How Obscure Mythologies Can Become Powerful Story Characters
I can’t claim expertise in urban fantasy yet – only written one book in it (so far!). So, when working out the storyline for “The Stiamaq Emerald,” I had to figure out a good solid plotline without too much complexity.
First major point: Every story must have a villain.
I thought about it a while. Eventually, I decided upon the “ancient threat returns to modern day” kind of story. Fairly commonplace, but it makes a good “big conflict” easy to do.
Something that has high stakes, makes for a good challenge, and poses a realistic threat within the world.
So, what’s a good mega-scale villain to fit those criteria, in a realm where magic exists? Well, a god, what else?
I know a great deal of mythology from many different cultures. (It’s just a hobby, honest!) I briefly considered using Sun Wukong, but he’s not a villain, and I enjoy his legend too much to make him one.
So I wanted something else. Something unusual. Not Greco-Roman, not British, not Norse. A little more obscure.
To find them, I consulted…
The ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GODS!
Now, at this point I’d already decided to set the scene in the Pacific Northwest. What mythologies existed among the local history?
That brought to mind the Spokane – the native peoples here. However, I didn’t come across a god/spirit that seemed a good fit among their legends.
Further reading brought me to Qamaits, a warrior goddess of the Nuxalk people.
Who are they? They’re a native people who live in the Bella Coola Valley in British Columbia, just north of me. Not the biggest tribe in the region, nor the smallest.
Today about 1,400 Nuxalk people walk the Earth. Many still follow their traditional way of life – fishing and hunting for food, holding ceremonies for important events, and creating impressively-detailed art.
Their religious beliefs mirror other native peoples, with gods of creation, of the hunt, and of war.
We don’t have a lot of knowledge about those beliefs. What I could find discussed a creator god, Alhkw’ntam, and the war goddess, Qamayts/Qamaits.
According to the legend, Qamaits is a war goddess who, at the beginning of time, fought against the giants dwelling in the Great Pacific Northwest. She defeated the giants, smashing them into the imposing mountain ranges and pleasant valleys of today.
Apparently the world didn’t have any other ‘worthy opponents’ in those days, so Qamaits left the world after the battle. Maybe they’d created a Planet Maui someplace else?
(I sent a message to the Nuxalk Nation asking for insight. Sadly, I did not get a response.)
An AI-generated depiction of Qamaits. I didn’t expect anyone would make one of such an obscure legend, but it’s impressively detailed! Source.
So I had the name, a book reference, and its people of origin.
I found one additional source: A brief entry on Godchecker.com.
Take note of this paragraph:
“She doesn’t think much of humans, but pays the odd visit to take her pet snake Sisiutl for a crawl. And to smack a few humans about and cause disasters.”
Well now…that seemed to work pretty well to me!
With all these aspects, elements of character, I set to work.
Obviously I took a few creative liberties in the novel. A few elements gained strength, adding more to the threat. An altered history to generate dread. The myth’s tribal nature stayed intact; I didn’t want to make light, or write something disrespectful.
But as we all know, myths are stories. They shift, and move, and alter themselves among the shadows of Time.
It all turned out pretty well, I’d say…but you’d have to read the book to see them all.
Have you ever encountered an unusual/obscure/strange mythology or legend?