As I struggled to fall asleep last night, I listened to "Myths and Legends", one of my favourite podcasts. It was episode 351, a version of the myth of St. George and the dragon.
The initial set-up was amazing: a child raised alone in the woods with his mother, outside, the world a wasteland after some apocalypse. But, as the child grows older, he learns that his mother is a witch, and that she stole him as a child intending to eat him, as she had so many others, until she realized he was marked for some great destiny. Disgusted, outraged, full of righteous fury, he kills her and escapes into a world that is...not a wasteland. Everything had been lies.
The rest of the story was fine, he goes out, he kills a dragon, saves a princess, they fall in love, have some trouble, and then, finally, marry and live happily ever after. Fine, normal, expected fairy tale stuff.
But that opening section, the lies falling away and the child realizing that the life they had thought they would live collapsed. There's no affects of this childhood on their life. There is not seeking for their true parents, no identity crisis. He turns into a knight and does knightly things.
What if, instead of the witch raising the child to be good and kind, she raised the child as her heir, without really telling them what that child would inherit? What if, upon leaving their sheltered world, they try to figure out where they fit in and can't find a place?
What if, instead of turning into a knight and saving the princess, they become the next witch?
I'm re-reading Austin Kleon's "Steal Like an Artist". I read it a few years ago when I was trying to find myself. It resonated deeply with me then, and now, 6 or 7 years later, it's still resonating. It's still telling me I need to do something to round out my life.
Steal, borrow, and change. Transform.
It reminds me of when I read, and wrote, fan fiction in my teens and early 20's. The only rules were keep some of the elements, keep the characters, but change what you needed to tell the story you wanted. AU (alternate universes) were especially popular, because your favorite characters could suddenly be badass gangsters, or nobility, or CEOs, or baristas.
Every chapter would start with a disclaimer. "I don't own these characters, I'm just borrowing them."
Wanna write a story based on a song? Go for it! You want to play out some well worn trope? Have at! You want to rewrite the whole show, but they are banging the whole time and it's super edgy and dark? Why the hell not!
I'm still proud of a few of those stories I wrote. I still think about one or two and groan. I could do that again so much better! or What was I thinking!
But, it was fun.
There are a lot of retellings out there. There's been a resurgence of interest in the Greek myths, especially, and I think it's partly because a lot of my generation grew up reading, or writing, fan fiction. Authors now fall in love with a story, and they want to retell it in a way that makes others love it, too.
And it makes me so happy.
I love seeing people having fun, and it reminds me that I should have some fun, too.