Mythos is a word that you will see a lot around here in slightly different contexts – so what exactly do we mean by it? Well, in its broadest sense, it means the shared elements of a set of interrelated stories. So, everything in this wiki is part of the same Mythos – except, perhaps it isn't...
What is a 'mythos'?
Over time a great mass of created fiction can build up around the core canon of an invented universe: an accumulation of many elements such as characters, settings and themes. This is a 'mythos', whose various strands may be woven together in numerous prose stories, poetry, games, films and so on into an interconnected, quasi-real folklore (there is, after all, a close linguistic association with mythology), although not necessarily an unambiguous or unchanging one. Especially when elements were introduced by different authors at different times, they may grow increasingly disparate and sometimes contradictory.
The King In Yellow's mythos
The King In Yellow's mythos is based in greater part upon just a handful of tales written at the end of the 19th century and relies on only a small number of actual (often highly vague) in-universe 'facts'. The author of the original book has been gone since 1933; there is nothing like a living, definitive authority whom we may question or appeal to for clarification or confirmation. So there is in fact very little that is 'hard' canon, and as a result later authors have taken the sparse elements and used them in all sorts of varying interpretations.
The book is thus unusual in forming the basis of what can be thought of as several variants on one mythos, which have built upon those slender foundations in slightly differing ways. These are largely overlapping and frequently blurred – the names are often used interchangeably – yet in some areas they are distinct.
Four mythoi in one
There are four main Mythoi (the accepted plural term) referenced in this wiki. The first three certainly broadly encompass the same things, but the fourth effectively incorporates some of them in a wider Mythos:
- The Yellow Mythos – the most useful 'umbrella' term, this can mean either or both(!) of the following two, but fundamentally draws upon the concepts derived directly from Robert Chambers' writing. It emphasises the role of the King in Yellow and the use of the colour yellow and its associated meanings.
- The Carcosa Mythos – takes a relatively narrow lineage focusing upon the mysterious city of Carcosa, including its earliest incarnation as set down by Ambrose Bierce, and those fictions that regard the King as a terrible god in his own right rather than an avatar of some other eldritch abomination. This especially separates the continuity from that of Hastur, unlike the following interpretation:
- The Hastur Mythos – which in contrast places the King and all things related firmly within a larger (though later-established) continuity, which The King In Yellow in fact helped to influence. It refers to a distinct modern interpretation (or reinterpretation) of the earlier Mythoi, where the King is regarded as an aspect or avatar of Hastur as a Great Old One. This has its basis in the following:
- The Cthulhu Mythos, a broad and widely-referenced mythology based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and subsequently greatly codified by August Derleth. In this context, it includes those stories, such as those of Chambers, that have been co-opted into the cycle – though it treats the elements in a rather different way to the other Mythoi and it is frequently debated as to whether the different approaches are compatible. It also incorporates other sub-mythoi, such as the Severn Valley Mythos.
Each of these four Mythoi approaches the elements in an alternative manner, although there is often overlap between the different approaches and not all authors see themselves as writing within a single framework, prefering to borrow from more than one approach or crafting their own unique take on it.
To further muddy the waters, you will also see references to 'Non-Mythos Fiction' in this Wiki. This comes in two sorts. Most non-Mythos fiction consists of stories and poems that have a similarity to those of the Mythos, for example because they feature mysterious beings similar to the King in Yellow or have a similar mood or theme. Some, however, consists of non-Mythos appearances of the King, perhaps where the Play is mentioned in passing or the book is referenced.
In addition, other Mythoi (which may or may not be fully formed and are, sometimes, yoked to the Yellow Mythos) exist, including:
- A potential 'Black Mythos' linked to the Black Man avatar of Nyarlathotep, his other darkness-loving avatars and, potentially, the Migo.
- A potential 'Red Mythos' linked to such figures as the Crimson King and Erlik.
- The Black and Red Mythos created by DJ Tyrer and influenced in part by the Yellow Mythos, although not connected to it.
The article on colourful beings details various figures with the potential to be linked to colour-themed mythoi.