Mythology 101: Episode 3

In the second episode we talked about some of the lesser known Greek myths such as Theseus and Thanatos. The focus of episode 2 was to look for lesser know characters and stories of mythology and use them to provide a spark. In episode 3 I want to go in a different direction again, let’s take a look at Australian/Aboriginal mythology, and dig a little deeper.

In Australia there is a culture that has existed for around 50,000 years, the Aborigines are a unique people steeped in Mythology. The stories that they tell today have truly been passed down generation to generation, in their homes, or around their campfires, for thousands and thousands of years. Their stories of mythology are based on what they refer to as Dreamtime, the Dreamtime stories help to explain how things came to be, or provide guidance or morals for the children. Effectively the Mythology is created as a form of education in Aboriginal culture. As those children grow, they become responsible for telling the stories.

Myths of Creation

Where did the Sun come from?

Before there was sun, there was a woman who was not allowed to marry the man she loved, so she left her village and hid in an outback area. Food and water were scarce, and when the men of her tribe came to take her back, she ran away to the furthest areas of the desert. She became so tired, hungry and thirsty that her ancestor spirits carried her to the sky world, where she could rest for a long time.

When she woke up she was provide food and water, and lit a campfire. She thought about how great it was to be warm and safe, but when she looked down she saw how much she was missed, and eventually became homesick. Not being able to leave the skyworld, she wanted to do something for her people from above. They were busy and they were cold as they didn’t have a campfire to keep them warm like she had.

The woman decided to make her campfire huge so that it would warm all the people below during the day, and would let it die down at night when they had the time to build their own campfires. This made the people so happy that the woman decided to build a new fire everyday, and each morning her tribe all looked to the sky for her fire. Knowing they would have a warm fire in the sky each day, they called it The Sun.

What is Thunder and Lightning?

There is a man made of lightning who lives in the sky on a thundercloud, his name is Mamaragan and he throws lightning bolts at trees and men. His voice sounds like thunder, and when it is nice weather he lives in a small pool. Sounds like a fun guy.

 

Myths of the Land

The Three Sisters

The three columns that make up this formation in the Blue Mountains were three beautiful sisters; “Gunnedoo”, “Meehni”, and “Wimlah”. They fell in love with three brothers but their ancestors forbid them to marry. The brothers were unhappy and tried to kidnap the sisters causing a huge battle in their tribe. A magic man turned the sisters into rocks in order to protect them during the battle. When the magic man was killed, the three sisters were forced to remain as rocks for eternity.

Uluru (Ayers Rock)

One day a local tribe had a big meeting and the children were not allowed to attend. Two of the boys were bored and started playing in a puddle, mixing dirt and water creating mud. They kept creating more and more mud into a pile, until it was the size that Uluru is today. Boys being boys, they played in the mud, and would sit on top and slid down the side on their stomachs. As they slid, they dragged their fingers creating large scratches down the side. When the mud dried, the pile turned into stone and created Uluru. 

 

Myths of the Creatures

At the beginning of dreamtime the Spirit Father told the Sun Mother to go down to earth and give form to the sleeping spirits. The planet was bare when she arrived, but everywhere she walked plants began to grow. Sun Mother was happy with herself, but the Spirit Father told her to go into the caves and wake up those spirits. When she entered the caves her bright light woke up those spirits and all of the insects flew out into the lands. Sun Mother was again very happy with herself watching the insects flying around her plants and flowers.

The Spirit Father knew there was more spirits to awaken, and sent her deep into the caves, her heat melted ice and created rivers and streams, and then she awoke the fish, the frogs, the lizards and snakes. Deeper inn the cave she woke up the other birds and animals, and now the Spirit Father was happy.

 
                             An Australian abc of Animals - Bronwyn Bancroft

For a long time all of the animals lived peacefully, but then they started to become jealous of each other and fight. The Sun Mother came down to stop the fighting, letting them choose whatever form they wanted. She wasn’t very happy when she saw what they chose; rats became giant bats, small rabbits become giant kangaroos, and some lizards had blue tongues and feet. One animal couldn’t decide what he wanted to be, so he chose a bill like a duck, had a tail like a beaver and could lay eggs. Sun Mother called him the platypus.

 

Myths of Behaviour

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far far away…
Two 8 year old nephews asked their old uncle to take them camping so they could make spears and boomerangs, and then learn how to track animals and hunt. The uncle thought they were too young, but the nephews kept bugging him until he agreed. Once the camp was setup he took them to find straight sticks to create their spears. Once they found straight sticks, he sharpened the end and had them peel the bark to make nice clean spears. They wanted to go hunting right away, but the old uncle was tired and wanted them to wait until morning.

The two nephews were impatient, and told the uncle they were going now, and would return with what they catch, hopefully a kangaroo. Finally the uncle gave up and let them go, with a warning “there is a creature out there you must be very careful of, his name is Koockard and he is a giant river goanna.” he continued to tell them “promise me you will not bother him or hurt him”. The boys looked at him like he was crazy, so he told them again “if you come across Koockard, promise me you would never attack or harm him”. Wanting to go hunting, the boys made their promises and left with their new spears.

Out of the sight of their uncle, the boys noticed the tall grass moving, thinking it was a kangaroo they crept up to see what it was. As they got closer they could see the long tail of the river goanna, it was Koockard eating some meat. At first they backed away, whispering that they couldn’t harm or hurt him. But, boys being boys they agreed they could have some fun with Koockard “you sneak up one side of him and I’ll sneak up the other side. When he starts to eat I’ll tickle him with my spear, when he eats again you tickle him with your spear.”

When the first boy tickled Koockard, he stood up and couldn’t see the two boys crouching in the tall grass. So he started to eat again and was tickled on the other side, he stood up again and still couldn’t see the boys. This went back and forth until one of the boys starting giggling, and they both started laughing. The laughing startled Koockard and he swung his big tail around in a circle knocking the boys flying into the river.

Two Kookaburras were sitting in a nearby tree, sadly these birds did not know how to laugh. But when they saw the two little boys get knocked by Koockard’s tail, they just looked at one another and burst out laughing.

That’s the Dreamtime story of how the Kookaburras got their laugh.

Yara-ma-yha-who

Yara-ma-yha-who was a creature that lived in the tops of fig trees. Instead of hunting, he just waited for people to take shelter under the tree. He would then jump down and drain their blood, just enough to leave them helpless. After a short nap, he would go back to swallow the person whole, then go have a drink and puke them back up. Kids were told not to fight back because they would stay alive after being regurgitated. If they wandered back to the area Yara-ma-yha-who would attack again. Each time they were swallowed they would shrink in size a little until they were the same size as the Yara-ma-yha-who. Eventually they would grow hair and become a little furry creature of the forest.

The story of the yara-ma-yha-who was told to young children who might wander away, and it was told to naughty children to scare them into thinking that a creature might take them away.

 

The Moral of these stories…

In Episode 1 we talked about finding a spark for ideas and mechanics based on common Roman Myths, in Episode 2 we talked about digging deeper and looking for lesser known stories from the Greek Myths. My key lesson from Australian Aboriginal Mythology is to think more about what you are creating, what is the story behind the landscapes and the creatures? Most importantly is there a deeper meaning to your games overall story, is there some kind of moral or lesson that you want your player to think about? By asking yourself these types of questions it may bring a little more cohesion to your level design, your characters, and especially your game players experience.

Tune in next time as we look into other cultures and their Mythologies.


Dave Warfield is the Head of Game Design at VFS

Mythology 101: Episode 1 (Roman)
Mythology 101: Episode 2 (Greek)