Paranormal Romances in Myths and Legends

Why has paranormal romance taken on such a hold on the popular reading appetite this last decade or so?

Is it the mystery of the otherworldly running so intimately with a normal, human reality?

Is it the potential for danger, as people fall in love with dark creatures – vampires, shapeshifters, even demons or dragons?

Is that we love the fantastical, the phantasmagorical and we want to see that love expressed as a romantic relationship?

Or is it simply that even very ordinary romance is a mystery unto itself, fraught with dangers of one kind or another — our partners can feed off our souls; people can change, shift into almost unrecognizable beings; falling in love can feel like a journey through the fae veils. Buy giving one party in the relationship an otherworldly feature, we actualize that mystery, that danger.

Romantic and or sexual relationships with the otherworldly and the non-human have been a part of human storytelling for eons and mythology is dotted with relationships between human and otherwise.
Indeed, the Aarne-Thompson-Uther classification of folktales includes the category Supernatural or Enchanted Wife (Husband) or Other Relative (400-459).

Ancient tales the world over are riddled with stories of people and non-people getting it on, falling in love, and some of them even living happily ever after.

Let’s look at a handful of them here…

myths of paranormal romance

Leda and the Swan

Zeus, that King of Gods cad, was a notorious shapeshifter, coming down to earth in the guise of all kinds of animals to seduce women. Which makes you wonder….

In one particular legend, Zeus transformed into a swan to pay a visit to Leda, the Spartan Queen, the wife of Tyndareus. Out of Leda’s numerous children, several were fathered by this swan Zeus, hatching from eggs laid by Leda, including the famous Helen of Troy.

In one story, Helen was, in fact, the child of Zeus and Nemesis, the goddess of retribution. According to this tale, Nemesis changed herself into a goose to avoid Zeus’ advances but Zeus, in the guise of the swan, found her… and we can infer, raped her. Nemesis abandoned the resulting egg (and child Helen within) which was found and raised by Leda as her own.

Later tales of Leda, from Euripides onward, regale a great love between Leda and her feathered godly consort and their union has been the subject of countless works of art.

Pasiphae and the Bull of Minos

We all know about minotaurs, right?
These days we use “minotaur” as the general term for half human, half bull creatures, but in Classical mythology, Minotaur was the actual name of a, well, minotaur. The Minotaur was a monster who dwelt in the center of the labyrinth of King Minos of Crete, a famous tale recounted in countless sources.

And how did the Minotaur come into existence?

Minos was locked in a battle for the throne with his brothers. He asked Poseidon, God of the Sea, to give him a sign of support and Poseidon gifted Minos a prize snow-white bull, on the condition Minos would sacrifice the beast in Poseidon’s honor.
Minos accepted, but come time for the sacrifice, he decided to keep the white bull and sacrifice another bull in its place.
Enraged, Poseidon cursed Minos by making the King’s wife, Pasiphae fall madly in love with the white bull.
Pashiphae had the craftsman Daedalus (Icarus’ dad) build her a wooden bull suit which she wore to trick the bull into… um, romancing her.
Nine months later, the little Minotaur was born, a monstrous half human, half bull.

Pygmalion and His Statue

In Classical myth, Pygmalion was a master Cyprian sculptor. According to the legend, after witnessing the lustful acts of the Propoeties (the first prostitutes), Pygmalion was horrified and claimed he had no interest in women.
He then sculpted his idea of the perfect woman out of ivory and fell in love with it.
Sometime later, Pygmalion made an offering to Aphrodite, asking her to deliver him a woman that would be a living version of his ivory lover.
When he returned home, he kissed the statue and found she was warm and soft, having been turned into a real woman by the goddess of love.
Pygmalion and his new lover were married and were granted a great big HEA complete with a brood of children.

The Pygmalion tale has been referenced and twisted in countless adaptations including Pinocchio and George Benard Shaw’s play Pygmalion which later became the film, My Fair Lady.

Selkies

In Celtic and Icelandic myths, the selkies are seals that shed their skin to become human on land. Many a tale, particularly in Scottish selkie lore, tells of men stealing the skins of the female selkies and forcing the now human woman to live with them as their wives, unable to return to the sea without their seal skins.
In other tales, if human women, usually those who are lonely or have been scorned by love, cry seven teardrops into the ocean, they’ll be visited by a male selkie.
In most tales of Selkies, things usually don’t work out for the best. A standard trope sees the wife selkie find her skin (and yes, they’re mostly tales about Selkie women) and return to the sea, leaving their husbands and sometimes their children forever. However, given in many tales, the husbands have coerced the selkies into marriage and kept them prisoner by concealing their skins, it’s hard to see their return to the sea and their true lives as a tragedy.

Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ

In Vietnamese folklore, the tale of Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ chronicles the origins of the Vietnamese people.

Lạc Long Quân, an immortal hero, also known as The Dragon Prince, was the son of two mythical figures descended from ancient dragon clans.
One day, The Dragon Prince saw a demonic bird harassing a beautiful white crane. Lạc Long Quân attacked the evil bird with a rock, and the bird then turned into a tiger. The prince and the tiger battled until the tiger was killed.
At this point, the white crane revealed herself to be the beautiful Âu Cơ another immortal, a descendant of the faeries.
Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ were married and had one hundred children. Over time though, Lạc Long Quân began to long for the sea while Âu Cơ became equally maudlin for her home in the sky.
As such, the princess Âu Cơ took fifty of their children and headed for the mountains, while Lạc Long Quân took the other fifty children and headed for the sea. And thus the Vietnamese people found their origin tale.

Do you have a favorite myth involving a human and non-human coupling? Tell us about it in the comments below.

 

Kate Krake

Kate Krake

Kate Krake is an Australian speculative fiction writer, the author of the dark urban fantasy series, Guessing Tales. Kate also writes non-fiction for authors. Find out more on www.katekrake.com.
Kate Krake

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