Worldbuilding is a hobby that is a labor of love, for the most tedious part is having to make sure everything in the fictional world functions properly. And a way to do so is to develop a well-grounded understanding of the world you already live in if you wish to write a fictional one. Patrick Rothfuss, author of the Kingkiller Chronicles, knew this full well, since he spent 9 years pursuing an undergraduate degree. Whether it is in academic study or personal study, there is never a missed opportunity when it comes to developing a diverse education, which would have the ability to materialize a comprehensive mythocosmography.
This is a field dedicated to studying the societal dynamics of people all over the world. It also provides one of the most important components of worldbuilding, since it involves truly looking at the people who live in this world. The houses they make and the food they eat are all reflective of their survival in the biosphere around them.
In my previous article Diversity in Fantasy, I posit an example of a part-dwarf accountant living on an island-city guarded by a pegasus fleet. Anthropology allows us to ask a lot of questions. How did the people on the island come to tame these pegasuses in the first time? Or even more, did those people live on the island in the first place? Did they use the pegasuses to settle on that island? Did the pegasuses provide enough trading routes to create a multicultural city?
It is important to note that the Indo-European culture of the Pontic-Caspian region did not originally use horses to migrate throughout two continents, rather they were used for meat. However, as the migration started to spread to Anatolia and India, horses had started to become used for transportation of goods and people.
There are written records about various tribes and nations that date back hundreds if not thousands of years; however there is also the strong likelihood that the historians, scholars, and chroniclers of those records were incredibly biased; especially if they come from the ruling class writing about foreign nations. Archaeology, on the other hand, provides the fact-checking needed to either prove or disprove those written records.
Whether it is the isotopes in human bones to determine what a certain people ate, or buried posts to determine what tree was used and what building it was for; archaeology provides a useful way to determine fact from fiction and propaganda.
Wherever there is a volcano, there is volcanic ash; and where there is volcanic ash, there are a group of people who use it for fertilizer. As mentioned before, the biosphere determines how a group of people are able to survive, whether it is near a volcano or in an arctic tundra. It is not just the magic that makes the fictional world, rather the landscape which the world contains–acting almost as spatial magic.
It was the fantastical descriptions of the Icelandic landscape written by William Morris which inspired J. R. R. Tolkien’s landscapes in Middle-Earth. His Lord of the Rings series is lush with descriptions of every geographical feature, no matter how irrelevant it was to the plot.
History is somewhat different from anthropology and archaeology, since it deals with documentation that is verifiable due to being written by verifiable sources. So, it is the end-product of those two fields. This is the field that ultimately bridges together the public and those verifiable sources. Whatever research is involved, ultimately it rests on the field of history to provide public consciousness to those time periods.
This field is important if you plan to research any particular historical event in order to apply the functions, movements, and ways of living that were applied by the people living in those times.
This is especially relevant when this field is applied to any conlangs spoken in the mythocosmography. It is important to know the basics of languages in order to form any conlangs. Not just your own language or any other language, but also the linguistic elements that form them. This is what can assure the creation of truly unique conlangs.
Of course, I discuss conlangs in-depth in my Conlinguistic article series, whereas this installment deals with world-building–or mythocosmography.
Many Other Fields
All of the fields listed above were but a small number of fields that can be used in world-building.
Worldbuilding is the one field where no other field feels like wasted knowledge, for those methodologies used in those fields could also apply to worldbuilding with various degrees of importance. And what’s more, worldbuilding is a repository for all of that abandoned knowledge AND any added knowledge.
For example, if you pursued economics but dropped it, it might not have a place on the desk, but it would have a place in the economic structure of your mythocosmography. It could be applied to the ways in which banks in city-states keep the markets and bazaars thriving.
There is a YouTuber named Mariah Pattie who focuses on fashion but also takes an interest in conlanging. She has applied her knowledge of fashion to worldbuilding in a second channel. Another world-building YouTuber, Biblaridion, has a degree in zoology and has dedicated an entire series of videos on developing an alien biosphere.
Whether it is a field as obscure as fashion and auto-mechanics; or a field as integral to world-building as literature and mythological studies; the field of world-building provides an opportunity for many fields to come together in the same scale model; and it is the polymath who makes plans and preparations.
- Anthony, David W. The Horse, The Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton University Press. 2007.
- Biblaridion. YouTube.
- Burns, Marjorie. Perilous Realms: Celtic and Norse in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. 3rd Edition. University of Toronto Press. 2018.
- Faron, Louis C. The Mapuche Indians of Chile. Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. 1968.
- Harari, Juval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. 1st Edition. Harper-Perennial. 2018.
- Jlia’absanz. Diversity In Fantasy. House of the Dream-Writer. 2021.
- Jlia’absanz. Folk Taxonomies Tell A Story Behind Conlangs. House of the Dream-Writer. 2021.
- Orion Publishing Group. Patrick Rothfuss Discusses The Name Of The Wind. YouTube. 2008.
- Pattie, Mariah. Mariah Pattie. YouTube.
- Pattie, Mariah. Mariah Pattie Worldbuilding. YouTube.
- Snyder, Christopher. The Making of Middle-Earth: A New Look Inside the World of J. R. R. Tolkien. Sterling. 2013.