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Common themes from myth and mythology in modern fiction: Prince in Exile

Updated on October 5, 2010
Detail from 'The Judgement of Paris,' by Peter Paul Rubens (National Gallery, London)
Detail from 'The Judgement of Paris,' by Peter Paul Rubens (National Gallery, London)

Rama, the crown prince, was banished to the forest for fourteen years because his step-mother wanted her son to be king. (from the Ramayana)

Karna was sent away by his mother, a princess, because he was born to her before she was married. He grew up as a charioteer’s son. (from the Mahabharata)

Paris, the Trojan prince who convinced Helen to run away with him, was raised as a herdsman, not as a prince. Some prophecy about how he would bring about the destruction of Troy if allowed to live was the reason. His father asked someone to get him killed, but that did not happen. Paris was brought up by herdsmen of the hills.

Krishna, of Hindu mythology, was born to a chieftain, but a prophecy that he would kill the king, his uncle, etc, etc… He was raised as a cowherd.

The infant Jesus was smuggled to Egypt and had to be in hiding because of a prophecy. Note the manger and cattle, please.

There are many other stories with this ‘prince in exile’ concept: Rama, Karna, King Arthur, Oedipus, Romulus and Remus…

Moses is this concept turned upside down: commoner is brought up as a prince till he realizes his destiny.

Fairy tales use this theme often:

  1. Snow White was supposed to be killed but survives. She lives with the dwarfs in the forest till her time and her prince come.
  2. Sleeping Beauty is a variation. She is in a kind of coma, exiled from daily life.
  3. Hansel and Gretel is another variation. Not of royal blood, but exiled anyway.
  4. In Beauty and the Beast, the beast is a prince in exile.

In fairy tales, curses abound, whereas in myths prophecies are popular. Both are effective: they manage to send the little prince or princess into hiding.

Let’s see how these themes have been used in modern fiction. Coming to think of it, all mankind is in perpetual exile from Eden, according to the Bible. Many of us, for various reasons, live farway from our childhood home, and yearn to return. Two years ago, I had to leave my home of 26 years. Maybe that is why we identify with and understand the ancient heroes in exile.

Two days ago, I saw an Indian movie that had the rich father send his son into hiding and Mauritius to escape from a death threat.

Can you name some stories with this theme by yourself? See if any of your answers figure below. Of not, please write them in the comment box, for the benefit of all.

  1. Harry Potter. Get the connection? Prophecy, has to live an ordinary life, and all that, though no cattle motif.
  2. Godfather: Michael Corleone in exile in Sicily, but returns like a king in the end.
  3. Star Wars: Luke Skywalker raised as an ordinary rustic, lest his hooded father gets him killed.
  4. Tarzan was also nobility, actually Lord Greystoke, living in the jungle.

When I get more, I will update the list of modern princes in exile.

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    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Yes, G-Ma, am writing 3 books and illustrating 4, apart from the usual work, designing things. Your blessings, friend, thanks!

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      10 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      So happy you responded Kenny...busy cause you are doing so well? I would guess....Much Love and care from me...G-Ma :o) hugs 4

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Delighted to hear from you, G-Ma; can feel your your hugs here. Everybody is fine and holidaying, but I am umder tons of work, more than usual.

      If this hub soumds advanced, I'll have to rewrite it; not your fault!

      oooo & xxxx

      Kenny

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      10 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      Kenny...How are you?Miss you a lot. Great hubs as always..just too advanced for this simple minded lady..How are the children and your sweet wife? Love always to you G-Ma :o) hugs

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Funnebone, for the kind comment.

    • funnebone profile image

      funnebone 

      10 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

      great hub....nice viewpoint. You always do a fine job

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      I am overwhelmed by your comments, Abhinaya, you are so kind. Thank you for the thumbs up you wish to give!

      You know, Abhinaya, I am a bit scared of my 100th hub and am postponing it as I can't think of a grand subject.

    • profile image

      Abhinaya 

      10 years ago

      Sheer Keen Observations!I think you have covered all that I knew.I can't recollect anymore after reading this Kenny.I wish I could give you 100 thumbs-ups for this article.

      And I would like to add - one more article from you and you are ALL STAR!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Delighted, Isabella! Thanks for coming by. :)

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 

      10 years ago

      Very cool, Kenny, I never thought about this stuff before!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Fyxer, for willing to look at what I have to share.

    • fyxer profile image

      fyxer 

      10 years ago from mt vernon

      great hubs kenny, you have a lot to share, i will keep readind and look forward to your new lessons, thanks.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Honoured, Tessali, thank you for alighting on my hub. No, no project, it's just that one of my screenplays has gone to Hollywood, but its fate is still unknown.

    • Tessali profile image

      Tessali 

      10 years ago from United States

      I find this totally fascinating. I have seen Joseph Campbell's PBS specials and have read "Stealing Fire From the Gods" by James Bonnet. You are doing a movie project? I have just joined hubpages and so I'm out of the loop a bit. I'm traveling around the hubs and found yours. I love writing so I'm definitely going to have to read up on your hubs. Excellent, Kenny! You have a lot to share. Thank you.

    • Ash Watson profile image

      Ash Watson 

      10 years ago from Sunnyvale

      Ok, Cool, that sounds interesting.

      I look forward to see them :)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Not just the title, Ash. As I practise what I preach, I have used all these elements rather strongly! Thank you.

    • Ash Watson profile image

      Ash Watson 

      10 years ago from Sunnyvale

      Kenny, The title of this hub 'Prince in Exile'- dont u think it connects to Dynast Book2? You know what I m saying :)

      http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Dynast-a-trilogy-and-m...

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, O Buzsy buzszsing Zsuzsy Bee!

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Fascinating observations Kenny and as always a great hub.

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Peter.

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 

      10 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      Nice hub as always, Kenny.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you Cgull. Nothing's happened there yet, in the foreground. Hope things are working out in the back!

      Thanks, Compu-smart! Delighted with your compliments! I hope everybody starts looking at stories this way. :)

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 

      10 years ago from London UK

      Very interesting Kenny how you make these observations-comparisons..You sure know your stuff and you are a great writer!

      Keep up your, as always, excellent work!

      Intersting Bruce lee fact !!

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 

      10 years ago from North Carolina

      Hope your movie project is going well. The prince stories enlightened us when we were young.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      That's a real life prince in exile. Thank you, Figur8, for this addition to our hub.

    • figur8 profile image

      figur8 

      10 years ago

      When Bruce Lee was born, his parents raised as a girl because it was predicted that the nine dragons would kill him if they knew about him (Bruce Lee's chinese name means "little dragon" by the way). His father trained him to fight so he could protect himself and later sent him to America to escape the nine dragons. Legend has it that he died because he returned to China.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      He has transformed the way I appreciate a story.

      Thank you, Alexis for the visit.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 

      10 years ago from NW Indiana

      Must be Campbell. I too have watched and read his work. Great stuff, should check out his comparisons to Native American Myths and Legions. Fasinating!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Sligobay. Are you speaking of Campbell, by any chance?

      Violet, you may be right, just as you are creative. You would also enjoy Campbell. Thank you.

    • VioletSun profile image

      VioletSun 

      10 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      This is very interesting; wonder why the themes keep repeating themselves? Perhaps it comes from the collective conciousness, as cultures that never heard of the other's fairy tales or stories come up with similar themes... perhaps there is a hidden message for us to pay attention to? Getting creative here. Mythology used to be my absolute favorite subject in school, nothing like a good story to take me out of this realm!

    • sligobay profile image

      sligobay 

      10 years ago from east of the equator

      There was an excellent professor on PBS who used to speak regularly to the issue of the common themes in myths and legends worldwide. I can't remember his name now, but he was quite the expert on the stories of the gods depicted in eastern and western religions as well. Cheers,

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