Designing from Bones ~ Fantasy Realms of the Real World

Welcome to Designing from Bones where we use the realities of the past to unearth the fiction of tomorrow.

Last week we delved into the passions within ourselves that drive and act as filters for story ideas. Today, I thought it might be a good addition to that discussion to explore a fanciful and somewhat bizarre point of history that enthralled and inspired the imaginations of some of humanities greatest Victorian thinkers. Please join me as we seek Lemuria.

The Lost Continent of Lemuria

The Birth of Lemuria

Charles Darwin and his theories of evolution caused many heated debates in the past as they do today. Some of the stranger arguments came about as scientists and non-believers battled over the assessment of real world evidence. One such battleground focused around the exotic lemur which is found in both Madagascar and India but no where in between. This is unusual for a land bound species as the common method is a slow expansion outward from a single area rather than a sudden appearance in two disparate places.

Hey! Who stole my continent?

To explain this, in the case of the lemur, a biogeographer named Philip Sclater proposed that a continent once existed, stretching across the Indian Ocean, connecting Madagascar, India and Australia, thus allowing for the propagation of species. He theorized that the land bridge had since sunk, taking evidence of the migratory expansions with it. Sclater proposed the name Lemuria for this continent in 1864.

Plate tectonics, the movements of massive slabs of earth that we now know form the surface of the planet, didn’t come on the scene until the late 1950’s, so at the time, Sclater’s theory was not only accepted, it gained significant ground. Many living during that time already dreamed of the hidden beauty of Atlantis and the mysterious lost Pacific continent of Mu, so why not a massive land bridge in the Indian Ocean as well.

Continents, however, do not vanish without a trace and indeed several have sunk beneath the oceans of the planet. Yet each of these left evidence that is still there, sitting on the bottom of the ocean to find. Not so with Lemuria. While a research vessel found evidence in 1999 of a sunken island known as the Kerguelen Plateau this landmass had been submerged for 20 million years and was not large enough to have acted as a land bridge.

The existence of Lemuria proved false but, as we all know, things rarely end as easily as they begin.

The Cult of Lemuria

Humans have a difficult time letting go of concepts once they are accepted. This is part of what makes fictional worlds real to a reader. How many of you have traveled Middle Earth? I’d bet you can smell the pipe smoke, hear the groaning of the Ents, see the blazing glory of Minas Tirith as the sun turns its ivory towers into a vision of heaven. This is the power of accepted belief. Orcs are real because Tolkein made them real to us.

However, real in the mind, for some, becomes reality itself.

Helena Blavatsky

In 1875, only eleven years after the first mention of Lemuria, Helena Blavatsky co-founded a cult known as the Theosophical Society. At the core of the societies beliefs lays the myth of the Root Races, or master races of humanity. The system she designed and its attached dogma was used by a certain megalomaniac to prove the sanctity of the Aryan Race (Root Race number 5). Blavatsky attributed pre-Aryan races to various non-existent but theorized locations. The fourth to Atlantis and the third to Lemuria.

She believed that the Lemurians co-existed with the dinosaurs, were black (the actual color not the modern slang term), reproduced by laying eggs and met destruction when their continent was sunk by a period of excessive volcanic activity. Of course, had there been that much volcanic activity there would be volcanoes or at least remnants to find. There are none.

Designing from Lemuria

The continent of Lemuria provides a ready made world for fiction. Put a space station on it and we have sci-fi. Dragons or even the egg-laying Lemurians and it provides a locale for fantasy or stories set on an alternate Earth.

Lemuria can be attached to other bodies as in the real world myth or it can be detached and alone, an island of adventure waiting to be explored. What if Lemuria floated in the sky, harboring coal black creatures that harvest the power of volcanoes to control the floating continent and look down on humanity as if they were the Greek gods on Olympus? Perhaps it is the remnant of an advanced civilization now inhabited by primitives and the first aircraft of the lower world are about to land and make first contact. Submerge the continent but have civilization continue and it brings a new flavor to the legends of merfolk and societies adapted to the depths. Consider this: Would a mermaid lay an egg?

Add to all of this the cult. Could they be humans that worship Lemurians as divine? What powers would these strange beings possess and how would modern humans interact with them? Powerful ideas are born from the oddities and bizarre beliefs of the past and many abound here waiting for a writers touch.

How would you react to the discovery of a lost land or race? How would that change our way of perceiving humanity, were we suddenly confronted with another sentient species living in our backyard? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Peaceful Journeys!

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About Gene Lempp

Gene Lempp is a writer blending elements of alternate history, the paranormal, fantasy, science fiction and horror for dark and delicious fun. He unearths stories by digging into history, archeology, myth and fable in his Designing from Bones blog series. β€œOnly the moment is eternal and in a moment, everything will change,” sums the heart of his philosophy. You can find Gene at his Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, WANATribe, Google+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.
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15 Responses to Designing from Bones ~ Fantasy Realms of the Real World

  1. This is interesting, Gene. My dad was a Theosophist, and when my brother and I were kids, he introduced us to some of those ideas. The Theosophist Society actually produced books for that purpose, children’s stories that explained their teachings. Even as a kid I couldn’t swallow it, and I didn’t even find them particularly compelling as fairy tales.
    This is another example among many of how we believe what we want to believe, rationality and intelligence notwithstanding, and ignore contradictory evidence. Dad fought in WWII (in the Pacific) but believed to his dying day that Hitler got a bum rap (in his words) and the Holocaust never happened.
    Perhaps all this is one reason why, although I write science fiction and enjoy a well-crafted fantasy, I find it impossible to write a story that doesn’t illustrate or point to truth. I realize not everyone will believe it, of course; but I can’t bring myself to be a perpetrator of myth. You never know what might kindle a person’s imagination (like Ms. Blavatsky’s!) and stir up something that’s best left alone.

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Hi Yvonne. That is extremely interesting, for while I have read a fair amount of material on Theosophist beliefs, you are the first I’ve met with a connected history to them. I imagine it was quite strange hearing all of the tales and associated explanations for the belief system.

      Ideas can be powerful on the negative side primarily because it is so difficult to let go what one espouses even when all of the evidence points against it. On the other side, a positive idea can change a persons life from despair to great value. It is good that you were able to resist and find your own path. From your statements I can tell that you learned a great deal from your childhood experiences including the above lesson. It is honorable that you always gravitate to ensuring the truths within your fiction. There are, without a doubt, still pockets of people out there today that believe in bizarre truths spawned by fiction and we should all take that as a caution.

      Thanks for the excellent comment πŸ™‚

  2. And thank you, Gene, for these thought-provoking posts.

  3. ralfast says:

    Lin Carter used Lemuria as a lots continent of sorts (his version of the Sword and Sandals epics like Conan) and so have many comic book writers. It even got a mention by H.P. Lovecraft,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemuria_in_popular_culture

  4. Debra Eve says:

    Madam Blavatsky, there’s a subject for an entire post. The hubby and I were in Ojai a few weeks ago, where her Krotona colony ended up. It’s an intriguing little town. Love this series, Gene!

  5. There are people in New Zealand who insist that another sunken continent was in the Pacific, thus proving New Zealand was settled by new-age pre-Maori white people, this proving that modern historians are conspiring to hide the truth. To further prove it they have identified random rock distributions in Northland as ancient observatories, and boy do I wish I were kidding when I say this…

    The Theosophical connection here comes via the Steiner movement, which is based in Havelock North and was part of a much broader uptake of mysticism by an entire community, some of it based on Blatavsky, around the turn of the twentieth century. Kinda weird, but then that’s the spice of life, isn’t it.

  6. What a great source of personal conflict for a character, to believe something that is in no way true, but provides some necessary psychological element to their lives. How utterly powerful.

    Oh, and about merfolk laying eggs? Well, of course they could…if properly equipped.

    Great post!

    • I think merfolk must certainly lay eggs. Not to be gross, but picture a mermaid and then tell me how a child could be delivered. Having had four babies, I can tell you — you don’t keep your legs together.
      On another note (please!), this issue of a character’s lifelong beliefs being based on a fundamental error is a thread in my latest release, where the protagonist finds some of what she’d always accepted as common knowledge shattered by new evidence. She must learn to separate myth from reality in Book #2 of my Gateway to Gannah series, Words in the Wind. Though the plot’s most pressing matter is satisfied at the end of the book, the mythic issue doesn’t fully resolve until the 4th and final book in the series, which I’m currently drafting.
      (Sorry – it was never my intent to do self-promotion on this site, but this seemed pertinent to the discussion.)

      • Gene Lempp says:

        Ral: Love Lovecraft, actually working my way through his material as a side project. The man had a wonderfully twisted mind that for some reason I have a special appreciation for *grins*

        Debra: Totally agree, Blavatsky would be a series of posts to cover everything. I’ll have to look into the Krotona colony and see if I can find a DfB-style story in this history. Thanks for the tip πŸ™‚

        Matthew: The Pacific continent was Mu (amongst other names, but that is the popular one). Ha! I hear you on “wish I were kidding”, man, I have that thought almost every time I sit down to research and write one of these posts. The world is a strange place and humans just make it stranger. I may have to have you do a guest DfB post for me on the Maori, which I’ve considered for some time. Will let you know.

        John: Debates, or wars, of philosophy are always hot beds of conflict. One just needs to look at the contention between two political parties or religions or favorite “X” team debate to find it in Hearts. And, yes, they do πŸ™‚

        Reetta: I actually stumbled upon Lemuria and Mu while looking for info on Atlantis – the symbiotic relationship of the lost continents I suppose. Medicine is another fun area for odd beliefs. At one time it was believed that disease was caused by possessing spirits and that bloodletting was the panacea, or drinking mercury, or imbibing diamond dust in liquor. Hmm, putting that on the future post list. Thanks πŸ™‚

        Yvonne: Based on traditional presentation of mermaid physiology I would have to say eggs. Yep. Which makes me wonder about a world where an underwater farmer raises mermaids for their eggs the same way a land-bound farmer would chickens…strange yes, but interesting. Normally, I just edit out promo’s but, as yours illustrates the point, and your comments have been quite good, I’m cool with it *smile* Actually, I think you and I are targeted at close to the same thematic spot in our work, the lines between myth and reality and finding the thin line of life between them. Thanks πŸ™‚

  7. Reetta Raitanen says:

    The ‘lost’ continents and islands like Lemuria, Mu and Atlantis are really fascinating. They grip the imagination and like Yvonne said, such ideas are hard to let go despite the evidence countering them. Kind of like how people couldn’t accept that the Earth is round, not flat, or that earth revolves around the sun. And that was in much earlier centuries when science wasn’t so prevalent.

  8. Neptune is an egg farmer? Cool. When’s breakfast? Do I smell bacon?
    The line between myth and reality is thin, to be sure, but deep. Most excellent discussion-food when sprinkled with salt.

  9. Lynn Kelley says:

    You have the most interesting info your your Designing From Bones posts. I had to laugh at the idea of “egg-laying Lemurians.” And the idea for a story that came to mind when I read about Helena Blavatsky and the nutty society she co-founded was one about a mental patient. Maybe One Flew Over the Lemurian Cuckoo’s Nests? Sorry, couldn’t help that one! Have a great weekend, Gene!

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