Aztecs. Such a fascinating race, although some of their practices were quite…graphic. Which is part of what makes them such excellent material for inspiration. Conflict is at the heart of story, right? And Aztecs…talk about conflict! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s okay. I almost wish I hadn’t picked that particular culture….
But I did. This is where the problems start.
One of the main reasons to draw upon an already existent civilization in fantasy is to have that culture’s mythological base to draw from. The Aztecs mythological base is, of course, rife with gods and goddesses. Bloodthirsty, cruel gods and goddesses. Which, by choosing this nation’s rich mythology to draw from, I am now obliged to turn into heroes.
I’m having a really hard time wrapping my brain around that.
On the other hand, there really is so much fascinating material to draw from! Smoking mirrors that reveal a person’s heart, hummingbirds that carry the souls of the dead, the sanctity of the Cuetlaxochit (better known as the poinsettia), and the different destructions and recreations of the world! I love having so much to choose from! I just feel a little guilty, because I have to wonder…who inspired the stories of these gods and goddesses? Who were they, and why would they inspire such terrible practices? Your guess is probably the same as mine….
Most of our information about the Aztecs is from the Spanish expedition in South America–in the 1500s, wasn’t it? My story is set long before then in the Aztec mythos. Toward the beginning of the fourth age, which comes after the world was destroyed by fire, and is ruled by the water goddes Chalchiuhtlicue. So I have the freedom to base my world on the Aztec culture and mythos, but I don’t have to feel bound by historical detail. Believe me, I tend to get very bound by historical detail.
So, there is my blather on the subject of basing fantasy worlds on existing civilizations…or how I’m trying to do it. 😉
Do you base your worlds on existing cultures? Which cultures do you like to draw from, and why? What are your reservations, and what do you love, about using the cultures you choose?