There are books and games in the world that are getting to be just as cemented in the general psyche as the mythologies of old. Where we once had Virgil and Homer, today we have JK Rowling and G.R.R. Martin. While I might personally be more familiar with traditional mythology than the average person through the research for my novels, there are modern creations that are so prevalent they could be mistaken for mythologies by future cultures. Imagine, if you will, A Song of Ice and Fire being as revered by future cultures as the Epic of Gilgamesh is by historians today.
It might seem silly, but long before the written word, histories were passed down via storytelling and in many cases those stories are the only histories we have of some cultures. Many more have left no record at all. We are in a unique situation, we have so many stories, so much history recorded in all manner of locations and forms, that the chances of it all entirely disappearing is fairly small. However, if it did, and people remember details more accurately about stories they’ve read than history they may not have lived through, that would likely be the information passed on. This is one reason I love historical fiction. While it certainly may not be 100% accurate, it creates an emotional bond with history and helps people to understand it on a level beyond dates, battles and coronations.
Stories don’t have to be true to be a prevalent piece of culture. Whether they represent actual people or events, they still represent a mindset. Much like fashion and music, stories help to define periods in time in a more fluid fashion. Things that were enjoyed 200 years ago, ie. Jane Austen, can still be easily enjoyed in the modern day. While we may not all put on corsets and dance to waltzes, we can still relate to that time period through the stories of the time. I think of these stories as two tin cans with a string, a link between times; not everything will come through clearly, but you will understand enough to connect. While we cannot be Harry Potter, Sansa Stark or Elizabeth Bennet, we can become them for brief moments while reading their stories. They may not be real in the sense that they have no physically existed, but they are real in another sense because people know them. People can tell you what they look like, where they live, who their families are and that gives them a form of reality. We have never met them, but no one alive today has met Queen Elizabeth I or Genghis Khan, but we could probably tell you the same details about them. When you are separated so drastically from history, fictional characters and historical figures can become just as real. Without the context of knowing what is fiction, someone 200 years from now or more could mistake those of popular fiction for historical figures.
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