It’s All A Question of Belief

What do the film Thor, visiting the Ashmolean in Oxford, SyFy’s The Almighty Johnsons and the book The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden all have in common?

They’ve had me thinking more and more about religion. Not in a “who am I, what am I and is there a God” naval-gazing way. No. In a “what religion do my characters have” sort of way.

As you are all aware, I’m sure, I’ve been working hard on researching my novel before actually writing it. Part of this means that I have to think about what my characters believe in. Is there one God or many? Do different races have different beliefs?

The Orphan’s Tales featured a story around a variety of religious houses – huge towers made from jewels or flowers or glass, each dedicated to a different religion. I sort of liked this idea – and asked myself where would my great religious philosophers, preachers and so on live? Would they have their own worshipping houses?

This posed another question (and perhaps the most fundamental question of all) – who were they worshipping? Mythical beings that were rumoured to live in the sky? Real Gods that lived amongst the mortals once… and do they still live among them?

Now, The Almighty Johnsons and Thor, they proved to me that the Norse Gods were actually pretty awesome … and that each deity would have to have its own story to tell (which is added work for me).

After all, every religion has a story – whether it be the bible or the myth of how each God came to be (look at the mythology of the Greeks, Vikings, Romans, Egyptians and Incans) – and an idea behind it. Gods looked and dressed certain ways, they could change form, or were the deity of a certain emotion or physical object. By far my favourite stories of them all are the Norse Gods – purely because they were astoundingly nuts, and Thor and The Almighty Johnsons show how brilliant they are …

Besides, if they all looked like this, I would certainly have a new-found religious passion…

[Bow down to me, petty mortals, and worship my Godliness]

My recent venture to Oxford (where I peered through the door at, but couldn’t actually enter, the Bodleian) to tour the colleges with Grandpa (Oxford graduate of 1947 thankee very much) took me in to the Ashmolean* and we had a swift stroll around the Egyptian exhibition. The beautiful, elaborate dedications to the various Gods had me also thinking about what would worship involve – would it be sparse and puritan, with a dash of brutality, or lavish and exciting, drowned in gold and jewels?

I have so many ideas in my head, I certainly think I have enough to create several different religions for my world. Look at George R.R Martin – he’s put several religions together and it’s created a whole new angle to the story. After all, belief is one of the biggest issues in the world. Why n0t in a pretend world too?

What do you think of having religion in fantasy stories? And what would you want to see from a fantastical religion?


*Grandpa’s story of this was that the Ashmolean would be where he used to study. There also used be a very lovely-looking girl there, and after weeks of plucking up the courage to speak to her, he asked her to join him for coffee across the road in a little café he knew. She told him she had far too much work to do, and that was the end of THAT romance.



Filed under Writing

5 responses to “It’s All A Question of Belief

  1. doctormimi

    I think this is a terribly important thing, and one which too many writers neglect. We can also write about the estrangement of people from their religions and why and how that affects them. Look how much Mr R Dawkins writes about Christianity…

  2. Hhmm. I thought about this one time before I started writing one of my stories. It became just as overwhelming as the question of religion is in our society… You could just have a whole bunch of religions present, forcing your main character to be exposed to and think about them all, as you would. Just a thought. Great post.

    • That’s sort of the route I was going down! I keep finding it overwhelming to go into too much depth. Is this how you got around it?

      • It’s how I am trying to at least… I mean, I don’t have it figure out, so that almost always comes through in my characters. If I try and make them seem like they have it down, they look like pimples waiting to be popped its so bad… I go with real. 🙂

      • I know what you mean. I find the more “dimensions” you try to put on a character, the flatter they become.

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