Mythology Mondays: Harpies and Redemption

Most Mondays, I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. The second book, Storm in the Mountains, will be available in May. Cover reveal coming soon! Real soon. Later this week soon.

I am going to be changing things up for Mythology Mondays for two reasons. One, there are many other things to talk about in regards to myths besides just profiling them, that I think are important to writing and storytelling. Second, because this is my party and I can. 🙂

Occasionally, instead of a myth profile, I want to talk about myths themselves, the cultural construct of them, why they stick around, why we are so fascinated by them, and why I love them. Ready? Here we go!

I have been pondering over the idea of redemption recently. As a Christian, this is a common and central theme to my own belief system. Redemption is found in fiction, in music, in movies, and everywhere. It is pervasive because it is something we, as humans, long for. I believe we were created that way. Your opinion may differ, but the fact remains, redemption is important in the way we view the world.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a guest post on redemption at Para Your Normal in which I discussed how to take a shady character, like a harpy, and construct a plan to redeem them through writing. No matter what genre you write, you start with a character and a problem. At the end of the story, you should end up with a problem that is solved (or on its way to being so) and a character who has grown into a better version of themselves.

In my profile on harpies a few months ago, I said, “I wanted to know what would happen if a violent creature was forced to live in the world with people and how they would reconcile their own nature with that of the world around them.”

In mythology, harpies are nasty things, think The Last Unicorn.

The harpy attacking from The Last Unicorn.
The harpy attacking from The Last Unicorn.

When I was a kid, this moment in the movie (along with several others) completely creeped me out. I loved the movie though.

As an adult, the only book I can recall having a harpy as the main character is Thea Harrison’s Kinked, from her Elder Races series. Aryal is an amazing character that I loved from the beginning of the series. I am so behind on this series, but it is fabulous.

Mythology is ripe with characters who need redemption. The fun thing about working with myths is that a framework is already there. As a writer, I do not have to start from scratch to create a world or the people that fill it. In many myths, characters who do not find redemption are punished and punished harshly. Narcissus, Bellerophon, and Cronos are only three of many from Greek mythology alone who met unfortunate ends because of their failure to make better choices.

As readers, we want to see redemption stories. We want to see that good things can happen to characters we have come to love. I adore a good villain who mends their ways and then has to make retribution. It takes strength of character to admit wrong and then try to fix the transgressions. This is one reason why romance is rife with the wounded hero, the reformed rake, and the penitent villain.

My harpies not only need redemption, they have to find a way to redeem their most prominent but problematic characteristic: violence. The each have to find a way to make sense of what they are and then use that knowledge for the good of their community and those they love. How they answer that question is different for each of them and their struggles, while similar, are not the same.

Redemption is unique to the bearer. The theme is the same, but the way we find it is different. Some paths to redemption are easy. Some paths are uphill both ways in the snow barefoot.

May your path be straight and level today.