revelation (four horseman, seven seals, etc), stems from the early 19th century (to the 1833 translation of the Bible by John Nelson Darby to be exact). While books like Left Behind make it seem like this is a widespread belief in Protestant circles, the fact is that almost every mainline protestant church (Episcopalian, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist and most Reformed Christian churches do not subscribe to this belief, never mind the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches) reject this interpretation.
  • The stories of a beautiful woman luring boatmen to their doom at Lorelei on the Rhine river, while widely accepted to be ancient folklore, was actually first created by German author Clemens Brentano in 1801.
  • While most people think of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible as long predating the New Testament, early estimates of its compilation into its recognizable final form are around 100 BCE. Some estimate that it wasn't finalised until after Jesus' death.
    • That said, some of the individual books within the Old Testament date back as far as the 8th century B.C.
  • Although the Golem has been an element of Jewish folklore for multiple centuries, one of the most famous elements of the story, that of the Golem rescuing Jews from a blood libel in 16th century Prague, was more or less created in a 1909 novel by a Rabbi Yudl Rosenberg. Rosenberg basically use a Direct Line to the Author in which he claimed he was editing a much older work found in a (nonexistent) library and skillfully mixed in actual sources/traditions with elements of his own invention. While the novel is little known today, it was really influential and pretty much all subsequent tellings of the Golem legend contain facets original to Rosenberg.
    • The Golem being Newer Than They Think ties into the same being true of Frankenstein (see above). There is a popular assertion that Shelley was influenced by the Golem story. However, while both do fit a theme of "alchemists creating an Artificial Human", the more direct/actual connection between the stories is that several films of the Golem story were made before Whale's Frankenstein movies and especially the last one, Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (1920) was a direct stylistic influence.
      • Although Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein (1818) was actually published nearly 20 years before the first known printed form of the legend of the Golem of Prague, golems in general had been used by writers of the day after Jacob Grimm drew attention to the myth. For instance, a female Golem (who also happens to be an artificial duplicate of the title character) appears in Achim von Arnim's 1812 novella Isabella von Ägypten (Isabella of Egypt).
    • For that matter, in fantasy fiction, stone and metal golems show up frequently — perhaps moreso than their clay counterparts. Though the idea of animated creatures made of stone or metal has been around as long as stone or metal, their being referred to as golems appears to have been a creation of, once again, Dungeons & Dragons.
  • The idea of a saintly and innocent princess in fairy tales was largely the result of 19th century writers trying to make everything nice for the children. Older fairy tales would have their heroines be at least a bit more active. Some, such as certain versions of Knights of the Round Table, have half of their female cast happily sleeping around — there may have been a few incorruptibly pure maidens, but just as many innocent knights.
  • Although the adventures of Robin Hood and his Merry Men were first told in late medieval ballads, the lore has seen a lot of expansion and modification in (much) more recent times:
    • Maid Marian is technically older than Robin Hood, but she was not associated with Robin Hood until Tudor times. Both were popular characters in May Days plays, and at some point there must have been a crossover, which became canon.
    • The character of Friar Tuck was introduced in Tudor times. He probably started out as a supporting character for Marian, not Robin, but as early as 1560 became identified with the anonymous friar at the river from "Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar".
    • Alan-a-Dale is no older than the Seventeenth Century, when he appeared in a broadside ballad "Robin Hood and Allen a Dale".
    • Little John has been around since the oldest known Robin Hood ballad, "Robin Hood and the Monk" (1450). But in this ballad, he beats Robin at archery, while proving no stronger than Robin in a fist-fight. He first used a quarter staff in the 18th century.
    • In the ballads, the name of the king (who also eventually pardons Robin) is always "Edward" (England had six kings named Edward at that point, including three in succession from 1272 to 1377, and the name may have suggested a "generic" king to listeners). Robin Hood being a returning crusader and a supporter of Richard the Lionheart against his brother John came 200 years after the earliest tales of him, and wasn't set in stone until Walter Scott's Ivanhoe in 1819.
    • Ivanhoe also introduced for the first time the idea of a Norman/Saxon conflict, Robin being a yeoman called "Robin of Locksley", and the iconic scene where Robin splits his competitor's arrow in half in the archery contest.
    • In the ballads, Robin has no particular inclination to give to the poor. The closest he comes is to loan money to a knight who has fallen on hard times, and to refrain from robbing the poor. References to his generosity crop up only in the 17th century and aren't central for decades after that.
      • For that matter, none of the early tales include him simply "giving to the poor". This was an invention of very modern films, such as the second Errol Flynn version, and most especially the Disney version. Robin Hood of the old legends might have given some of the money he took from robber barons back to the people, but if he did it was because he saw it as their money in the first place. The original legends did have him robbing the nobility, mostly because they lived like kings off the backs of the peasantry, and supported a corrupt government, but he is never depicted as simply robbing from the rich to give to the poor.
    • The first time the Merry Men included a Saracen or Moorish member was in the widely popular TV show Robin of Sherwood in 1984. The 1991 mega-hit Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves then cast Morgan Freeman in role and probably solidified the character in the myth for all time. (According to urban legend, the "research" for the film consisted only of watching Robin of Sherwood, so they mistakenly assumed "the Saracen" was one of the stock characters. Now, he is.)
  • Modern depictions of Medusa or other gorgons usually show them as lamia-like beings, with a snake's tail instead of legs, as well as the traditional snakes for hair. The snake tail is not part of the original myth; it was added by the 1981 movie Clash of the Titans.
    • Gorgons having snakes for hair is also a more recent innovation. Most Hellenistic images depict Medusa, et. al., with snakes in their hair, not replacing it.
  • Unicorns, in ancient European and Middle Eastern mythology, were not always horses. They were steeds, which is usually a horse, but can be any animal as long as you can mount and ride it. Often they were more deer-like.
    • On top of that, it's believed that the very first unicorn myths were actually garbled accounts of rhinos (which would explain their notoriously foul temperament).
    • In heraldry, the unicorn is most similar to a goat, with cloven hooves, slender legs, and a beard; its tail is more like a cow's than a horse's.
  • Mermaids and Mermen in old artwork often don't look much like the modern conception (and many avoided The Mermaid Problem). The woodcut that became the Starbucks logo, for example, shows a woman with two separate tails instead of legs. Paintings and novelties from the late 19th and early 20th centuries often show Mermaids who are fishy only below the knees.
  • The current depiction of angels as winged, haloed humanoids didn't originate in the Bible. Classical biblical angels were more likely to terrify people, and some even looked the part — there's a reason why they introduced themselves with "Fear not!". The earliest winged angel yet found was in a sarcophagus dated to the 4th century AD. Depictions of female angels as female didn't come around until the 19th century; before then, most angels were perceived as genderless, and were more likely to look male than female (and none had womanly breasts). That being said, the gender of angels was barely defined in the Bible. In some places that resulted in tons and tons of discussions that wound up nowhere, hence the reason why the Dutch term over het geslacht van engelen discussiëren ("discussing the gender of angels") means "having meaningless discussions".
  • The first version of the legend of Popess Joan appears in the early 1200s: it does not name her, and claims that she reigned around 1100. The definitive version of the legend, naming her Joan and claiming a short reign in the 850s, was introduced half a century later.note 
  • The idea that houses built on Indian burial grounds will be haunted first appeared in the novel The Amityville Horror (1977).
  • Herne the Hunter was invented by Shakespeare and developed in the 19th century, despite his portrayal as a remnant of ancient Celtic mythology.
    • Herne's name, which means "horn," comes from the horn that he blows, not any on his head. Arawn, who appears in the story of Pwyll in the Mabinogi, doesn't wear a deer-skull mask there, although he does appear at a deer hunt. The description of him as wearing a deer-skull mask is a modern one.
    • This may be a conflation with "the Horned God" Cernunnos, a man with a deer's/ram's head or just animal horns, who does appear prominently in Celtic and British folklore.
  • Likewise, Jack the Giant Killer, variously considered a companion of Brutus (founder of Britain) or King Arthur, was to all intents and purposes invented in the 18th century as a character to tie together several old giant myths.
  • The word "ogre" was invented for a French translation of The Arabian Nights in 1697.
  • Baphomet is often referenced when talking about Demon Lords and Archdevils among demons like Moloch, Beelzebub, or Baal, and it's easy to believe that he dates back to Biblical or at least medieval times. In fact, the first mention of Baphomet comes from the 14th century, and the entire thing grew out of a giant misunderstanding. During the Crusades, the Europeans mistakenly believed that Mohammed was a pagan deity worshiped by the Muslims. At the time, "Mohammed" was commonly anglicized as "Mahomet", which later got corrupted to "Baphomet". And the depiction of Baphomet as a man with the head of a goat originated in 1854, as part of a blatant hoax.
  • While there are several three-faced or triune goddesses in more than one mythology, the idea that they'd split into aspects of Maiden, Mother and Crone is no older than the writings of 20th-century writer Robert Graves. (And he based his highly specific description of the image of the Maiden on the young writer Lucy Ridout, on whom he had a crush.)
  • The names of the hermetic decans and their rulers that appear in GURPS Cabal are very complete and professional-looking. A bit of internet searching suggests they were made up just for the game.
    • The names of the decans are lifted from the grimoire Testament of Solomon, where they were the names of various demons. Their association with astrological decans, on the other hand, appears to be invented entirely by Cabal's author.
    • This, and many of the 'traditional magics' in Mage: The Awakening, especially references to the order of Hermes, are both an homage to and a joke at the expense of Fraternal Masonic Lodges, mens' clubs popular in the mid 1800s and often still around today which have many secret, ancient traditions that were pretty much made up at the time by whoever wanted to found a club. Sort of an invocation of this trope in real life.
  • The tooth mouse, the equivalent of the tooth fairy in Latin America and some European countries, was created by a novelist in 1894.
  • The idea of Satan being the evil opposite of God did exist early on in some sects, but these groups were generally small and didn't have much influence. He was generally portrayed in that even though he represented opposition to God, he was far less powerful and any common man could outwit him with enough wisdom and faith. It didn't become truly mainstream until about the late 19th century, likely due to the rise of the scientific method often revealing that everything had a true opposite.
  • While the idea of three witches/goddesses is very old, seen through Greek, Norse, and Celtic mythology, the idea of them being different ages came about in the early 20th century. The Three Faces of Eve and the maiden/mother/crone aspect of The Hecate Sisters are so symbolically potent that they tend to be retroactively applied to older tales, and considered ancient concepts in modern fantasy worlds.
  • The eight arrow symbol of Chaos is not an "ancient occult symbol" like some modern occult enthusiasts think; it was designed by the writer Michael Moorcock in the sixties. (As a matter of fact, the arrow symbol is actually much newer than people think. Using arrows to indicate things or directions appears to date to the end of the Nineteenth century. Before that, skeuomorphic images of hands or "manicules" were used.)
  • While most modern versions of the story of King Midas and the golden touch usually include Midas turning his daughter (and sometimes other people) to gold, particularly animated versions, the daughter was invented by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1852. In the original myth, Midas does not touch any person.
  • The nursery rhyme "Ring Around the Rosie" was first mentioned in print in 1846, and first recorded in 1855, as follows:
    A ring — a ring of roses,
    Laps full of posies;
    Awake — awake!
    Now come and make
    A ring — a ring of roses.
    • The first versions beginning to resemble the modern "Ashes, ashes, we all fall down" verses appear c. 1900, and the various folk interpretations involving the Black Plague date to—at the very earliest—the 1930s. For these reasons, folklorists reject the popular association of the rhyme with the plague, a position agreed upon by Snopes.
    • "Pop Goes the Weasel" has a similar history. Its earliest printed citation is 1853.
  • Jordan Peterson was pilloried for a statement he made in an interview, attempting to explain his gender essentialist philosophy, about how kings in stories live in "dessicated" [sic] towers and witches live in swamps (essentially, that the powerful male character lives in a thrusting structure and the powerful female character lives in a damp, wet hole...). While he's right about kings tending to live in towers, the only work of fiction where witches exclusively live in swamps is Minecraft. Witches in folklore are generally found in forests or towns, and often in crumbling towers of their own.
  • The idea of manticores having bat-like wings is an invention of twentieth-century fantasy literature. If one were to open up a medieval bestiary or read a Classical account, they would find no mention of any form of wings or flight capabilities.
  • While the Book of Revelation does name the rider of the pale horse as Death, it does not actually state the identities of the other three Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The now-common interpretation that they represent Pestilence, Famine, and War was popularized by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez's 1916 novel, and its 1921 film adaptation. The notion that the rider of the white horse may be Pestilence is particularly recent, first known to be attested a mere decade before Ibáñez's book.
  • Popular culture frequently depicts the wendigo as having a deer's head — a trait never recorded in any Native American stories of the monster, but rather an invention of Algernon Blackwood's novella The Wendigo. Some believe Blackwood based this deer-headed version of the Wendigo on a completely different creature from Inuit mythology called the Ijiraq.
  • In certain fandoms, it's been claimed that the name "Ichaival" refers to a bow Odin wielded in Norse Mythology, some adding to the rumor by claiming it could fire a hundred arrows at once. As far as anyone can tell, though, Odin never wielded any such bow, and there are no myths suggesting he ever used a bow, period. This one seems to originate from, of all places, Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, where it's the sacred weapon of the bloodline of Ullr. It seems to be a somewhat mangled translation of Ydalir, or "yew-dale", the dwelling of the god Ullr (who does have some association with archery). It seems to have ended up on a Wikipedia page at some point by mistake, then been added to other lists that didn't bother to check the sources. Considering that the name isn't even a little Norse-sounding, it's a miracle it lasted that long before being deleted.
  • The vanishing Scottish village of Brigadoon is not an old local legend, but was entirely created for the 1947 American play Brigadoon.
  • A lot of people think that the "Druidic Tree Calendar" also known as the "Celtic Zodiac" is an ancient Celtic astrologicial system akin to the Western Zodiac or the Eastern Zodiac. In reality is the creation of Robert Graves for his book The White Goddess in 1948.
  • The idea that ghosts are intangible and can't touch anything and only been silent witness of things around them may have some precedents in literature but at least for POP Culture comes from movies like Ghost and Ghost Dad in the 1990s. In traditional folklore ghosts can touch whatever they want, in fact that why they are scary, because they can actually kill you. This was also common in many previous horror movies and, of course, is what we see in such films as Poltergeist and Ghostbusters (1984), however is nowadays so ingrained in popular conception that has to some degree turn into the de-fault version of ghosts in most media.
  • The Barcelos rooster, often held to be a folk legend and national symbol of Portugal, was only created in the 1930s by António Ferro, António de Oliveira Salazar's propaganda man, who also created Lisbon's Popular Marches.
  • Belief in giants seems ridiculously Medieval and backwards from our modern eyes, but even the most reputable sources reported Patagonia (i.e., the southernmost region of South America) to be populated by giants until the late 18th century.
  • The character of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was actually created in 1939 as a holiday marketing gimmick for Montgomery Ward department stores. The song itself was written in 1949.
    • And the other eight are traced straight to A Visit From St. Nicholas (also known as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas).
  • The notion that Achilles was invulnerable except for his heel seems to have arisen long after the composition of The Iliad, where he doesn't appear to be less vulnerable than anyone else: Nothing suggests that his heel is a weak point, he doesn't fight until his lost helmet and breastplate are replaced, he gets wounded on the arm, etc. The oldest surviving work that talks about his Achilles' Heel—though perhaps based on older ones—dates to the 1st century AD, maybe eight centuries after Homer is thought to have lived.
  • The concept of ley lines—a global network of magical thoroughfares that connect major civilizations and distribute magic, especially where they intersect—is often found in works otherwise rooted in genuinely ancient, or at least medieval, mysticism, making it easy to mistake for a very old idea. It was introduced in 1925 by an amateur archaeologist, Alfred Watkins, as a completely mundane, non-magical theory about ancient roads connecting major sites.note  It wasn't until the late 1960s and early 70s that the concept was seized upon by the fringe mystics and weirdos of the "Earth Mysteries" movement and became a sort of magical National Grid. "Mystic" ley lines are actually younger than most albums by The Beatles. And the theory originally applied only to Britain, too - putting the Great Pyramid on a ley line didn't take off till the mid-1970s.
  • The first crop circles appeared in the late 1970s, with the term being coined in the early 1980s by Colin Andrews. The phenomenon may have been inspired by the 1974 horror film Phase IV, which depicts armies of ants making similar patterns.
  • The term "fairy godmother" dates to 1820. The character from which the term derives, in Charles Perrault's "Cinderella" (1697), is referred to as simply "godmother", and she is only incidentally a fairy. Furthermore, versions of "Cinderella" preceding Perrault's don't feature fairies or godmothers at all.

    Other mythology 
  • Shinigami are not part of classic Japanese mythology. They date to only the mid-19th century via European images of the Grim Reaper and translations from The Brothers Grimm, especially the tale Godfather Death. With how extreme the variation is between different fictional shinigami, with the only similarity at all between any of them being the whole "death" thing, it's pretty obvious that there isn't any mythology behind them.
    • The term "Grim Reaper" itself was only coined in 1847 for the book The Circle of Human Life.
  • The maneki-neko, the beckoning-cat statues ubiquitous across Japan, are often assumed to be an ancient Japanese tradition. In reality, the earliest record of their existence dates to 1852, and they did not gain wide popularity until circa 1900.
  • Many Youkai are believed by both Japanese and foreigners to have originated from ancient myths passed down from thousands of years ago. In reality, a good chunk of them first appeared during the Edo period (1603-1868) when storytellers began making up their own Youkai to entertain audiences or writers started recording their own inventions down. The Karakasa is one such example and perhaps the most notable one. The Yuki Onna was first recorded by a Westerner, Lafcadio Hearn, in 1905. And while the kuchisake-onna may have been mentioned before then, the modern interpretation is based on the story of a real mentally ill woman from the 1970s who had a Glasgow grin and surgical mask, and stalked children before being fatally hit by a car.
  • While skeleton monsters have appeared in Japanese art and folklore dating back centuries, the famous Gashadokuro, a giant skeleton formed from the restless spirits of villagers wiped out by wartime famine, was created by a horror novelist in the 1960s.
  • If most people were asked to describe a genie, they'd describe an immortal being that lived in a lamp or bottle and granted three wishes. You'd be hard-pressed to find a genie fitting this description in The Arabian Nights. While some were trapped in jars, most were free to do as they wished. Aladdin's lamp only summoned the genie — it didn't actually contain it. The number of wishes was arbitrary. Although they were long-lived, genies weren't immortal, nor impervious to injury, and could be killed by rather mundane methods. (Not that killing one would be easy, but a blow that would be fatal to a human would also likely be fatal to a genie.)
    • Interestingly, two of the most famous "Arabian Nights stories"—the stories of Aladdin and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves—aren't actually in the Arabian Nights. However, contrary to what some might say, they aren't European forgeries—they are instead other Arab folktales which weren't included in the collection. The confusion comes from the fact that once the Arabian Nights hit Europe, they were an instant hit. However, there were many versions running around, meaning that anyone could pass off any collection of "Oriental" tales as the real deal and not get caught. So Europeans started going to the Middle East—Syria, for the most part—collecting stories from old village storytellers. These storytellers were more than happy to oblige, as the Europeans were offering money for a good story.
      • It's very difficult to say what is actually in Arabian Nights. The very structure of the books allows one to easily add or remove stories, and some experts count half a dozen major layers of different periods.
    • It may even be easy to kill a genie since one of the genies in Arabian Nights claims his son was killed from being hit in the head with a date pit that a merchant was throwing away casually (although it's possible that the genie was lying just so he'd have an excuse to kill the merchant).
    • Genies also did not have the ability to instantly grant any wish. Rather, they had to complete the wish using powerful — but limited — magics, their own strength, and the nearly unending coffers of money they had accrued over their long lives. Wishing to live forever would more likely have the genie sending you after some rare and exotic herb than the instant gratification that you see in all modern versions.
  • Tiamat wasn't a dragon in the original Babylonian mythology; while she apparently did give birth to dragons and sea serpents (among other creatures), her description in a surviving version of the Babylonian creation myth is rather vague (it states that Tiamat represents "the salty water"), and many alleged depictions of her are under contention. This also manages to simultaneously be Older Than They Think, as most people who realize this blame it on Dungeons & Dragons, when it's a misconception with much older roots, and crops up in sources that are very obviously not influenced by the Dungeons & Dragons version.
    • References to Tiamat being a dragon that predate Dungeons & Dragons can be found in Myths of Babylonia and Assyria (1915), Evolution of the Dragon (1919), and Records of the Past, 2nd series (1888). Note that these are all non-fiction books.
  • When talking about Egyptian Myths, citing Anubis as the god of the dead would likely be a Fandom-Enraging Misconception with a reminder that Osiris had always had the job. Sorry, but that's not the case; Anubis was the god of death before Osiris, only being replaced in the fifth dynasty after the latter god's cult grew enough to overthrow the former's place (though myths surrounding the takeover have Anubis step aside "out of respect" for Osiris, so there wasn't as much bad blood). Furthermore, another jackal-headed god by the name of Khenti-Amentiu was discovered to be even older than either god. Guess who Egyptologists consider Khenti having the strongest connection to? Osiris isn't the "top dog" that everyone thinks he is.
Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report