A vivid depiction of a mythical being brought to life in a story often shapes my mental image of it, particularly if a lot of other writers have fallen in love with that depiction, creating something similar. They shape a mythical norm, which becomes what I think that being should be.
Anne Rice wrote such a lush, detailed description of vampires in her fiction that it’s very hard for me to see them in a different light, even though I’m writing several Works in Progress with vampires or vampire-like beings.
Dragons have also been shaped by my encounters with them in story, although there’s a bit more variety to my vision. From scaly Smaug-like beings that nap on piles of treasure to fluffy Falkors I often dreamed of riding as a child, they crept into my mental images of dragons. I’ve had a very hard time using the term “halfling” for anything other than a Tolkien-style hobbit. I tried to have it describe beings who live half in a tangible world and half in a shadow dream realm, only to find myself calling shadow halflings.
I don’t have similar preconceptions with werewolves, but I haven’t read a lot of the m/m mythological literature which have created a norm for them. I can see the reasoning behind it, but I can also see the werewolf talking a very different direction.
Transforming once a month into a raging monster because of a forces you cannot control in your bodies could become a metaphor for a certain feminine pain I’ve often felt myself at the mercy of. The sensation of your body needing to change, to transition into something different than its physical shape could be another metaphor for a shapeshifter.
Myths can take on many directions, although we may have our favorite paths which we long to trod on again and again. Or we may decide to forge a new path, seeing where the legend may take us. Tell me, dear reader, which path have you explored in your own writing? Or discovered in your reading?