Traditional Myths, Legends and Modern Fantasy?

Myth - A story with a traditional oral beginning that was used as an explanation in the early history of a culture.

Mythical explanations range in complexity from simple - why stories (pourquoi tales) to complex involved mythologies or legends that encompass the history and workings of an entire culture (The White Stallion - Magyar, Illiad - Greek Trojan war, ...).

Different forms of explanations in stories can range from a direct cause and effect interaction that could be witnessed. Such as the reason bears have short stubby tails is that there long fluffy one got caught in the door of great great grandmother’s Camero as she sped off after dropping great grandma bear at school when she was a little girl.

Another form of explanation can take the form of personification. Where an animal or a force of nature acts as a human. An example is the myth that explains why spiders spin webs. Arachne was a beautiful human spinner who mouthed off to Athena. As a result Athena turned Arachne into a spider for being too proud and lippy. Another example is a myth about a human hunter who wandered off the face of the earth and can be seen still wandering through the heavens in the constellation Orion.

Another form is where gods or supernatural beings have control of certain forces, but have additional powers to take on a life of their own where they interact with other gods or supernatural beings as well as humans in ways that extend beyond their domain. Like Zeus (protector and ruler of humankind) and Demeter (goddess of cereal grain) daughter Persephone (daughter of Zeus and Persephone) story about her abdiction by Hades as an explanation for seasons, growth, fertility…

A fourth form extends the explanatory powers from concrete explanations to abstract virtues. The power of the sun god (Apollo) expands from driving the sun across the sky in a 67 Camero to being in control of giving life, health, happiness, purity, and wealth. This can extend into allegories. Midas can be an allegory for greed. How the force of greed can be represented as a human and the actions of Midas represent the actions of greed.

Legends are similar to myths. Often began as traditional narratives within a particular culture. They tend to have more historical information and less reliance on supernatural. King Arthur, Robin Hood, The main characters are larger than life, superhuman in some ways, with exceedingly superior physical and moral qualities. They engage in quests and adventures that require great courage and virtue. Periodic supernatural intervention is likely. Point of view is third person with descriptions of actions with no internal narrative coming from the main characters.

Epics are also similar to legends only are long narrative poems.

Hero myths - don’t explain anything, they are just an epic wonder story with the hero having a quest, task, or riddle to complete.

Epics and Legendary heroes - A cycle or cluster of stories clustering around the actions of a single hero. They grew out of myths. Iliad, Odyssey, Gilgamesh, (668-626) Odysseus and Penelope represented the Greek ideal of intelligence, persistence, and resourcefulness. Beowulf, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Ramayana,

Elements of myths and legends

Dr. Robert Sweetland's Notes ©