Historical Review of Fantasy Genre Development. Mythical Elements in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” Series

Photo: https://bookslike.org/twilight-stephenie-meyer.html
Photo: https://bookslike.org/twilight-stephenie-meyer.html

Literature always had tight bonds and relations with folklore. Numerous literary narratives have folklore, mythical elements, characters and even in many of them different myths and legends are completely retold. The purpose of our analysis is to study one of  the manifestations of that tight relation of literature and folklore which is considered to be the fantasy genre, to touch upon Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series written in that genre, to demonstrate the given different manifestations  of myths in the books and to compare those with Armenian and worldwide mythology. The given legends and myths in the series about twins, werewolves, floods, vampires and different deities of pantheons given in various comparisons are demonstrated in this analysis.

It is essential to mention that the analysis is based on the collection of books and do not involve the research of the films. Therefore such facts which are given in the books but are missing in the films have been studied.

Historical Review of Genre

The mentioned relations of literature and folklore have been coming from the ancient world, where in copyright compositions mythical phenomena are given bigger importance. In case of these compositions the issue is a bit different, because at that time mythical characters were not realized as myths but they were perceived as reality and comprise the inseparable part of it. We would bring an example of Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey” in which gods act next to average people.

The relation of literature continues but gets its revival in romantic literature at the end of the 18th century. In encyclopedia of fantasy genre composed by American scholars John Klotz and John Grande the literary branch romanticism is viewed as a basis from which fantasy (in English-fantasy) literature developed later at the end of the 19th century. By characterization of scholars romanticism was already affiliated in the 18th century with different physical and supernatural phenomena, folklore, application of myths, dreams have their own place in romantic compositions and the important role of imagination of that literature had fundamental importance for the development of modern fantasy.

And what is fantasy? Many associate it with fantastic literature or oppose it, whereas fantasy is a subspecies of fantastic literature, where myths with their heroes are bought into real life, collision between past and present happens there (the present, however is not certain). A reality independent from ours is portrayed where next to people live mythical creatures: elves, gnomes, giants, vampires.

In fantastic literature the author with his/her imagination creates another world within our world, tries to link the reality with his/her imagination, and explains a set of supernatural facts from the scientific point of view. Bright examples of science fiction of fantastic literature’s another subspecies are Jules Verne’s compositions, where the actions are in real world, while in case of  fantasy genre the reality is different. The author creates his imaginary world where any supernatural phenomenon comprises the part of that world. In the composition the most different mythical characters live along with people, whose existence the author doesn’t even want to explain.

The next important feature typical to fantasy genre is enchantment. Enchantment and miracles become similar to the hero, most of the times they take the role, become the motive of the actions, basis, solve many problems and vice versa – create them. The enchantment has its own will. It decides whom to help and whom not to and for that help it demands compensation.

The author can create his/her world on our planet, in other constellation, even in different parallel worlds simultaneously. In fantasy all the notion of time and space and commonly the notion of reality are all violated. The hero can pass an impossible way in impossible time for the reality or travel through imaginary and inexplicable time and place labyrinths. The author brings the past gods to nowadays and links their creation to the present. All the basis of time gets broken and a new time is created which corresponds with its new reality. A day can be a year and vice versa, human’s life can be a wink, endless eternity. The hero lives with eternal life, but he does not realize that eternity.

The genre is developed at the end of the 19th century when the book “Well at the World’s End” by William Morris was published and reached its pinnacle in 1954-1956, when John Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” was published. The book had great success after which many authors became interested in this genre. Today fantasy books have the greatest request in America. Joanne Rolling’s “Harry Potter”, Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight”, Melisa de Cruz’s “The Beauchamp Family” and other books of this genre were considered the bestsellers in bookstores. Besides literature the genre has great spread also in cinematography. Based on the books a set of movies are directed.  All the above-mentioned books have homonymous movies which also enjoy great request.

Fantasy is popular not only in the USA and Britain but also in various countries. An attempt has been made to write such kind of book also in Armenia. In 2010 Anina’s “Fia” was published.

One of the best books of that genre is Stephenie Meyer’s four tome novel “Twilight” from which “Twilight”, “New Moon”, “Eclipse”, “Breaking Dawn” were published accordingly in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and were sold with 9.5 million examples in USA  and 3 million in England. The book was awarded and the author was variously awarded for “the best writer” title. According to the laws of genre, here the author brings the mythical heroes to real life. The current characters of the books are vampires and werewolves.

Twins’ Myth’s Application in “Twilight” Series

The widespread use of twins’ myth in myths of different countries is presented in the main works of fantasy genre. The twins are complementary heroes but at the same time they are opposing spikes. The collision happens between them, they do not kill each other but they unite for the sake of one purpose. The twins can be blood brothers and they can generally not share the same blood. The main characters of “Twilight” series Edward Cullen and Jacob Black are twin heroes.

In his book “Armenian mythology” S. Harutyunyan segregates 7 motives for the myth of twins which mainly correspond with Edward‘s and Jacob’s characters.

Let us present and draw parallels between Sanasar and Baghdasar of Armenian epos, Giglamesh and Enkidu of Sumerian epos, Edward and Jacob of “Twilight”, according to these 7 points.

    1. liThe miraculous origin or birth (divine, royal) of twins.

      a. The mother of Sanasar and his brother gets pregnant from venerable water or two seeds of wheat given by Holliness from which the heroes are born.

      b. If Sanasar and Baghdasar are twins,while Giglamesh and Enkidu are born in different periods of time and not from the same parents. Giglamesh has royal and divine origin, he is immoral by 2/3 and mortal by 1/3. Enkidu is created by gods from their spit and clay.

      c. Edward is born as an ordinary human but afterwards he becomes a vampire gaining magical abilities. Jacob is a werewolf by birth, the enchantment is in his blood but only raises its head after meeting Edward. So here their magical origin or birth is linked not with the day of their birth but with their transformation which happens after their collision with each other.

    2. The contrast of characters

      a. Sanasar is born from handful of water and Baghdasar is born from half handful of water. Sanasar is more powerful and stronger than his brother.

      b. Giglamesh tortures people, behaves badly, he is sinful. Enkidu was born to fight against him, at the beginning he did not even realize sin.

      c. Edward characterizes ice and Jacob characterizes fire. They contrast each other even with their entity: vampire and werewolf. These two supernatural beings are in eternal battle towards each other.

    3. The contrast between parents and twins

      a. The father of Sanasar and Baghdasar wants to kill his sons or to sacrifice to fetishes. In some narratives the sons kill their father.

      b. In “Giglamesh” it is an opposite image. There is no contrast: Enkidu has no parents and Giglamesh takes the latter to his mother and asks her to accept him as her own son. With the help of his mother’s blessing they become brothers.

      c. It was forbidden for vampires and werewolves to fall in love with human beings but the two heroes confront their parents and love the same girl Isabella Swan.

    4. Escape-persecution from native land, home

      a. Sanasar and Baghdasar escape from their native land, they are chased by their father and find shelter in foreign land.

      b. Giglamesh and Enkidu are not chased or expelled they merely set a way to a foreign country to kill the patron god of wood Khambaba.

      c. Trying to escape from Bella’s forbidden love both heroes leave the country. Jacob wanders in other countries in the shape of wolf and Edward crosses almost the whole planet on foot.

    5. The contrast between twins

      a. The brothers argue because of the letter Sanasar received from a stranger girl, the contrast occurs.

      b. Enkidu is created to fight against Giglamesh and there is a contradiction still from the moment of his birth. The collision between them does not occur but Giglamesh sees his defeat from Enkidu in his dream, after which she strives to make friends with him.

      c. The contradiction between Edward and Jacob is in their entity but it is sharpened and turns into revulsion when both fall in love with the same girl. A love triangle is created which, by the way, is typical to many compositions of fantasy genre.

    6. Reconciliation

      a. Sanasar and Baghdasar are reconciled by their mother.

      b. Giglamesh and Enkidu are reconciled by Guglamesh’s mother thus accepting Enkidu as her own son.

      c. The reconciliation of Edward and Jacob happens after the birth of Bella’s child Renesma who becomes the edge of their reconciliation and friendship.

    7. The confirmation of new category (cosmic, social)

      a. Sanasar and Baghdasar settle down in Sasun, build the Sasna fortress, city, their powerful clan, establishArtsrouni and Gnuni authoritative dynasties.

      b. Giglamesh and Enkidu build and upgrade their city, kill Khumbaba.

      c. Edward and Jacob nullify the eternal hatred between vampires and werewolves and give a go to friendship.

The seven motives mentioned by S. Harutyunyan correspond with other myths of twins in other compositions of fantasy genre: “Academy of Vampires”, “Supernatural”, “Beauchamp’s family” and etc.

Myth of Werewolf

Werewolf Jacob Black is from Northern America’s native Indians’ Quileute tribe. Actually today these people consider themselves to be originated from wolves and believe in wolf totem. They accept the wolf as a brother and strictly punish the ones who want to kill that sacred creature. The author presents the different myths of that tribe in “Twilight” bringing them to real life. According to one of these myths werewolves have been ordinary people but for saving the life of their tribe, for protecting it they have gained magical skills. At the beginning the enchantment made them fighter souls. During the enemy attack the souls of fighters got out of their bodies and uniting with the nature they protected their women and children and defended their land. They became one with nature wildlife and they won. A human is subjected to transformation to be survived and to save their beloved. Such kind of transformation is also in Armenian myths, when the girls who want to be survived from forcible marriage ask God to turn them into stone, a plant or a bird. We should remember Daphne’s myth who transfers into a tree rejecting the love of Apollo.

In the continuation of fighter souls’ myth the Quileute’s chieftain Taka Aki loses his body because of the betrayal of one of the insiders and his soul starts to wander in obscurity deprived even of the opportunity to die. After wandering in uncertain time and space his soul loses all the human features and transfers into wind. And one day that wind soul sees all the sufferings of his tribe and motivated by the great wish to help, he unites with wolf and gets  two essences: human and wolf. A human unites with nature and it considers to be heavenly award, divine grace. Subsequently that grace transmitted from generation to generation and werewolves become the preservers and protectors of their land.

The myth of genre is also seen in Armenian mythology. In his “Armenian mythology” S. Harutyunyan mentions that according to myths werewolves are mainly women. They are humans in the morning and wolves at night, they eat their own children by the wolf figure, destroy graves, devour corpses. In Armenian myths the essence of a werewolf is heavenly damnation because of which vulture’s fur land on a human and the latter transfers. The damnation operates only at night and in the afternoon the fur falls down.

We would compare the myth of a werewolf with Indians’ myth. In the first one the essence of werewolf is heavenly damnation, it injures people, threatens the life of children and in the second one the werewolf saves and protects the life and considers to be a blessing.

The Quileute’s myths the essence of werewolf is in people’s blood and it is eternal, the werewolf can transfer whenever he wants and in Armenian myths that damnation is given only for seven years and a human changes his essence only at night regarded his will. When the seven years expire the fur is burnt. Here we interfere with another difference. In Quileute’s myths the werewolf symbolizes the avoidance of fire (if the fur is burnt, the damnation will disappear).

The united essence of human and werewolf is also expressed in the ancient novel “War of Taron” in General Wolf Vahan’s character. People endue their hero with a superhuman power, who fights against Persians and reaches even extreme betrayal, when the latter cut the noses of soldiers and fill them in wallet or remove the liver from general Mihran and put it in his mouth.

As the Quileute’s werewolves, Wolf Vahan also fights for his land and people. He is powerful, strong and has typical features of wolf, for what the Armenian people gave him the name of “Wolf”. With cunning and wit he protects his land, cruelly kills and tortures all those who risk it. As a real wolf “Wolf” Vahan does not yield, does not escape and does not make peace with the one who is “originated from piglets tribes who taste trash”, he fights and wins them.

The vulture’s essence expressed in Wolf Vahan’s character is not considered to be damnation but a power, which protects the land.

Myth of Flood

The myth of worldwide flood is seen in the folklore of different peoples. In another myth of Quileute, which is told in “Twilight” book, is said the following. “There are many legends, in some of them it is retold how ancient Quileutes (the tribe names itself this way), during the flood, tied their canoes from the highest pines, so that they would save their children, as Noah had done.

Like Noah’s story in the Bible, in Sumerian “Giglamesh” it is retold about the son of UbarTutui, Utnapishti, who builds a ship and survives from flood by the advice of goddess Lusakn Ea. (pg. 156-162)

The myth of worldwide flood is also in Greek mythology. The thunderous Zeus is angry for the misdeeds of the people of the copper century and he decides to eliminate the whole world, to overflow it with water. Only the son of Prometheus, Devkalio and his wife Pira are saved, they get into an enormous box and swim on the waves 9 days and nights.

This myth is commonly spread among many peoples. Some of them are similar to the Noah’s story, others are not, but there are general motives in all of them: angry God, flood which covers the world, ship or the wooden means of salvation between god and survivors.

God of Olympus

In “Twilight” series vampires also play a great role. Each of them is gifted with supernatural, magical power, by which they assimilate a god from Greek or Armenian mythology. At the center of the novel is the family of Cullen, which simulates with the family of god of Olympus.

The father of the family is Carlisle Cullen, who simulates with the Greek Zeus and Armenian Aramazd. Besides being the father for all and being the head of the family, he is gifted with the skill of creation. He is the creator of the family, he has turned his wife into a vampire and adopted children (should be remembered that the life of a vampire begins at the moment of the transformation and not the birthday).

Esme Cullen is the mother of the family. Her unique essence is her being a mother, the family, keeping the hearth. She is the patron of the family, by which she simulates with the Greek Hera or Armenian Anahit.

Emmett Cullen is Ares (Vahagn) who has strong power, loves to fight, enjoys the battles of others, embodies the power. As in mythology, here he is married to Rosalie (Aphrodite, Astghik), who is imagined as the most beautiful creature of the world.

Edward Cullen is Apollo. He enlightens everything, like Apollo he reads the minds of others, guesses. Edward replaces the guitar of Apollo with the piano and with its nice sounds he captivates and attracts everyone.

Elis Cullen is Apollo’s sister Artemis, who loves his brother and is by his side every moment, helps and supports him, she is refined and affectionate but at the same time powerful and militant, lover of hunting.

Jasper Hale is Hercules. He joined the family late and he has been through numerous experiences and hardships by then. Those experiences are simulated with Hercules’s 12 deeds, only after overcoming themhe manages to reach to immortality and Olympus, as Jasper to Cullen’s family.

Besides the Cullens there are other vampires who have different magical graces, with which they simulate with this or that divinity. One of them vents lightning with body, strikes, the other is able to change the environment, to read minds, to see the future, to run the four elements and so on.

When speaking about vampires we should also take into consideration the fact that in Armenian mythology there is a myth about a vampire. “The Armenian Vampire” is called “Dakhanavar” or “Dazhanavar” (from the Armenian word ”cruel”. Despite the etymology of the name, “Dakhanavar” doesn’t have cruel features. If in Armenian myths the werewolves are characterized as cruel creatures and in Quileute’s myths as the protectors of land, in Armenian mythology vampire “Dakhanavar” is the protector of Armenian land and people. According to the legend he lives in Armenian mountains and protects the Armenian people living in the territory. Dakhanavar never kills people, he attacks on the foreign invaders at nights and drinks blood from their shanks. According to the legend the Armenian defender is lied to by the two passengers who come to Armenia and who sleep at night outing their feet under each other’s heads. After seeing a human with two heads and without feet Dakhanavar leaves the Armenian land and departs. So, Stephenie Meier’s “Twilight” series is rich with mythical, mythological and generally with elements of folklore, which has close relations and bonds with Armenian and worldwide mythology. In the composition there are re-meaningful narratives of famous mythical motives, re-evaluated myths, the new approaches of accepted stories.


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Author: Astghik Soghoyan. © All rights are reserved.
Translator: Madlen Chakhalyan.