I’m so happy to have T.J. Akers, author of The Final Paladin-The Key of Apollyon, with us today. I read The Final Paladin, and I must say I LOVED it! Peg was such an amazing character, and I loved the way the story worked within and added unique twists to historical mythology. Just look at the beauty below. You’ll love it!
Take it away, T.J.!
My name is T.J. Akers, and I’m the author of The Final Paladin–The Key of Apollyon. I enjoy myths and legends regardless of their origin, such as Greek, European, Norse, Hindu, African, American Colonial, Native American, Russian, and World History. It was when I went back to college that I started paying closer attention to mythologies when I took an Early British Literature class. My interest in myths is more related to my interests in language and culture. Understand a culture’s stories, and you can gain insight in how that culture thinks and what they value. Once you understand those things, it’s much easier to get along.
I do have a Christian worldview, and sometimes I get asked why I write stories with such characters, and I don’t mind that question a bit. I write to entertain people first and foremost, so I’m writing these things in hopes giving my readers a fun time, but the thing I believe was put best by Madeleine L’Engle: “Truth is what is true, and it’s not necessarily factual. Truth and fact are not the same thing. Truth does not contradict or deny facts, but it goes through and beyond facts. This is something that it is very difficult for some people to understand. Truth can be dangerous.”
To me, myths are all about truth, and because I believe that there is a thing such as Ultimate Truth, looking at myths and folklore become an exercise in looking at other worldviews. My hope is that The Final Paladin will become popular enough to write a lengthy series in which I use all the paranormal and supernatural tropes from Western Literature.
The first novel was intended to be a fairy tale, and I wanted to use the questing knight trope that goes back as far as the late thirteenth century and sprinkle all kinds of European myths into it. Some things I used were recent, others older, but most everything I used have their roots in Welsh, British, Germanic, and Irish tales. Of course, I like to shorten them all by calling them Germanic.
Allow me to start with the most obvious myth: Five Points in New York City. The infamous ghetto lasted for nearly a full century and is very iconic with history buffs. Of course, I play a little fast and loose with the time period. I start the series in 1870, and while it’s true the commercial use of mechanical sewing machines existed, the most infamous history of the sewing “sweat shops” is from the 1890s. I start Peg out working in sweatshop. Of course, the next book in the series, City of the Dead, will go back to Five Points. I’m so looking forward to it.
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She is sometimes called Morrigan, she can be three women, or one. Most of the details about her depend on who was telling the story. That is something to consider when you study myths, because many cultures depended on oral tradition, and not a written tradition. The details can vary depending on who was telling the story, and what time period. In Celtic myth, the Morrigan was a goddess of war; in other myths, she was a harbinger of imminent death. Thought I’m not a fan of Wikipedia, the article there on the Morrigan is very thorough and well cited. Her role varied, but she appears the most in one of the four Irish cycles of myth known as the Ulster Cycle (8th-11th century oral tradition preserved in 12th century manuscripts). Probably, she would have actually been spoken about in poetic narrative, but how myths change from group to group, or time period to time period, is very interesting. The link below is one of the versions of the Morrigu myth.
The Black Dog
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I love my character Jack, the black dog. His myth comes from the British Isles, but no one is quite sure if it was Germanic or Celtic. The legend went by many names like Hairy Jack, Padfoot, Churchyard Beast, Cu Sith, Galleytrot, Bogey Beast, and Grimm. For my story, Jack turns into a black dog, a dog the size of a cow. I don’t really get to do a lot of backstory on him, but Godfrey rescued him being mistreated in the Iberian Peninsula at the hands of the Caliphate’s troops. Jack is rescued, but not before they cut out his tongue. The fun thing about novels, if enough people are interested, I can always write about these other characters later. The following video covers some good information, but I warn you, the person doing this is a bit creepy.
Pixies Mounted on Corgis
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I love corgis, and as dogs go, they are so adorable. They have a mythic origin from the country of Wales. In fact, one of my sources states that “gi” is Welsh for dog and “cor” is Welsh for dwarf. In Welsh traditions, corgis were rode into battle by fairies, or they pulled carts for elves. I’ve found other references where they are mentioned as the farm dogs of choice by Vikings. The inspiration for my wolfings were the Swedish Vallhund or sometimes called Wolf Corgis.
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A lot of people love tales of knights, and I’m no different. For The Final Paladin, I didn’t choose a Templar (on the cover), a Teutonic Knight, or draw upon Arthurian legend. Instead, I used the Paladins of Charlemagne as my inspiration.
One of my main characters in The Final Paladin is Sir Godfrey. He was part of Charlemagne’s united Western Kingdom in the 8th century, but more specifically, of Germanic origin. Originally, the Paladins were comrades of Charlemagne’s vassal Roland. The literary character of Roland was based on Hruodland, a courtier mentioned by Charlemagne’s personal biographer. Roland stories were incredibly popular in the middle ages. Roland had twelve peers that made up the intrepid band of Paladins.
The Land of Fairy
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Like other novelists, I include the fairy courts of Winter and Summer. The Independent Fae (sometimes called Trooping Fairies, but that depends on who you ask) are present as well. Again, depending on who’s telling the story, the Unseelie court (Winter) is comprised of dark fairies, or the real mean ones. The Seelie court (Summer) is more benevolent, at least to a point. If you draw upon many of the Welsh tales, you would find that fairies were the last thing you wanted to bump into while walking through the forest at night. I have two queens borrowed from literature, Titania and Maab, which come from Shakespeare, but the concept of fairy courts go back a long way.
The Gray King and His Daughter
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According to Das Kloster vol 9, Jacob Grimm believed the word ellekonge, or King of the elves, and the female spirit, elverkongens datter, originated from the Danish language. The daughter was responsible for ensnaring humans to satisfy her desires, jealousy, or lust for revenge. The New Oxford American Dictionary describes the Erlking as a “bearded giant or goblin who lures little children to the land of death.” Johann Wolfgang von Geothe wrote a version of the Erlking where the creature prays on children and not adults. Goethe’s portrayal relates the character to a force of death as opposed to a mere magical spirit.
For me, I enjoyed creating Auntie, based off the Gray King’s daughter, and she is probably my favorite character in the whole novel.
Chim, the Hobgoblin
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In Welsh accounts, hobgoblins were small, hairy little men found in human dwelling, doing odd jobs around the house while the family sleeps. Some legends have them living upstairs, while their close cousins, brownies, lived downstairs. Usually, the only thing the wee folk wanted in return for work was food. Brownies were a little more peaceful while hobgoblins were fond of practical jokes. The hobgoblins of Caledonia were seafaring and would sometimes turn into bogarts or bogey men. Sometimes hobgoblins were shapeshifters. Chim is probably my second favorite character in the novel.
I hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse of the myths and legends behind The Final Paladin.
T.J. Akers desires to be a multimillionaire when he grows up and give his wealth to his
favorite causes: churches, schools, and animal shelters. Since the millions have been slow in coming, he’s settled for working as a computer technician for a state university and volunteering at his church and local animal shelter. Whenever possible, he indulges his love of writing stories to entertain people, especially younger readers.
Akers holds a Masters of English from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and can often be found roaming the university’s library, especially the children’s and young adult
sections. Librarians have always been his heroes.He lives with his beloved wife of thirty years, his dog, and two cats. The dog is an excellent writing companion, but the cats have proven to be rather critical.
Learn more at http://www.tjakers.com.