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By: xger, Xger
Dec 24 2013 10:10am
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For planeswalker week I will be going over corollaries that planeswalkers have with real world myth and stories. I will generally be focusing on the origin stories for this piece. Keep in mind that similar to my Theros mythology articles a lot of this is based on my interpretation and that it may differ from others. Feel free to add your thoughts on the links in the comments!


The holidays approached quickly so this article only includes the first five planeswalker cards which seemed fitting for Walker Week. A further difference from my Theros articles is that the walkers really do not have a single inspiration and are often built from general themes. I tried to point out some classical myth correlations as well as some modern myth and stories (Star Wars comes up a number of times because I really like Star Wars, for instance).

The Lorwyn Five:

Ajani Goldmane

Ajani - Born albino, Ajani was an outcast of his tribe. When his brother became Kha (chieftain) Ajani was accepted into the tribe, though only tepidly. He was often ridiculed and distrusted but he did his best not to display it to his brother. He was, however, respected as a powerful healer. Eventually his brother was murdered and Ajani began a multi-plane quest to find his brother's murderer. The end of the quest came when he found his brother's murderer and instead of exacting revenge, he let his rage go. The story arc conforms very well with a Celtic myth: 

  • Celtic myth of Rhiannons - This myth is a queen becoming an outcast for reasons not of her making. She marries a prince and bears a child. On the child's first birthday the child is lost. The maid servant in charge falsifies evidence to make it appear as the queen killed the child. The queen accepts the punishment from the king and people and carries it out with strength and dignity. Over the course of 7 years she earned respect for how she carried out her punishment. Her story traveled until it was heard by the man who had found the child. He then brought the child back to the kingdom and the queen. Upon discovering the truth the King and people expected wrath from the queen but  found only forgiveness.
  • The outcast gaining respect - This theme is often used to invoke the desire to fit in and be respected. Often the character has a stigma or is born outside of normal society and through the events of the story gains the respect of those within (respect not necessarily meaning friendship or warm welcomes). Some examples include: Anakin Skywalker being born outside the republic and initially feared and then eventually respected in the Jedi order until his turn to the dark side, Worf of Star Trek being an outcast both on the Enterprise (one of the few Klingons on a federation vessel) and from Klingons for Federation ties and family honor then eventually proving his loyalty and honor throughout TNG (Star Trek: The Next Generation), and Zidane Tribal from Final Fantasy 9 beginning as a thief who winds up saving the world.
Jace Beleren

Jace - Jace has a much more fleshed out story as he is the most prominent planeswalker. His origin story involves an early development of mental abilities so much so that his parents did not make him feel welcome. He became apprentice to a local mage. Eventually he discovers that the mage and his parents kept knowledge of his spark from him. In a fit of rage in response Jace destroyed his masters mind accidentally. Jace chooses to use his mental abilities to forgot what he did to his mentor (Jace uses this ability somewhat freely throughout his story, on himself and others) The next arc involves Jace becoming a member of the Infinite Consortium. The consortium is not what it seemed at first and eventually causes him great guilt. Here are some corollaries I have found:

  • The Kentauros, Greek myth - Kentauros is a centaur and great mentor to many of the Greek heroes including Jason, Peleus, Achilles and Hercules. He is descended from Kronos and Philyra and as a result was immortal. At some point Hercules accidentally injures him with an arrow poisoned with Hydra venom. The pain is unimaginably bad, and the wound is incurable. Kentauros elects to surrender his immortality to escape the wound. Instead of going to Hades he was immortalized as the constellation Sagittarius
  • The river Lethe of the Greek Underworld - One of the five rivers of the underworld it was said that the dead would have to drink from it to forget their earthly lives before being able to be reincarnated.
  • Student outperforming the master - Usually in story this results in the overthrow of the master or shaming of the master. Generally it is illustrating defying the odds and working beyond the structure that may be placed around a character. Some prominent examples would be Darth Vader killing the Emperor (the emperor always knew Vader was more powerful, he just kept him under his thumb to prevent an overthrow) and Bruce Wayne destroying Ra's al Ghul and the League of Shadows in Batman Begins.

While the river Lethe is not a character story the meaning can be seen in Jace's story - forgetting the past in order to push into the future and to protect oneself from the past.

Liliana Vess

Liliana - Liliana was raised on an unknown plane by her father, a general and ruler. From an early age she was a temptress and basically did whatever she pleased without regard for the consequences or reputation she had gained. Her brother was poisoned and she was tricked into using a "cure" that cleansed the original poison but left madness and a new poison in its place. This action resulted in her exile. She eventually meets and has an affair with Jace. Her main arc involves her desire for power and youth and the deals she forged with 4 demons to secure that, all with a hefty cost. Some of the connections are:

  • Deal with the devil - This is a common theme throughout many mythologies, the most prominent used for example is usually Faust and Mephistopheles. Generally the deal is for power, youth, knowledge, or wealth. It almost always costs the soul of the person. There are too many examples to list (they run from religious, Theophilus of Adana, to comic books, Ghost Rider, to mildly absurd, one of, b-movies such as Bedazzled). Even the idea of the contract being tattooed to Liliana's body and bleeding is not unique.
  • Seductress - A lot of mythology and older stories have versions of seductresses, often used as a tool to justify the societal place of women and to serve as a warning. There are plenty of examples: the Greek Sirens, Eve tempting Adam with the forbidden fruit, and Cleopatra seducing men in attempt to gain power are some. 
Chandra Nalaar

Chandra - The plane that Chandra was born on had banned fire magic. Chandra hated some of her family and adored others. Fire magic came very naturally to her and she practiced in secret though her parents were aware. They attempted to marry her off as a potential way to stop her magic. She rebelled by setting some huts on fire and running. The police of the plane believed no single person could cause all the damage and thus condemned her entire village. Chandra returned to find her family and village burning alive in the huts. She eventually surrendered and as her execution was being carried out her spark became active. The base of the story has connections with:

  • Hercules - This one is something that I see that others may not. Hercules had long earned the ire of Hera as he was an illegitimate offspring of Zeus. Because of this Hera had worked to drive Hercules mad. The resulting madness eventually resulted in Hercules slaughtering his family in a fit of blind rage - he was unaware of what he had done until it was over. For both Hercules and Chandra just being themselves indirectly lead to the death of their family.
  • Running from ones past - Another theme well established throughout myth and stories. Chandra ran and did not look back after her families death even though most would not consider it her fault (the over zealous police of the plane shoulder most of the blame). There is a long list of examples, some modern ones being: Simba from the Lion King (running from Mufasa's death), Darth Vader from Star Wars (running from his prior self and his culpability in Padme's death), and Aragon in Lord of the Rings (running from his heritage). Chandra was eventually forced to face her past as well.
 Garruk Wildspeaker

Garruk - Garruk was raised by his father who taught him a profound respect for nature. On Garruk's tenth birthday his father taught him his first spell. Shortly afterward the local sheriff came to conscript Garruk. Garruk's father brought him to the woods and told him to stay until it was safe. After 7 years and his father's death Garruk emerged from the woods and sought revenge for his father. Having planned on being arrested, Garruk called upon a worm to consume the sheriff once the time was right. Garruk begins walking in order to hunt legendary beasts. Some similarities with myth and story are:

  • Enkidu of the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh - Enkidu is raised in the wild and is highly distrustful of human society. He eventually becomes close friends with Gilgamesh and helps hunt and slay the great beasts of the time.
  • Corruption of society - Garruk dealing with his fathers death at the hands of society's structure is emblematic of the idea of society corroding personal values and lives. Garruk remains skeptical and does not like to go to cities if he can avoid it. This is shaped by his experience in the woods where the natural order seems like the better system. Any of the dystopian worlds where the societal structure is questioned or suspect would be an example.

 

One Particular theme that occurs in some form for all 5 I listed is the Myth of Redemptive violence:

  • Myth of Redemptive Violence: This idea threads through a lot of myths and stories, and is often believed to have earliest origins in the Babylonian creation story. Characters that fit this model are ones that make us feel as though killing is not bad per say or even good in some cases (James Bond fighting evil, the Jedi destroying the Sith, or Garruk killing his fathers murderer).

The reason this plays such a role in the planeswalkers is the need for the activation of the spark. Since the planeswalker usually find their spark during a turbulent emotional event, killing a family member or close confidant makes for a comfortable basis. The entire concept of redemptive violence is weaved throughout much of our stories and myths.

Let me know what you think of the article in the comments! I only covered a few today but if you want more, sound off in the comments and I'll write up more later! Lastly, here's what I think should be me as a walker:


I hope everyone is having a good holiday!

xger21