Today I'd like to talk about something I've noticed while researching mythology--there are multiple versions of everything! Not only are there multiple versions, but the versions of a myth that are out there often contradict each other. On the one hand, this phenomenon means that there's lots of fodder for the imagination for those who want to create new stories. However, it also means that no matter which version you pick, someone is going to disagree with it. ;-)
As a way to illustrate this point, I'll tell you a little about what I found out while doing research for my first book, Taken By The Huntsman. As some of you may know, the story centers around a human woman, Cassie, and the Erlking, Cadeyrn, who is the leader of the Wild Hunt. What you may not know is that while the Erlking is the leader of the Hunt in my books, that's not necessarily always the case in every story about the Wild Hunt.
First off, the myth of the Wild Hunt spans a huge amount of both time and space. The idea of the Wild Hunt has its roots in many cultures and religions. There are Norse versions of the Wild Hunt, Germanic versions, Celtic version, and even a Greek version where the God Apollo leads the Hunt. Sometimes Odin leads it, other times its Freya or Wodan. Then sometimes it's Herne the Hunter, or King Arthur, or the Devil, or the Fairy King, or a Goblin King known as the Erlkoenig (Erlking).
In some versions of the Wild Hunt, a different leader was chosen every time the Hunt rode. Sometimes the chosen leader was someone who called for vengeance against another. Sometimes the leader was chosen because they were an evildoer who was being punished. And other times the person chosen was just a random passerby who had the ill (or good, depending on the version) luck to be the first person to cross the path of the Hunt on its ride.
The Wild Hunt was sometimes a force for good, righting wrongs and delivering justice to those who had wronged others. In other versions of the myth, the Hunt was a manifestation of evil, seeking to capture the righteous for nefarious purposes. And sometimes, the Hunt was neither good nor evil, but morally neutral instead. Like a storm, it could be destructive or harmful. Or like the sun that helped the crops to grow, it could be beneficial and helpful. But it wasn't intrinsically anything, and all people could do was wait it out and hope it would pass without hurting anyone and/or get out of its way.
Sometimes the leader of the Wild Hunt was the Grim Reaper (or the Devil) collecting the souls of the departed. Other times, fairies looking to cause mischief for humans populated the Hunt. In some versions, the Wild Hunt was comprised of demons or damned souls out for revenge against the living. In some cases, people who were caught by the Hunt were killed, in other versions they were made to join the Hunt. Sometimes they were given a choice. And in still other versions, seeing the Hunt meant that the person got to make a wish and have it granted.
It would be almost impossible to create a story that included all these disparate versions, and everything I've mentioned here only scratches the surface of all the various permutations of the story of the Wild Hunt. Each of the different aspects I've talked about all have variations within them, sometimes with intriguing and unexpected tangents. It makes for a dizzying array of options for anyone who wants to write their own story about the Hunt.
So what does all this mean? Well, to me it means that the possibilities are endless! As I said, I've already written one story about the Wild Hunt. But with all these different tales to pull from, maybe I'll write another one someday that's completely different! Having such a wealth of material to pull from makes writing exciting and keeps it interesting. One never knows where their imagination will lead them, but it's certain it won't be boring!