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I spend most of my time daydreaming and creating otherworldly tales steeped in myth, magic, and romance. All of my heroes have long hair, and my heroines are strong-willed. Prior to being a writer, I played bass guitar in an all-girl hard rock/metal band in southern California. When I'm not writing, editing, or reading, I enjoy practicing target archery.
 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Musings: Retelling the Greek myth of Callisto

There are a couple of different versions of the Greek myth about Callisto, the nymph who betrayed Artemis, but ancient writers seemed to agree on some facts: Zeus seduced Callisto, she was changed into a bear and bore a son named Arcas, was hunted down as a beast and then placed among the stars as the constellation Ursa Major. In some stories she is the daughter of King Lycaon while in other, older versions she is simply another incarnation of Artemis as the bear.

I came into this with an open mind, using what I knew from the various myths and what I discovered from other sources on Greek mythology and history. Since I was writing a series set in Arcadia, Artemis’s realm, Callisto’s story had to be part of that series, but I had to figure out how to make this myth into my own story. I focused on the one common thread of the myth—Callisto betrayed Artemis whether she meant to or not. Who can say that when you fall in love you can fight those feelings? I wanted to make Callisto flawed like a human with real problems—even though she was a nymph, like the rest of us she wasn’t perfect.

The next thing I decided was that my nymphs were not going to be innocent and vulnerable. I did discover that the Oreades, the mountain nymphs, were known as great huntresses, they were tall and fierce. So my nymphs were going to be dangerous and quite capable of defending their goddess’s forest. I created The Guardians, an elite group of nymphs who could fight as good as any male warrior.

I also created an honored station among the nymphs, the Bear Goddess, who would act in Artemis’s stead when she wasn’t present and keep the barriers around the goddess’s forest strong. Only the Bear Goddess could take the form of a bear and the other nymphs could take the shape of other forest animals.

I actually ended up changing quite a bit. Zeus doesn’t seduce Callisto, but one of his followers does—a centaur who can take human shape. I had this idea of a forbidden love theme since the original versions hint at this. In my version she is the daughter of Lycaon and the nymph Maia. While my story may differ from the original myths, it stays true to the main theme—betrayal. And despite Callisto’s flaws, she possesses bravery and conviction, two traits I admire and hopefully readers will too.

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Short excerpt from The Bear Goddess:
Kasin stared at the line of nymphs, a formidable wall of gold and black leather-clad Guardians flanked by brown-clad nymphs and satyrs. Artemis’s powerful symbol of a full moon and crossed arrows taunted him from the unyielding line of small round shields his opponents held in steady grips.
He waited for the nymphs to make the first move. He would give them a chance to negotiate his terms and, if fortune favored him, avoid a battle.
Davona stepped into place next to him. “That is their merciless leader, Maia, the one who called for my death. She is also Callisto’s mother.”
Kasin looked closer at the nymph at the head of their army. She had dark red hair that almost looked black, an unusual color among the brown and fair hair of the other nymphs, and she had been among those that captured him.
“Callisto’s mother is a fire nymph. They are a particularly nasty kind of nymph.” He felt a twinge of sympathy for Callisto for it seemed her mother was as difficult as was his armor-hearted father.
“If she will allow her own daughter to die…” Davona stared fiercely at the leader of the nymphs. “She will not be easy to negotiate with.” 

 Kelley Heckart, Historical fantasy romance author
Captivating...Sensual...Otherworldly
http://www.kelleyheckart.com        

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