Who doesn’t love a good myth? Myths are saturated in world-wide cultures, with everyone having a favourite mythical story, creature, or lore. Myths have served a variety of purposes over the centuries and present many creative opportunities today. We love myths so much that we included them in our name - let’s dive in and chat about them in more detail.
What Are Myths?
Myths are traditional fictional stories that use supernatural elements to tell a moral tale or explain mysterious natural phenomena. These tales often have a set cast of characters, typically gods, and other beings wreaking havoc or meddling in human lives. This symbolic style of storytelling is different from legends, which are based on fact but have been exaggerated over time into a romanticised version of events. Myths are often connected to the local religion, but this is not always the case.
Myths are just one way in which humanity gets to show its best and worst traits in equal measure; it’s genuinely a dichotomic experience.
An Incomplete History Of Myths
People have been telling stories since the dawn of time; myths have gone hand in hand with our oral history ever since. Every culture has myths in some form or other that stretch back beyond recorded history. Some authors and writers transcribed the myths, while artists and other creatives made art based on these myths. The word myth comes from the Greek word ‘mythos’, which means ‘thought, story, or speech’, which is honestly just a neat fact.
Why Do We Tell Myths?
There are typically a few types of myths; the moral tale, the explanation, and the historical event. Other types are less common, but can still be found. Moral tale myths often talk about why we do what we do, using a cast of characters to ‘act out’ a scene. Explanation myths seek to explain what was at one time a complete mystery. Historical myths are similar to legends in that they take from historical fact. Still, all accuracy is out the window, and the focus is on keeping the event alive. Each of these styles of myth has its own quirks and tropes, but we all know at least one example of each type. For myths of morality, look no further than every demigod myth involving Zeus, who often disguises himself to have a child out of wedlock with a mortal. Explanation myths, including the creation myths in the Bible and other cultures and text around the world, involve a creator weaving all of our existence out of chaos. Historical myths like The Illiad and The Odyssey bring a warring Greek world to life.
Common Mythical Tropes
But what tropes make up a mythical narrative? Some typical features of myths include:
Demons and other entities
An adventure or quest
Magic or fantastical abilities
Origin and creation stories
Animal or creature transformations
Obstacles and trials
Exploration of death and the afterlife
If you want some examples of myths that include many of these elements, you can find retellings of them in various myth collections and podcasts such as Let's Talk About Myths, Baby and The Folktale Project.
Downsides Of Myths
While myths can be beautiful stories that endure for years after their creation, there can be downsides to classic tales. Assault and other non-consensual acts can be depicted as being romantic or treated flippantly. Oppression and stereotypes can feature in some myths which can be fascinating or unpleasant to discuss depending on the mythology or culture it is from. Nothing is perfect, and it is essential to bear in mind the origin and period in which the myth was likely formed while being critical.
Why I Love Myths
Myths are fun and awesome. They have so much creative potential and have endless variety. Every culture has its own style, quirks, and lore to their myths that I love to explore. I personally lean towards Norse, Greek, and Egyptian mythology, but have been looking into Native American and South-East Asian mythology over the last year. I love seeing the parallels and differences across cultures and how these stories evolved. I adore seeing art, comics, and games that draw from myths to create something entirely new - my many hours of playtime in games like Hades, and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey should be indicative of that. There can potentially be a case made for creepypastas and internet urban legends being a modern evolution of mythical tales, but this is not the place for that debate.
Telling mythical tales by firelight or on podcasts is a way to share our history and connect with our ancestors. Myths can teach children what is right and wrong or scare them into being good. They can explain the unexplainable and help us chart our progress through time and space. Myths are just one way in which humanity gets to show its best and worst traits in equal measure; it’s genuinely a dichotomic experience.
What are your favourite myths? Which style do you prefer? Let us know, and we can geek out about them over on our socials!