Thursday, March 20, 2008
Wow, sorry to be so long between postings. I will try to get more frequent entries posted in the future.
Now on to the subject!
Underworlds of varying description are extremely present in mythology, folklore and fantasy fiction. Call it Hell, Hades, Land of the Dead or the Underdark, it makes little difference. They all are dreadful places, haunted by ghosts, monsters and awful conditions.
The oldest underworld descriptions are (of course) deep underground, connected to the surface via caves, wells, springs or hiddeen rivers. These lands are ruled over by dreadful beings with awsome magical powers, who are sometimes considered gods.
Assorted dragons, demons, disreputable gods and mutated dog/wolf/god-things such as Cerberus, Garmr or Fenrir guard the entrance to the more prosperous regions in the underworld. As if many folks would WANT to go there...
One of the most well-known to modern dorkdom (to which I am a happy member) is the Underdark. This vast region of caverns exists in the worlds created for various settings for the Dungeons and Dragons Role-Playing Game. The Underdark is the place where all of the ancient evil races retreated to after one of the many GREAT WARS so prevalent in fantasy settings.
The Underdark is a weird fairyland, with forests of gigantic mushrooms and strange beasts. In some caverns, mutated dinosaurs roam, either adapted to the lightless realms or dwelling near magical sources of light such as glowing moss or crystals. This sort of thing is right out of the book Journey to The Center of The Earth by Jules Verne.
As stated above, the races that live here are usually the descendants of ancient losers of racial wars. The most popular are the Dark Elves (or Drow). Followers of an evil goddess who dragged her followers into exile from the light, they are the polar opposite of suface elves in thought, deed and appearance.
The origins of the Drow in real world mythology, as well as that of their dwarf counterparts the Duergar, come from norse legend, where they were more-or-less the same sort of creature. In Norse Myth, the Dock-Alfar or Dark Elves were fairy creatures cursed to find sunlight poisonous. Thus they lived in the deep underworld. They were as cold and joyless as the grave.
I shall talk of these beings in greater depth (ha ha), at another time.