In Hindu mythology, there is a story about Skanda, the second son of Lord Shiva (“the Destroyer”) who took a look around the world and felt hopeless. Corruption, man-made disease, and hate seemed rampant. Human beings were not living to their divine potential and seemed bent on the destruction of the Earth along with their own self-destruction.
Skanda also happened to be the God of War, so he imprisoned the God of Creation, Lord Brahma, to create a perfect world. Shiva came down to visit this utopia and what he found was frozen life forms. There has to be a cycle of birth and death. There has to be something to be attained therefore you have to remain in an imperfect form to grow.
Brahma was released and life emerged and several thousand years later, here we are, ridden with Covid-19, protesting hate, and at times feeling like Skanda.
If this story sounds familiar, it is. It’s the basis of Thanos in “Avengers.” And “Wonder Woman.” The theme may be throughout mythology, but if some of the exact names in this Skanda story, the full story, sound familiar, they are. They’re used throughout the “Star Wars” mythology.
There is nothing wrong with “inspired by” or substituting aliens for deities — both are fantastical. Science fiction after all makes demons of our fears and monsters of our nightmares. I did not need to be a white British man to be obsessed with “Lord of the Rings,” or “The Chronicles of Narnia,” or Isaac Asimov or Ray Bradbury.
Stories are the most democratic of all art forms.
The issue becomes when these other stories have no place in the global dialogue. When some names are “too difficult” in one cultural context but perfectly all right in others. When there is no discussion as to the original inspiration, or even a disdain to acknowledging such inspirations exist. When all stories are filtered through one cultural and religious lens. There’s the imagination and then there’s the reality of the world we live in.
It also is inevitable that cultural gatekeepers dictate the stories. How a culture views and defines its good guys and villains, time, death, space, the place of the earth in the universe, how we dream and why — all of that falls under the purview of a culture’s myths (its stories, songs, symbols, legends).
And mythology is at the heart of sci-fi and fantasy.
There now needs to be course correction. The imbalance is too great. In genres where universes are limitless, the stories have become too limited. There are more than elves and dwarves out there. There are the bakunawa, the garudas, the apsaras, and jinns. Black cats can be good luck and darker vampires exist than those in Transylvania.
Avaaz Media and its ragtag team of Brown Geeks are here to share Skanda’s stories and the hundreds like it that have been used, filtered, or made to disappear and present them through the 21st-century lens in animation, comics, TV, and film.
Let the gates open.
Feature Image Credit: Lemog Leo