The stories we tell to children at bedtime, the same ones made famous by Disney movies, are much darker than we think. How much? Let’s just say that in the oldest versions, Little Red Riding Hood was eaten by the Wolf and the story ends there. As you might expect for someone who is passed through the jaws of a predator and then on into his stomach.
Original fairy tales were not designed to help children drift off to sleep, but to warn them of the potential tragic consequences of their naivete. Meeting a “Wolf” in the woods when you’re alone and stopping to talk, furthermore telling him where you’re going? Terrible, terrible idea.
I have always had a certain fascination with popular culture, when it’s not sugar coated for respectability. These stories exude physical and mental violence, and would give nightmares to even an adult now. It is not for no reason that newer series Fables, Grimm, Once Upon A Time, Lost Girl and Supernatural found fertile ground in these forgotten classics, and with them all the stories and legends that inhabit ancient fantasy.
As already mentioned, these stories were written to be what the British called “cautionary tales”. They are rooted in the deepest social fears of man: the forest with a wolf, a mother’s jealousy (not godmother, that’s another story) which turns her against her daughter, the pact with the devil to gain success and wealth. These stories strike deep chords within us – and fear, together with the desire, is the thing that affects us most on a gut level.
I think in a game like Aegis Aurea these stories have their importance, both in-game and in my writing. In the game world cautionary tales are back, with the awareness that they aren’t just legends to frighten children. “Don’t go into dark alleys alone” is always the healthiest advice when in that dark alley there are countless horrors that want to rip out your elbows. Having a fear of emotions as well, knowing that they can change reality, can only enhance these horrible stories, making them increasingly plausible. Always check under the bed, because you never know what might be hiding there, ready to grab your ankles in the night.
These stories are also excellent inspirations for writing adventures. Take the red berets, a group of cruel and violent goblins, who dye their own caps with the blood of their victims (hence the name). They do not even have the freedom to feel compassion, as they would die if the blood on their hats were to clot completely. How you could use such an idea? Apart from the literal use, bringing these exact creatures into your story, this could be any creature driven by the same hunger for fresh blood, that in human form always has a drive that recalls his nature, or a group of magicians who have experienced too much and now need human sacrifices to continue to appease some entity that keeps them in check, or a military group who intimidate their opponents by wearing red hats and use them as a symbol to invoke the original creatures, or a group of ruthless investors who use a red brooch as a token of recognition, and cause the worst atrocities in order to increase their earnings.
These are just some ideas you could think of while writing, but a little reflection could definitely bring more to the table. Every country, every city and community has its local stories and legends, often in more than one variation. and bringing these stories into the game world will enrich your experience while helping to keep the memory of these stories alive, without being overshadowed by the usual elves, gnomes and ogres.