Herne the Hunter - A Cultural and Aesthetic Analysis
When creating the characters for our game concept project Gods of Old, which began as an idea I had as story concept where the old gods of the west try to steal the Buddhist scriptures, the conscious decision was made to not just have characters that were playable as the players favorite type but to include characters from other pantheons not just the ones from the west. Several characters were put forward Polynesian war god Tu Egyptian god of the underworld, Anubis, Japanese goddess Amaterasu Greek titan Hydra and my own character Herne. I also could have put forward a case for the Thunderbird of north america and also Quezecotal of the Aztecs as i have versions of these I have worked on before and they would have slotted straight in to this project easily.
For this project though I went to my go to source for mythology, Celtic legends ordinarily I would have gone with a more prominent figure from the Irish pantheon like Mannanan Mac Lir their version of Poseidon or the Odin like Dagda but I wanted a bit of a modeling challenge so I came up with Herne.
The name Herne the Hunter itself comes from a Germanic legend about a horned ghost that haunts the English country side. Versions of this character has appeared in literature such as Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor (Shakespeare, & Hart, 1904). In more recent times the character has become attached to the legends surrounding Robin Hood("Robin Hood (TV Series 1984–1986)", 2017), as seen in the 1984 TV series. With the story having many fantasy elements and an origin that was centered around the failing powers of the the western gods of the old world to have a character that was the link between the heavy Chinese influence of the scene setting and the other characters in the scene. Using the Celtic god Cernunnos the horned god of the forest, animals, fertility and wealth. Similar in appearance to the far more recognizable Greek god of nature and hunting Pan Cernunnos was more regularly depicted with the features of a stag rather than those of a goat. ("Herne the Hunter | Welsh Mythology", 2017)
Beyond the myths, legends and stories of gods the influenced the creation of this version of Herne the key component was the mysticism that surrounds the white stag. Through many European cultures the presence of a white stag has been seen as a sign of good fortune.("Mythic Creatures: The White Stag", 2017)
(Daily Mail, 2017)
On it's own the sight of a white stag has an eerie magical feel to it, coupled with how rare an occurrence the animal is in nature it is easy to see how it could be seen to poses magical properties by cultures of the past. With legends about the stag stretching from Ireland to Japan, some involving good fortune to those that cross its path, others that tell of hunters being led to their doom. It is clear to see how, much like the white buffalo in north america the stag is highly revered with legends telling that it was only ever hunted for the thrill of the chase. Other than its ties to mythologies from across northern Europe The white stag was adopted as the supporters on King Richard II personal coat of arms. It was also featured in its truest form as the white stag of the hunt in the final act of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (Lewis, & Baynes, n.d.) as it leads the the Pevensie siblings back to the point that they entered Narnia.
("File:Coat of Arms of Richard II of England (1377-1399).svg - Wikimedia Commons", 2017)
Wanting to tie the Norse gods to the character and give him a true viking feel I chose to and some tattoos in particular a Thor's hammer. The Thor's Hammer has become the single biggest icon of the pre-christian Nordic and Germanic peoples, on a par with the Triple Horn of Odin which features in the back tattoo. Using both of these icons in conjunction with knot work that is most commonly identified as Celtic in origin really pushes old world god feel that we were striving for. ("10 Viking And Norse Symbols | MessageToEagle.com", 2017)
Using the runes around the clavicle brings something that is uniquely Nordic. Coming from the Nordic icon called the Helm of Awe this particular symbol was used to protect the wearer and strike fear into the hears and minds of their victims. The actual icon is worn between the eyes but I decided against this deciding that the scars across his left eye made him look tough enough.
("10 Viking And Norse Symbols | MessageToEagle.com", 2017)
Bringing these elements together to create a character that was both visually striking and still fit with the the overall feel of the piece and that his aesthetic fit with the other characters took some work but over all they it would have been nice to have other characters to place in the scene but as it is the three characters that come from vastly different cultures is enough to give the impression of the cultural diversity we were trying to achieve.
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Coghlan, D. (2017). Bow knot work.
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Daily Mail. (2017). Extremely rare WHITE reindeer pictured in Sweden. Mail Online. Retrieved 1 May 2017, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3870556/Rudolph-WHITE-nosed-reindeer-Incredible-picture-shows-extremely-rare-albino-stage-roaming-road-Sweden.html
File:Coat of Arms of Richard II of England (1377-1399).svg - Wikimedia Commons. (2017). Commons.wikimedia.org. Retrieved 1 May 2017, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coat_of_Arms_of_Richard_II_of_England_(1377-1399).svg
Herne the Hunter | Welsh Mythology. (2017). Welshmythology.com. Retrieved 27 April 2017, from https://welshmythology.com/tag/herne-the-hunter/
Lewis, C., & Baynes, P. The lion, the witch and the wardrobe (1st ed.).
Mythic Creatures: The White Stag. (2017). Sarah Sawyer. Retrieved 27 April 2017, from http://www.sarahsawyer.com/2010/12/mythic-creatures-the-white-stag/
Robin Hood (TV Series 1984–1986). (2017). IMDb. Retrieved 27 April 2017, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086791/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Shakespeare, W., & Hart, H. (1904). The merry wives of Winsor (1st ed.). London: Methuen.