Mythology has remained a source of inspiration for writers of fiction. The current Young Adult Fantasy Fiction genre is filled with novels having a close connection or a small mention of a mythological figure. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon and all the Greek gods with their might and glory were made into parental figures in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.
It made even the readers, who had no interest in Greek Mythology garner a clear understanding of the different powers possessed by these Greek gods along with their nature. But mythological retellings can also become controversial and the author has to face brunt of it all. This is the risk one takes after deciding to demystify holy Gods in YA fiction.
Religion in Practice vs Ancient Mythology
Such liberty is easily taken when the mythology in question belongs to a religion which isn’t still in practice. However, when it comes to Hindu Mythology, it is a bit harder to have the same kind of creative freedom because of the strong belief of a large population in the holiness of these Gods, their Avatars and other beings mentioned in the holy books.
Roshani Chokshi’s Star-Touched Queen series has a clever way around it. She manages to encompass the holiness of ‘Yama’ in descriptions of his character while he is personified into a character that lives, breathes, dreams and feels. The book has many other aspects of Indian folklore but the essence of imbibing mythology in readable Young Adult literature is to keep the new generation in touch with the world long gone.
Once upon a time, you wouldn’t be able to find a book or a play without the mention of an old Greek God. The stronghold of mythology on literature was such that it created a relatability factor. With Hindu mythology, the association with such characters is more because every child in India, born in a Hindu family grows up listening to the tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata but the stories often revolve around a prominent Godly figure such as Lord Rama or Lord Krishna.
As the children grow up, they hardly find a book that is both enjoyable and could educate them about the stories of the less prominent figures of Hindu Mythology.
Rich Indian Folklore
Many wouldn’t know the tale of Narasimha, half-man and half-lion but would immediately picture a centaur if told to think of one. The complexity and the vastness of the mythology could share half the blame since a teenager would much more easily read a Harry Potter Book than Bhagawad Gita.
But the fault is also that of the void in Indian literature when it comes to mythological retellings. Filling of this void is a double-edged sword and requires an author who has honed the craft of storytelling.
To ensure that the sentiments of the believers don’t get hurt, the personification of these mystical Gods should remain to an extent that doesn’t degrade them. Hera could easily be made into a jealous woman by various Young Adult writers and it doesn’t pose a big problem since there are but a handful of followers of Hellenism.
But India is home to over 966 million Hindus and while it is important to keep the folklore alive, a tinge in the wrong direction could have repercussions like that of The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie.
Mythology in Young Adult Fiction
Young Adult Fiction keeps mythology alive as it suits the needs of the contemporary reader. With minor updates and major detailing, these myths form a new story altogether, just with familiar characters.
Another major example of the same from an Indian author is Amish who wrote The Immortals of Meluha trilogy. Once it became a major hit with people across India enjoying the new narrative of the immortals existing before Gods did. Again, the characters are spun in a weave of divinity as well as mortality.
It personifies Lord Shiva as a tribal warrior and brushes upon the tales from Shivpurana to create a much-loved fantasy series. The vast extent of YA fiction available in the market makes it probable that every teenager will once, or twice pick up such a book to read, especially in a place like India where readers have a long attention span still. But the focus needs to be shifted from the vocal voices of mythology, who the people are already familiar with to peripheral voices of lesser known Gods, Asuras and other Divine Beings.
Since the Ramayana and Mahabharata are vast sources of inspiration from writers across the globe, it is time that young adult fiction writers drank a little elixir from this fountain and create retellings as only they can.
About the Author
An avid reader, writer by passion and journalist by choice, Pallavi Sareen spends her days surrounded by the magic of words with innumerable stories to tell. She also has restless feet that don’t let her settle anywhere and she wants to give them free rein letting them take her around the world.