James Calbraith has started a new series on less-familiar (to North Americans) mythologies over at Fantasy Faction. Check out the first installment, which deals with a number of creatures from West Africa:
Elves, trolls, dwarves, goblins… There’s no denying that the Western fantasy is strongly entrenched in a Northern European mindscape: those ancient myths of the Celtic and Germanic people that inspired Tolkien and his epigones. Writing about elves and dwarves is always a safe bet; when an author wants to be original and adventurous, they might look into the myths of the Mediterranean: Greek, Roman, Egyptian. Sometimes we venture into the Far East, and populate our worlds with qilin and long dragons, or, even rarer, into India or Persia. This seems to be the farthest horizon of our inspiration. Beyond that is the weird territory, with creatures born out of the writer’s own half-deranged mind in an attempt at uniqueness – not that there’s anything wrong with that.
But the world is vast and old, and every culture has its share of strange and fascinating; there is a vast stock of ideas out there that you can tap into before running out of inspiration. In this series I will attempt to present some of these myths and legends. In the first episode, I tackle the mythologies of Western and South-Western Africa, a region stretching from Sahara Desert to the jungles of Congo, populated by a complex mix of cultures, nations, tribes and peoples descended from ancient Empires.
If West African mythology is your thing, you might also enjoy some of my write-ups about West African faery folk: