Beautiful, Made in Abyss and reinventing modern myths

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Igor Stravinsky once said, “Lesser artists borrow; great artists steal. Although at first glance this seems like an endorsement of plagiarism, beneath the clever twist of the phrase lies a deeper meaning: the greatest works of literature have something of a kleptomaniac streak. Shakespeare’s work is based on legends from various corners of Europe; Hulu is coming A court of thorns and roses the series is partially inspired by the tale of Hades and Persephone; and that without even touching on the whole of Roman mythology.


Rented at the Cannes Film Festival this year was Beautifulan animated film based on The beauty and the Beast. Season 2 of Made in the Abysswhich is largely based on by Dante Hell. From anime to comics and everything in between, mimicking previous stories is one of the essential elements of fiction and is often used to show affection if the author has the genre. By examining how stories have come about throughout history, they can help predict the future development of fiction.

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Co-inspiration From Gilgamesh to The Northman

The concept of fiction is relatively new. Before the modern era, the fiction of antiquity was generally seen as a revelation from a god bestowing truth on the person who imparted it. As such, The Epic of Gilgamesh, generally considered to be the first written story, was probably believed to be true when first written. This makes his story of a great flood covering the world interesting – especially given that such a global catastrophe is also described in the biblical book of Genesis and other religions, as well as in regional versions of Greek mythology and Egyptian. The Flood likely came from the same oral history depicted in the ancient Mesopotamian text, but pre-mathematical myths are not the end of mimicry in fiction.


Carrying the trend forward in the West, Dante Alighieri wrote about the levels of hell in what can only be described in today’s terms as a bit of biblical crossover fanfiction. Combining the ideas of Aristotle with the beliefs of Christians of the time, Alighieri delved into the subject of biblical hell as it was claimed to have been revealed to him in a vision, a common narrative aspect of the time. As was his formulation, however, much of the Christian concept of hell is derived from Dante’s spin on it. Similarly, John Milton presented an entirely different version of hell in lost paradiseand much of Satan’s modern perceptions are derived from his interpretation which he naturally claimed as a new revelation of Bible truth.


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Between the two resided Shakespeare. Perhaps the unparalleled king of lore inspired by other tales and legends, Shakespeare’s plays almost always contained a host of hints and inspirations from older stories. Take Hamlet for example, which served as inspiration for The Lion King. The story of the King of Denmark’s betrayal and Hamlet’s feigned madness was inspired by the legend of Amleth, which also served to inform the 2022 film The man from the north.

Interesting way, Hamlet also informed The man from the northmeaning that the adaptation of the legend that inspired the play was inspired by the play – which was inspired by the legend. Almost all of Shakespeare’s plays were also inspired by legends and myths, and even Romeo and Juliet was basically a theatrical version of The tragic story of Romee and Julieta poem by the contemporary Arthur Brooke.


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Moving on to more modern stories, one of the most important of the 1800s (and easily one of the most influential) was Mary Shelley’s seminal work, Frankenstein. Easily one of the greatest works of fiction due to its almost single-handed creation of the science fiction genre, Frankenstein is, at the very least, a monster of Frankenstein himself, carrying the DNA of many different Greek and Roman myths inside – including Pygmalion (which will later inspire Pygmalion play, the precursor of my lovely lady) and the firebringer of its subtitle, Prometheus.

That’s without referring to a single one of the ghost stories that inspired the novel, including centuries of storytelling and shilling shock. Horror in general has always been built on the shoulders of giants. Vampires in a way are at least as old as the English language, and the film adaptation of Dracula inspired the American zombie genre. Bride of Frankenstein, derived from Frankenstein, has revolutionized cinema in many genres. Coming finally to cinema and television, the media have exploded, in particular two particularly relevant to the current debate: Anime and its constant companion, Manga.


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Beautiful and contemporary fiction of ancient stories

According to some historians, manga dates back to Japanese art in the 1100s, while syndicated manga began some time before the first comics arrived in the West. However, it’s generally accepted that the common styles and tropes stem from the Allied occupation of Japan’s influence through comic books and early Western animation – especially Betty Boop. Aside from art styles and their related stories, manga and anime have quickly taken over as cultural imports from the West to influence anime stories.

Some of the most prominent recent examples have already been noted as Beautifulthe spectacular 2022 Cannes award-winning anime inspired by Beauty and the Beast (an 18th century fairy tale influenced by Greek mythology like Cupid and Psyche and the marriage of Hephaestus and Aphrodite as well as ancient Italian literature) and Made in the Abyssinspired by Dante’s Inferno. However, going back further in time shows that inspiration from Western literature and its predecessors is as common in anime as pink hair.

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Hayao Miyazaki’s films, for example, are inspired by books such as Borrowerswho inspired The Secret World of Arietty. Borrowers is also an exploration of “The Little People” or “The Wee Ones”, British folklore predating writing in Europe. Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle is inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’ novel of the same name, which itself constantly alludes to Tolkien’s universe, John Donne, Hamlet and Alice in Wonderland (with special emphasis on the last). Fullmetal Alchemist’s Primary Macguffin is the philosopher’s stone, a centuries-old object of French folklore. The Isekai anime/manga generally follows the “Hero’s Journey” archetype, which many trace back to the ancient British tale of The sword in the stone.

Every story is built on expectations of what came before, but almost every story is itself a version of the same thing. As much inspiration as adaptation, from anime to poetry, the great works of literature are built on the skeletons of those that preceded them. If you ever come across a story and think, “This is a copy of another story I read,” rest assured that not only is it definitely the case, but it didn’t of badness. In literature, all theft is only to steal from a thief.


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