The Mythago is more than a mythical creature … it is a creature of myth.
The human mind is a powerful thing … it imagines things, shapes them, weaves them into the world around us as though they were real, until sometimes the boundary between reality and imagination becomes blurred.
The combined belief of thousands of humans can, occasionally create an image so powerful that it demands a reality on which to be based, even if that means calling a new entity into existence.
And such is a Mythago. A myth made real and given life … and being once given life it may grow and change in its own right, becoming something other than it was first imagined to be.
Drawing its life from the tales that created it a mythago grows or declines with the currency of its legend - and some of the more self aware ones are not above feeding that legend.
- The term 'Mythago' originates in the work of Robert Holdstock, and the credit for it remains his, but the concept appears elsewhere:
- The Candyman is such a creature, as are many of the more comical creatures that are created by the 'belief surplus' in Pratchett's Hogfather.
- Arguably the Fables are an example of this trope as well.
- Some of the more peculiar cryptids … perhaps even the Yeti itself, might belong to this category.
- And this online news article, concerning the mythos of Miami street kids, should provide some interesting candidates for Mythago status as well : Myths Over Miami
- Related concepts that might be worth looking into include Egregore and Meme.
- The supplement Six-Guns and Sorcery for the Castle Falkenstein RPG introduces the idea of "Legends", folkloric characters like Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill who have taken on a corporeal form.
- Here we see a mythago in the process of being created (and actually referencing the idea of the tulpa as well). The Slender Man … coming soon to a playground near you.
Game and Story Use
- Mythagos are most likely to arise amongst communities with a strong oral tradition and a shared culture - assimilation into the mainstream can break this down, but where they remain isolated the mainstream can feed back into them, twisting and mutating the myth, and therefore the mythago, into new forms.
- The form the mythago takes can change dependant on the community zeitgeist - a peaceful trickster can take on a darker, more violent aspect, or a violent legend become a jealous guardian. Even the storytelling elders that brought the mythago with them can lose track of its nature.
- Immigrant or indigenous minority communities are obvious sources of mythagos, but then children fit the profile as well, and so do isolated communities of the majority culture.
- The PCs are up against a killer who can seemingly appear and disappear at will … and some parts of his modus operandi bear a striking similarity to urban myths that have been ciruclating for years in the areas that he operates in. Is he a madman acting out the myth … or the myth acting out a madman?
- Children keep going missing … traffickers are suspected to be behind it, but so far the police have no evidence to go on. The town's children have always told stories about the mad old witch-woman that hunts the surrounding forest, but who believes playground rumours?
- A creature that lives in the imagination of a community can be hard to kill - so long as the tale is told, there is a chance the creature will rise again. Even dispersing the community that created a mythago might not work - what happens if the diaspora take their stories with them, and create copies of the old mythago in their new homes?
- But that which lives by the sword might yet die by the sword - perhaps a strong enough storyteller can weave a narrative of the Mythago's death that becomes popular enough to destroy it. Or even a redemption narrative that turns it into a neutral or benevolent figure.