Narrative

Mythopoeia is a narrative genre in modern literature and film where a fictional mythology is created by the writer of prose or other fiction. This meaning of the word mythopoeia follows its use 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 and creating mythologies. Notable mythopoeic authors include Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, William Blake and H. P. Lovecraft. 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, are penned over a short period of time by a single author or small group of collaborators.

Tolkien’s now famous work of mythopoeia includes the The Lord of the Rings. His Middle-earth is perhaps the best-known of contemporary invented mythology. In his fictional works, Tolkien invented not only origin myths, creation myths and an epic poetry cycle, but also fictive linguistics, geology and geography.

Works of mythopoeia are often categorized as fantasy or science fiction but fill a niche for mythology in the modern world, according to Joseph Campbell, a famous student of world mythology. He claimed that new myths must be created, but he believed that present culture is changing too rapidly for society to be completely described by any such mythological framework until a later age. Without relevant mythology, Campbell claimed, society cannot function.

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