If there’s one thing I find fascinating in works of fiction – fantasy or otherwise – it’s the origin stories of humanity. After all, lets face it, very little out there consists of solely non-humans (what with that whole we need something to relate to thing), so there’ll be humans or human-like beings in most stories, even if they go by a different name. Here are a couple of fun origin stories that I’ve come across over the years.
By the way, this post is full of spoilers.
SciFi – Earth Lost
Starting off the list with some sci-fi, with one of the most influential books I’ve come to read – you’ve guessed it – Dune ! I had to get it out of the way early. But, alongside it there is Isaac Asimov’s Foundations series, and what these two works have in common is that the origin of humanity, as they know it, is sort of lost. In these universes, it isn’t a question of whether humankind was created by a deity versus evolved from a long string of successful ancestors, no! Rather, Foundations and Dune are so far-flung into the future that the very knowledge of Earth is lost. It isn’t about finding the missing link, it’s about finding the missing planet. It is absent from the public consciousness as humans are no longer “earthlings” at this point, but a race of people spread throughout the cosmos. There are hints and mentions in the serieseseses, but really not much more than that, shrouding human origin in mystery.
SciFi – Earth Not Home
In the Halo games, where there is quite a plethora of alien races with which humanity must contend, it turns out the Earth is not in fact the homeworld of humanity. Apparently the human race was extremely advanced and, after fighting off the Flood in a war that caused some conflict with a race known as the Forerunners (Hyper Advanced Beings, as seen below). The result? Humanity as a race was nearly obliterated, stripped of its power and reduced to a pre-technological state, and the remnants of the race exiled to Earth where, you know, they would evolve to create snuggies and diet water.
Children Of Advanced Beings
No, not Scientology. Do not get me started. I’m talking more about what we’ve seen in films such as Prometheus and Mission to Mars. Basically, life was “seeded” via artificial means in stories like this, where highly advanced beings left remnants of their DNA structure – somehow – which either started all life, or at least started the long journey that lead to human life. While neither of these movies is exactly reputed for being, well, great movies, I rather enjoy the concept. A similar scenario can be seen in the anime/manga series Neon Genesis Evangelion, where in a nutshell, all life spawned from the blood (“primordial soup”) of a single, hyper advanced being (what I call a HAB), though in that canon they’re called F.A.R. (First Ancestral Race). Story and plot aside in these various stories, the concept of humanity simply being a descendant – maybe even a microbial after-effect – of the doings of creatures vastly, vastly beyond our scope has always held a special place in my creative’s heart.
The same could be said for the origin of humanity in Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo mythos, a series of games revolving around a single world where humans are caught between the considerably more fantasy-oriented struggle between the forces of Heaven and the forces of Hell. In the Diablo canon, humans are the spawn of the nephilum, creatures born of angel and demon union. In other words, humans are both part demon and part angel, and as the story goes the very existence of humanity threatens the balance of the Great Conflict – the cosmic battle between good and evil. Talk about ethnocentric (it is based on popular religions, after all), but really fun all the same.
Another instance of a sort of (questionably) divine influence can be found in the Assassin’s Creed series. In early pre-history, humans were in fact biologically engineered creatures meant to serve as a docile labor force. The First Civilization fell, eventually, when two figures known as Adam and Eve rose up and rebelled, eventually freeing humanity from its role as a race of simpleton workers.
Now in any story where humanity jumps ahead technologically or evolutionarily by way of unearthing alien technology or perhaps engineering themselves makes for good stuff, but how often does one find this concept in a fantasy setting? Enter Chrono Trigger.
Lavos, an interplanetary parasite and all around nasty looking chestnut, is a creature that careens through the cosmos, slams into planets, and goes into a deep slumber. While asleep, Lavos emits radiation that alters the DNA of early humankind in Chrono Trigger, causing a sect to evolve into a magic-wielding wizard race. The point? Why, when Lavos reawakens, the plan is to harvest and consume the collective energies of the specially-evolved humans, which will provide ample fuel for Lavos to spawn little baby Lavosi. Not terribly unlike the Reapers in Mass Effect.
I frickin’ love this stuff, but I feel as though I’ve gone on long enough about this. What of you, dear readers? Have you come across any interesting ideas or fun concepts for the origin of humanity in your literary travels?
-Chrono Trigger – a primitive race that was hyper-evolved for the purposes of Lavos