Climate and mythology

Today’s prettygoodword is favonian–of or relating to the west wind, which is taken to mean, mild. As lnhammer points out, this makes all the sense in the world if you live in temperate climes, and none at all if you live in the desert.

Today I’m reading melissa_writing‘s Wicked Lovely, and thinking about her use of faerie lore and of the Summer King/Winter King. This has gotten me to also thinking about the ways in which mythology is tied to land and climate.

In Wicked Lovely, the Summer King is, reasonably, linked to lightness, frivolity, and carefree pleasures (though not without some edge beneath them). That’s pretty much what summer was where I grew up, in the northeast–summer is the time when you ditch the shoes, lie beneath the sun on the beach with a book, generally take time out to enjoy the pleasures of mild–the favonian–weather. Traditional faerie lore is largely based in Europe, so it makes sense that these associations would be attached to it, too.

But I’ve started thinking about what the Summer King might look like in a less temperate sort of place. Here in the sonoran desert, summer isn’t the mild season; it’s the harsh one, and that western wind blows with the dry fire of a dragon’s breath. The Summer King here would walk through, maybe breathe, fire; his touch would kill; he might move slowly and languidly, but beneath that, he wouldn’t be mild at all, and anyone who failed to understand this would do so at their peril. The desert’s Summer King might dance, but only when the sun went down. If you met him at night, you’d want to make sure you were gone from his embrace by morning; you wouldn’t want to touch him beneath the sun.

The desert version of the Winter Queen is harder for me to get a handle on, but right now I’m picturing her as a small, gray-haired woman, smiling, but shivering too, calling down the rain, hiding from the sun, laughing quietly during her short season, with a voice like water over rocks. She’s probably not safe either, but it probably also takes longer to figure this out.

I wonder what divisions one would make in tropical climes? I’m guessing there, dividing the world into summer and winter in the first place would stop making much sense, and the powers that control the world would be drawn along other lines entirely.

(As an aside, I’m bemused by the first google hit on “Winter Queen” “Summer King.”)

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