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Myth is a folklore genre consisting of
narratives
narratives
that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. Since "myth" is widely used to imply that a story is not objectively true, the identification of a narrative as a myth can be highly controversial. Many adherents of religions view their own religions' stories as
truth
truth
and so object to their characterization as myth, the way they see the stories of other religions. As such, some scholars label all religious narratives "myths" for practical reasons, such as to avoid depreciating any one tradition because cultures interpret each other differently relative to one another. Other scholars avoid using the term "myth" altogether and instead use different terms like "sacred history", "holy story", or simply "history" to avoid placing pejorative overtones on any sacred narrative. Myths are often endorsed by secular and religious authorities and are closely linked to
religion Religion is usually defined as a social- cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or religious organization, organizations, that generally relates hu ...

religion
or
spirituality The meaning of ''spirituality'' has developed and expanded over time, and various meanings can be found alongside each other. Traditionally, spirituality referred to a Religion, religious process of re-formation which "aims to recover the origin ...
. Many societies group their myths, legends, and history together, considering myths and legends to be true accounts of their remote past. Simpson, Jacqueline, and , eds. 2003. "Myths." In ''A Dictionary of English Folklore''. Oxford: Oxford University Press. . In particular, creation myths take place in a primordial age when the world had not achieved its later form. Other myths explain how a society's customs, institutions, and taboos were established and sanctified. There is a complex relationship between recital of myths and the enactment of rituals. The main characters in myths are usually non-humans, such as
gods A deity or god is a supernatural being who is considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as a God (male deity), god or goddess, or anything revered as divine. C. Scott Littleton defines a deity as " ...
, demigods, and other
supernatural Supernatural refers to phenomena or entities that are beyond the laws of nature. The term is derived from Medieval Latin , from Latin (above, beyond, or outside of) + (nature) Though the corollary term "nature", has had multiple meanings si ...
figures. Others include humans, animals, or combinations in their classification of myth. Stories of everyday humans, although often of leaders of some type, are usually contained in legends, as opposed to myths. Myths are sometimes distinguished from legends in that myths deal with gods, usually have no historical basis, and are set in a world of the remote past, very different from that of the present.


Definitions


Myth

Definitions of "myth" vary to some extent among scholars, though Finnish
folklorist Folklore studies, less often known as folkloristics, and occasionally tradition studies or folk life studies in the United Kingdom, is the branch of anthropology devoted to the study of folklore. This term, along with its synonyms, gained currenc ...
Lauri Honko offers a widely-cited definition: Another definition of myth comes from myth criticism theorist and professor
José Manuel Losada José Manuel Losada ( Zamora, 1962) is a university professor Professor (commonly abbreviated as Prof.) is an Academy, academic rank at university, universities and other post-secondary education and research institutions in most countri ...
. According to Cultural Myth Criticism, the studies of myth must explain and understand “myth from inside”, that is, only “as a myth”. Losada defines myth as “a functional, symbolic and thematic narrative of one or several extraordinary events with a transcendent, sacred and supernatural referent; that lacks, in principle, historical testimony; and that refers to an individual or collective, but always absolute, cosmogony or eschatology”. Scholars in other fields use the term "myth" in varied ways. In a broad sense, the word can refer to any
traditional story Traditional stories, or narrative, stories about traditions, differ from both fiction and nonfiction in that the importance of transmitting the story's worldview is generally understood to transcend an immediate need to establish its categorization ...
, popular misconception or imaginary entity. Though myth and other folklore genres may overlap, myth is often thought to differ from genres such as
legend A legend is a Folklore genre, genre of folklore that consists of a narrative featuring human actions, believed or perceived, both by teller and listeners, to have taken place in human history. Narratives in this genre may demonstrate human valu ...
and folktale in that neither are considered to be
sacred Sacred describes something that is dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity; is considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspires awe or Reverence (emotion), reverence among believers. The property is often asc ...
narratives. Some kinds of folktales, such as
fairy stories A fairy tale (alternative names include fairytale, fairy story, magic tale, or wonder tale) is a short story that belongs to the folklore genre. Such stories typically feature magic (paranormal), magic, incantation, enchantments, and mythical ...
, are not considered true by anyone, and may be seen as distinct from myths for this reason. Main characters in myths are usually
gods A deity or god is a supernatural being who is considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as a God (male deity), god or goddess, or anything revered as divine. C. Scott Littleton defines a deity as " ...
,
demigod A demigod or demigoddess is a part-human and part-divine offspring of a deity and a human, or a human or non-human creature that is accorded divine status after death, or someone who has attained the "divine spark" (spiritual enlightenment). An ...
s or
supernatural Supernatural refers to phenomena or entities that are beyond the laws of nature. The term is derived from Medieval Latin , from Latin (above, beyond, or outside of) + (nature) Though the corollary term "nature", has had multiple meanings si ...
humans, Simpson, Jacqueline, and , eds. 2003. "Myths." In ''A Dictionary of English Folklore''. Oxford: Oxford University Press. . while legends generally feature humans as their main characters. Many exceptions and combinations exist, as in the ''
Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, Iliás, ; "a poem about Ilium") is one of two major ancient Greek Epic poem, epic poems attributed to Homer. It is one of the oldest extant works of literature still widely read by modern audiences. As with t ...
'', ''
Odyssey The ''Odyssey'' (; grc, Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia, ) is one of two major Ancient Greek literature, ancient Greek Epic poetry, epic poems attributed to Homer. It is one of the oldest extant works of literature still widely read by moder ...
'' and ''
Aeneid The ''Aeneid'' ( ; la, Aenē̆is or ) is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area ...
''. Moreover, as stories spread between cultures or as faiths change, myths can come to be considered folktales, their divine characters recast as either as humans or demihumans such as giants,
elves An elf () is a type of humanoid supernatural being in Germanic mythology and folklore. Elves appear especially in North Germanic mythology. They are subsequently mentioned in Snorri Sturluson's Icelandic Prose Edda. He distinguishes " ...
and faeries. Conversely, historical and literary material may acquire mythological qualities over time. For example, the
Matter of Britain The Matter of Britain is the body of medieval literature and legendary material associated with Great Britain and Brittany and the list of legendary kings of Britain, legendary kings and heroes associated with it, particularly King Arthur. It ...
(the legendary history of Great Britain, especially those focused on
King Arthur King Arthur ( cy, Brenin Arthur, kw, Arthur Gernow, br, Roue Arzhur) is a Legend, legendary king of Great Britain, Britain, and a central figure in the medieval literary tradition known as the Matter of Britain. In the earliest tradition ...
and the knights of the Round Table) and the Matter of France, seem distantly to originate in historical events of the 5th and 8th-centuries respectively, and became mythologised over the following centuries. In colloquial use, "myth" can also be used of a collectively held belief that has no basis in fact, or any false story.Myth
" ''
Lexico Lexico was a dictionary website that provided a collection of English and Spanish dictionaries produced by Oxford University Press (OUP), the publishing house of the University of Oxford. While the dictionary content on Lexico came from OUP, th ...
''. Oxford:
Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of the University of Oxford. It is the largest university press in the world, and its printing history dates back to the 1480s. Having been officially granted the legal right to print books ...
. 2020. Retrieved 21 May 2020. § 2.
This usage, which is often
pejorative A pejorative or slur is a word or grammatical form expressing a negative or a disrespectful connotation, a low opinion, or a lack of respect toward someone or something. It is also used to express criticism, hostility, or disregard. Sometimes, a ...
, arose from labelling the religious myths and beliefs of other cultures as incorrect, but it has spread to cover non-religious beliefs as well. As commonly used by folklorists and academics in other relevant fields, such as
anthropology Anthropology is the scientific study of humanity, concerned with human behavior, human biology, cultures, societies, and linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because i ...
, "myth" has no implication whether the narrative may be understood as true or otherwise. Among biblical scholars of both the Old and New Testament, the word "myth" has a technical meaning, in that it usually refers to "describe the actions of the other‐worldly in terms of this world" such as the Creation and the Fall.


Related terms


Mythology

In present use, "mythology" usually refers to the collection of myths of a group of people. For example,
Greek mythology A major branch of classical mythology, Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical co ...
,
Roman mythology Roman mythology is the body of myths of ancient Rome In modern historiography, ancient Rome refers to Roman civilisation from the founding of the city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5t ...
,
Celtic mythology Celtic mythology is the body of myths belonging to the Celts, Celtic peoples.Cunliffe, Barry, (1997) ''The Ancient Celts''. Oxford, Oxford University Press , pp. 183 (religion), 202, 204–8. Like other Iron Age Europe, Iron Age Europeans, Ce ...
and
Hittite mythology Hittite mythology and Hittite religion were the religious beliefs and practices of the Hittites The Hittites () were an Anatolian peoples, Anatolian people who played an important role in establishing first a kingdom in Kussara (befor ...
all describe the body of myths retold among those cultures. "Mythology" can also refer to the study of myths and mythologies.


Mythography

The compilation or description of myths is sometimes known as "mythography", a term also used for a scholarly anthology of myths or of the study of myths generally. Key mythographers in the Classical tradition include: *
Ovid Pūblius Ovidius Nāsō (; 20 March 43 BC – 17/18 AD), known in English as Ovid ( ), was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom he is often ranked as one of the ...
(43 BCE–17/18 CE), whose tellings of myths have been profoundly influential; *
Fabius Planciades Fulgentius Fabius Planciades Fulgentius () was a Latin literature, Latin writer of late antiquity. Four extant works are commonly attributed to him, as well as a possible fifth which some scholars include in compilations with much reservation. His mythography ...
, a Latin writer of the late-5th to early-6th centuries, whose ''Mythologies'' () gathered and gave moralistic interpretations of a wide range of myths; * the anonymous medieval Vatican Mythographers, who developed
anthologies In book publishing, an anthology is a collection of literary works chosen by the compiler; it may be a collection of plays, poems, short stories, songs or excerpts by different authors. In genre fiction, the term ''anthology'' typically catego ...
of Classical myths that remained influential to the end of the Middle Ages; and * Renaissance scholar Natalis Comes, whose ten-book ''Mythologiae'' became a standard source for classical mythology in later Renaissance Europe. Other prominent mythographies include the thirteenth-century ''
Prose Edda The ''Prose Edda'', also known as the ''Younger Edda'', ''Snorri's Edda'' ( is, Snorra Edda) or, historically, simply as ''Edda'', is an Old Norse textbook written in Iceland during the early 13th century. The work is often assumed to have been t ...
'' attributed to the Icelander
Snorri Sturluson Snorri Sturluson (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian, is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by ...
, which is the main surviving survey of
Norse Mythology Norse, Nordic, or Scandinavian mythology is the body of myths belonging to the North Germanic peoples, stemming from Old Norse religion and continuing after the Christianization of Scandinavia, and into the Nordic folklore of the modern period. ...
from the Middle Ages. Jeffrey G. Snodgrass (professor of anthropology at the
Colorado State University Colorado State University (Colorado State or CSU) is a Public university, public Land-grant university, land-grant research university in Fort Collins, Colorado. It is the flagship university of the Colorado State University System. Colorado S ...
) has termed India's '' Bhats'' as mythographers.


Myth Criticism

Myth criticism is a system of anthropological interpretation of culture created by French philosopher Gilbert Durand. Scholars have used myth criticism to explain the mythical roots of contemporary fiction, which means that modern myth criticism needs to be
interdisciplinary Interdisciplinarity or interdisciplinary studies involves the combination of multiple academic disciplines into one activity (e.g., a research project). It draws knowledge from several other fields like sociology, anthropology, psychology, e ...
. José Manuel Losada offers his own methodologic, hermeneutic and epistemological approach to myth. While assuming mythopoetical perspectives, Losada’s Cultural Myth Criticism takes a step further, incorporating the study of the transcendent dimension (its function, its disappearance) to evaluate the role of myth as a mirror of contemporary culture. Cultural Myth Criticism Cultural myth criticism, without abandoning the analysis of the symbolic, invades all cultural manifestations and delves into the difficulties in understanding myth today. This cultural myth criticism studies mythical manifestations in fields as wide as
literature Literature is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent centuries, the definition has expanded to ...
,
film A film also called a movie, motion picture, moving picture, picture, photoplay or (slang) flick is a work of visual art that simulates experiences and otherwise communicates ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty, or atmosphere ...
and
television Television, sometimes shortened to TV, is a telecommunication medium for transmitting moving images and sound. The term can refer to a television set, or the medium of Transmission (telecommunications), television transmission. Television ...
,
theater Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actor, actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage. The p ...
,
sculpture Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. Sculpture is the three-dimensional art work which is physically presented in the dimensions of height, width and depth. It is one of the plastic arts. Durable sc ...
,
painting Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface (called the "matrix" or "support"). The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and ai ...
,
video games Video games, also known as computer games, are electronic games that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joystick, game controller, controller, computer keyboard, keyboard, or motion sensing device to gener ...
,
music Music is generally defined as the The arts, art of arranging sound to create some combination of Musical form, form, harmony, melody, rhythm or otherwise Musical expression, expressive content. Exact definition of music, definitions of mu ...
,
dancing Dance is a performing art art form, form consisting of sequences of movement, either improvised or purposefully selected. This movement has aesthetic and often symbolism (arts), symbolic value. Dance can be categorized and described by its chor ...
,
the Internet The Internet (or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a ''internetworking, network of networks'' that consists ...
and other artistic fields.


Mythos

Because "myth" is sometimes used in a
pejorative A pejorative or slur is a word or grammatical form expressing a negative or a disrespectful connotation, a low opinion, or a lack of respect toward someone or something. It is also used to express criticism, hostility, or disregard. Sometimes, a ...
sense, some scholars have opted for "mythos" instead. "Mythos" now more commonly refers to its Aristotelian sense as a "plot point" or to a body of interconnected myths or stories, especially those belonging to a particular religious or cultural tradition."mythos, ''n.''" 2003. In ''
Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the first and foundational historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a com ...
'' (). Oxford:
Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of the University of Oxford. It is the largest university press in the world, and its printing history dates back to the 1480s. Having been officially granted the legal right to print books ...
.
It is sometimes used specifically for modern, fictional mythologies, such as the world building of H. P. Lovecraft.


Mythopoeia

''Mythopoeia'' ( + , 'I make myth') was termed by J. R. R. Tolkien, amongst others, to refer to the "conscious generation" of mythology. It was notoriously also suggested, separately, by Nazi ideologist
Alfred Rosenberg Alfred Ernst Rosenberg ( – 16 October 1946) was a Baltic German Nazism, Nazi theorist and ideologue. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by Dietrich Eckart and he held several important posts in the Government of Nazi Germany, ...
.


Etymology

The word "myth" comes from
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Greek Dark ...
''μῦθος'' (''mȳthos''), meaning 'speech, narrative, fiction, myth, plot'. In
Anglicised Anglicisation is the process by which a place or person becomes influenced by Culture of England, English culture or Culture of the United Kingdom, British culture, or a process of cultural and/or linguistic change in which something non-English ...
form, this Greek word began to be used in English (and was likewise adapted into other European languages) in the early 19th century, in a much narrower sense, as a scholarly term for " traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events." In turn, Ancient Greek (''mythología'', 'story', 'lore', 'legends', or 'the telling of stories') combines the word ''mȳthos'' with the suffix -''λογία'' (''-logia'', 'study') in order to mean 'romance, fiction, story-telling.'"-logy, ''comb. form.''" In ''
Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the first and foundational historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a com ...
'' (). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1903.
Accordingly,
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, wikt:Πλάτων, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greeks, Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thou ...
used ''mythología'' as a general term for 'fiction' or 'story-telling' of any kind. The Greek term ''mythología'' was then borrowed into
Late Latin Late Latin ( la, Latinitas serior) is the scholarly name for the form of Literary Latin of late antiquity.Roberts (1996), p. 537. English dictionary definitions of Late Latin date this period from the , and continuing into the 7th century in the ...
, occurring in the title of Latin author Fulgentius' 5th-century ''Mythologiæ'' to denote what we now call ''
classical mythology Classical mythology, Greco-Roman mythology, or Greek and Roman mythology is both the body of and the study of myths from the ancient Greeks and ancient Romans as they are used or transformed by reception theory, cultural reception. Along with Anc ...
''—i.e.,
Greco-Roman The Greco-Roman civilization (; also Greco-Roman culture; spelled Graeco-Roman in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth), as understood by modern scholars and writers, includes the geographical regions and countries that culturally—and s ...
etiological Etiology (pronounced ; alternatively: aetiology or ætiology) is the study of Causality, causation or origination. The word is derived from the Ancient Greek, Greek (''aitiología'') "giving a reason for" (, ''aitía'', "cause"); and (''wikt:-l ...
stories involving their gods. Fulgentius' ''Mythologiæ'' explicitly treated its subject matter as allegories requiring interpretation and not as true events. The Latin term was then adopted in
Middle French Middle French (french: moyen français) is a historical division of the French language that covers the period from the 14th to the 16th century. It is a period of transition during which: * the French language became clearly distinguished from t ...
as ''mythologie''. Whether from French or Latin usage, English adopted the word "mythology" in the 15th century, initially meaning 'the exposition of a myth or myths,' 'the interpretation of fables,' or 'a book of such expositions'. The word is first attested in
John Lydgate John Lydgate of Bury (c. 1370 – c. 1451) was an English monk and poet, born in Lidgate, near Haverhill, Suffolk, Haverhill, Suffolk, England. Lydgate's poetic output is prodigious, amounting, at a conservative count, to about 145,000 lines. He ...
's ''
Troy Book ''Troy Book'' is a Middle English poem by John Lydgate relating the history of Troy from its foundation through to the end of the Trojan War. It is in five books, comprising 30,117 lines in ten-syllable couplets. The poem's major source is Gui ...
'' (c. 1425).mythology, ''n.''
." ''
Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the first and foundational historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a com ...
'' (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2003. Accessed 20 Aug 2014.
From Lydgate until the 17th or 18th century, "mythology" meant a
moral A moral (from Latin ''morālis'') is a message that is conveyed or a lesson to be learned from a narrative, story or wikt:event, event. The moral may be left to the hearer, reader, or viewer to determine for themselves, or may be explicitly enca ...
,
fable Fable is a literary genre: a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse (poetry), verse, that features animals, legendary creatures, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature that are Anthropomorphism, anthropomorphized, and that illustrat ...
,
allegory As a Literature, literary device or art, artistic form, an allegory is a narrative or visual representation in which a character, place, or event can be interpreted to represent a hidden meaning with moral or political significance. Authors have ...
or a
parable A parable is a succinct, Didacticism, didactic story, in prose or Verse (poetry), verse, that illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces ...
, or collection of traditional stories, understood to be false. It came eventually to be applied to similar bodies of
traditional stories Traditional stories, or narrative, stories about traditions, differ from both fiction and nonfiction in that the importance of transmitting the story's worldview is generally understood to transcend an immediate need to establish its categorization ...
among other
polytheistic Polytheism is the belief in multiple deity, deities, which are usually assembled into a pantheon (religion), pantheon of Gender of God, gods and goddesses, along with their own religious sects and rituals. Polytheism is a type of theism. Within ...
cultures around the world. Thus "mythology" entered the English language before "myth".
Johnson Johnson is a surname of Anglo-Norman origin meaning "Son of John". It is the second most common in the United States and 154th most common in the world. As a common family name in Scotland, Johnson is occasionally a variation of ''Johnston'', a ...
's ''
Dictionary A dictionary is a listing of lexemes from the lexicon of one or more specific languages, often arranged Alphabetical order, alphabetically (or by radical-and-stroke sorting, radical and stroke for ideographic languages), which may include inf ...
'', for example, has an entry for mythology, but not for myth. Indeed, the Greek
loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word at least partly assimilated from one language (the donor language) into another language. This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because the ...
''mythos'' ( pl. ''mythoi'') and Latinate ''mythus'' (pl. ''mythi'') both appeared in English before the first example of "myth" in 1830.


Interpretations


Comparative mythology

Comparative mythology is a systematic comparison of myths from different cultures. It seeks to discover underlying themes that are common to the myths of multiple cultures. In some cases, comparative mythologists use the similarities between separate mythologies to argue that those mythologies have a common source. This source may inspire myths or provide a common "protomythology" that diverged into the mythologies of each culture.


Functionalism

A number of commentators have argued that myths function to form and shape society and social behaviour. Eliade argued that one of the foremost functions of myth is to establish models for behavior and that myths may provide a religious experience. By telling or reenacting myths, members of traditional societies detach themselves from the present, returning to the mythical age, thereby coming closer to the divine. Honko asserted that, in some cases, a society reenacts a myth in an attempt to reproduce the conditions of the mythical age. For example, it might reenact the healing performed by a god at the beginning of time in order to heal someone in the present. Similarly, Barthes argued that modern culture explores religious experience. Since it is not the job of science to define human morality, a religious experience is an attempt to connect with a perceived moral past, which is in contrast with the technological present. Pattanaik defines mythology as "the subjective truth of people communicated through stories, symbols and rituals." He says, "Facts are everybody's truth. Fiction is nobody's truth. Myths are somebody's truth."


Euhemerism

One theory claims that myths are distorted accounts of historical events. According to this theory, storytellers repeatedly elaborate upon historical accounts until the figures in those accounts gain the status of gods. For example, the myth of the wind-god
Aeolus In Greek mythology A major branch of classical mythology, Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosm ...
may have evolved from a historical account of a king who taught his people to use sails and interpret the winds.
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, , }; BC) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided in ...
(fifth-century BCE) and
Prodicus Prodicus of Ceos (; grc-gre, Πρόδικος ὁ Κεῖος, ''Pródikos ho Keios''; c. 465 BC – c. 395 BC) was a Greek philosophy, Greek philosopher, and part of the first generation of Sophists. He came to Athens as ambassador from Ceos, a ...
made claims of this kind. This theory is named ''
euhemerism Euhemerism () is an approach to the interpretation of mythology in which mythological accounts are presumed to have originated from real historical events or personages. Euhemerism supposes that historical accounts become myths as they are exagge ...
'' after mythologist Euhemerus (c. 320 BCE), who suggested that Greek gods developed from legends about humans.


Allegory

Some theories propose that myths began as allegories for natural phenomena:
Apollo Apollo, grc, Ἀπόλλωνος, Apóllōnos, label=genitive , ; , grc-dor, Ἀπέλλων, Apéllōn, ; grc, Ἀπείλων, Apeílōn, label=Arcadocypriot Greek Arcadocypriot, or southern Achaeans (tribe), Achaean, was an ancient ...
represents the sun,
Poseidon Poseidon (; grc-gre, wikt:Ποσειδῶν, Ποσειδῶν) was one of the Twelve Olympians in Religion in ancient Greece, ancient Greek religion and Greek mythology, myth, god of the sea, storms, earthquakes and horses.Burkert 1985pp. 1 ...
represents water, and so on. According to another theory, myths began as allegories for philosophical or spiritual concepts:
Athena Athena or Athene, often given the epithet Pallas, is an ancient Greek religion, ancient Greek goddess associated with wisdom, warfare, and handicraft who was later syncretism, syncretized with the Roman goddess Minerva. Athena was regarded ...
represents wise judgment,
Aphrodite Aphrodite ( ; grc-gre, Ἀφροδίτη, Aphrodítē; , , ) is an ancient Greek religion, ancient Greek goddess associated with love, lust, beauty, pleasure, passion (emotion), passion, and procreation. She was syncretized with the Roman god ...
romantic desire, and so on. Müller supported an allegorical theory of myth. He believed myths began as allegorical descriptions of nature and gradually came to be interpreted literally. For example, a poetic description of the sea as "raging" was eventually taken literally and the sea was then thought of as a raging god.


Personification

Some thinkers claimed that myths result from the
personification Personification occurs when a thing or abstraction is represented as a person, in literature or art, as a type of anthropomorphism, anthropomorphic metaphor. The type of personification discussed here excludes passing literary effects such as "Sh ...
of objects and forces. According to these thinkers, the ancients worshiped natural phenomena, such as fire and air, gradually deifying them. For example, according to this theory, ancients tended to view things as gods, not as mere objects. Thus, they described natural events as acts of personal gods, giving rise to myths.


Ritualism

According to the myth-ritual theory, myth is tied to ritual. In its most extreme form, this theory claims myths arose to explain rituals. This claim was first put forward by Smith, who argued that people begin performing rituals for reasons not related to myth. Forgetting the original reason for a ritual, they account for it by inventing a myth and claiming the ritual commemorates the events described in that myth.
James George Frazer Sir James George Frazer (; 1 January 1854 – 7 May 1941) was a Scottish social anthropologist and folklorist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that p ...
— author of "
The Golden Bough ''The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion'' (retitled ''The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion'' in its second edition) is a wide-ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion, written by the Scottish anthropologist Sir ...
", a book on the comparative study of mythology and religion — argued that humans started out with a belief in magical rituals; later, they began to lose faith in magic and invented myths about gods, reinterpreting their rituals as religious rituals intended to appease the gods.


Academic discipline history

Historically, important approaches to the study of mythology have included those of Vico, Schelling,
Schiller Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (, short: ; 10 November 17599 May 1805) was a German playwright A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes play (theatre), plays. Etymology The word "play" is from Middle English pleye, from Ol ...
,
Jung Carl Gustav Jung ( ; ; 26 July 1875 – 6 June 1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. Jung's work has been influential in the fields of psychiatry, anthropology, archaeology, literature, philo ...
,
Freud Sigmund Freud ( , ; born Sigismund Schlomo Freud; 6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for evaluating and treating psychopathology, pathologies explained as originatin ...
, Lévy-Bruhl, Lévi-Strauss, Frye, the Soviet school, and the
Myth and Ritual School The Cambridge Ritualists were a recognised group of classical scholars, mostly in Cambridge, England, including Jane Ellen Harrison, F.M. Cornford, Gilbert Murray (actually from the University of Oxford), A. B. Cook, and others. They earned this ti ...
.


Ancient Greece

The critical interpretation of myth began with the Presocratics. Euhemerus was one of the most important pre-modern mythologists. He interpreted myths as accounts of actual historical events, though distorted over many retellings. Sallustius divided myths into five categories: *
theological Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the Divinity, divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an Discipline (academia), academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the ...
; * physical (or concerning
natural law Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature, and based on values intrinsic to human nature that can be Deductive reasoning, deduced and applied independently of positive law ( ...
); *
animistic Animism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around prese ...
(or concerning soul); * material; and * mixed, which concerns myths that show the interaction between two or more of the previous categories and are particularly used in initiations.
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, wikt:Πλάτων, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greeks, Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thou ...
condemned poetic myth when discussing education in the ''
Republic A republic () is a "sovereign state, state in which Power (social and political), power rests with the people or their Representative democracy, representatives; specifically a state without a monarchy" and also a "government, or system of gov ...
''. His critique was primarily on the grounds that the uneducated might take the stories of gods and heroes literally. Nevertheless, he constantly referred to myths throughout his writings. As
Platonism Platonism is the philosophy of Plato and school of thought, philosophical systems closely derived from it, though contemporary platonists do not necessarily accept all of the doctrines of Plato. Platonism had a profound effect on Western though ...
developed in the phases commonly called
Middle Platonism Middle Platonism is the modern name given to a stage in the development of Platonic philosophy, lasting from about 90 BC – when Antiochus of Ascalon rejected the Academic skepticism , scepticism of the new Academy – until the develop ...
and
neoplatonism Neoplatonism is a strand of Platonism, Platonic philosophy that emerged in the 3rd century AD against the background of Hellenistic philosophy and Hellenistic religion, religion. The term does not encapsulate a set of ideas as much as a chain of ...
, writers such as
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; – after AD 119) was a Greek people, Greek Middle Platonism, Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, Biography, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo (D ...
, Porphyry,
Proclus Proclus Lycius (; 8 February 412 – 17 April 485), called Proclus the Successor ( grc-gre, Πρόκλος ὁ Διάδοχος, ''Próklos ho Diádokhos''), was a Greek philosophy, Greek Neoplatonism, Neoplatonist Philosophy, philosopher, ...
, Olympiodorus, and
Damascius Damascius (; grc-gre, Δαμάσκιος, 458 – after 538), known as "the last of the Athenian Neoplatonists," was the last scholarch of the neoplatonic Athenian school. He was one of the neoplatonic philosophers who left Athens after la ...
wrote explicitly about the symbolic interpretation of traditional and
Orphic Orphism (more rarely Orphicism; grc, Ὀρφικά, Orphiká) is the name given to a set of religious beliefs and practices originating in the ancient Greece, ancient Greek and Hellenistic world, associated with literature ascribed to the mythi ...
myths. Mythological themes were consciously employed in literature, beginning with
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') (born ) was a Greek poet who is credited as the author of the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'', two epic poems that are foundational works of ancient Greek literature. Homer is considered one of the ...
. The resulting work may expressly refer to a mythological background without itself becoming part of a body of myths (
Cupid and Psyche Cupid and Psyche is a story originally from ''Metamorphoses'' (also called ''The Golden Ass''), written in the 2nd century AD by Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis (or Platonicus). The tale concerns the overcoming of obstacles to the love between Psyc ...
). Medieval romance in particular plays with this process of turning myth into literature. ''
Euhemerism Euhemerism () is an approach to the interpretation of mythology in which mythological accounts are presumed to have originated from real historical events or personages. Euhemerism supposes that historical accounts become myths as they are exagge ...
'', as stated earlier, refers to the rationalization of myths, putting themes formerly imbued with mythological qualities into pragmatic contexts. An example of this would be following a cultural or religious paradigm shift (notably the re-interpretation of
pagan Paganism (from classical Latin ''pāgānus'' "rural", "rustic", later "civilian") is a term first used in the fourth century by early Christianity, early Christians for people in the Roman Empire who practiced polytheism, or ethnic religions ot ...
mythology following
Christianization Christianization ( or Christianisation) is to make Christian; to imbue with Christian principles; to become Christian. It can apply to the conversion of an individual, a practice, a place or a whole society. It began in the Roman Empire ...
).


European Renaissance

Interest in
polytheistic Polytheism is the belief in multiple deity, deities, which are usually assembled into a pantheon (religion), pantheon of Gender of God, gods and goddesses, along with their own religious sects and rituals. Polytheism is a type of theism. Within ...
mythology revived during the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a Periodization, period in History of Europe, European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity and covering the 15th and 16th centuries, characterized by an e ...
, with early works of mythography appearing in the sixteenth century, among them the '' Theologia Mythologica'' (1532).


19th century

The first modern, Western scholarly theories of myth appeared during the second half of the 19th century—at the same time as "myth" was adopted as a scholarly term in European languages. They were driven partly by a new interest in Europe's ancient past and
vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language is in contrast with a "standard language". It refers to the language or dialect that is spoken by people that are inhabiting a particular country or region. The vernacular is typically the native language, n ...
culture, associated with
Romantic Nationalism Romantic nationalism (also national romanticism, organic nationalism, identity nationalism) is the form of nationalism in which the state claims its political legitimacy as an organic consequence of the unity of those it governs. This includes ...
and epitomised by the research of
Jacob Grimm Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm (4 January 1785 – 20 September 1863), also known as Ludwig Karl, was a German author, linguist, philologist, jurist, and folklore studies, folklorist. He is known as the discoverer of Grimm's law of linguistics, th ...
(1785–1863). This movement drew European scholars' attention not only to Classical myths, but also material now associated with
Norse mythology Norse, Nordic, or Scandinavian mythology is the body of myths belonging to the North Germanic peoples, stemming from Old Norse religion and continuing after the Christianization of Scandinavia, and into the Nordic folklore of the modern period. ...
,
Finnish mythology Finnish mythology is a commonly applied description of the folklore of Finnish paganism, of which a modern revival is practiced by a small percentage of the Finnish people. It has many features shared with Estonian and other Finnic mythologies, ...
, and so forth. Western theories were also partly driven by Europeans' efforts to comprehend and control the cultures, stories and religions they were encountering through
colonialism Colonialism is a practice or policy of control by one people or power over other people or areas, often by establishing colonies and generally with the aim of economic dominance. In the process of colonisation, colonisers may impose their relig ...
. These encounters included both extremely old texts such as the
Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose in South Asia after its predecessor languages had Trans-cul ...
''
Rigveda The ''Rigveda'' or ''Rig Veda'' ( ', from ' "praise" and ' "knowledge") is an ancient Indian collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns (''sūktas''). It is one of the four sacred canonical Hindu texts ('' śruti'') known as the Vedas F ...
'' and the Sumerian ''
Epic of Gilgamesh The ''Epic of Gilgamesh'' () is an epic poetry, epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia, and is regarded as the earliest surviving notable literature and the second oldest religious text, after the Pyramid Texts. The literary history of Gilgamesh ...
'', and current oral narratives such as
mythologies of the indigenous peoples of the Americas The indigenous peoples of the Americas comprise numerous different cultures. Each has its own mythologies. Some are quite distinct, but certain themes are shared across the cultural boundaries. Northern America There is no single mythology ...
or stories told in
traditional African religions The traditional beliefs and practices of African people are highly diverse beliefs that include various ethnic religions.Encyclopedia of African Religion (Sage, 2009) Molefi Kete Asante Generally, these traditions are oral tradition, oral rather ...
. Shippey, Tom. 2005. "A Revolution Reconsidered: Mythography and Mythology in the Nineteenth Century." Pp. 1–28 in ''The Shadow-Walkers: Jacob Grimm’s Mythology of the Monstrous'', edited by T. Shippey. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. pp. 4–13. The intellectual context for nineteenth-century scholars was profoundly shaped by emerging ideas about
evolution Evolution is change in the heredity, heritable Phenotypic trait, characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the Gene expression, expressions of genes, which are passed on from parent to ...
. These ideas included the recognition that many Eurasian languages—and therefore, conceivably, stories—were all descended from a lost common ancestor (the
Indo-European language The Indo-European languages are a language family native to the languages of Europe, overwhelming majority of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the northern Indian subcontinent. Some European languages of this family, English language, Englis ...
) which could rationally be reconstructed through the comparison of its descendant languages. They also included the idea that cultures might evolve in ways comparable to species. In general, 19th-century theories framed myth as a failed or obsolete mode of thought, often by interpreting myth as the primitive counterpart of modern science within a unilineal framework that imagined that human cultures are travelling, at different speeds, along a linear path of cultural development.


Nature

One of the dominant mythological theories of the latter 19th century was ''nature mythology'', the foremost exponents of which included Max Müller and
Edward Burnett Tylor Sir Edward Burnett Tylor (2 October 18322 January 1917) was an English anthropologist, and professor of anthropology. Tylor's ideas typify 19th-century unilineal evolution, cultural evolutionism. In his works ''Primitive Culture'' (1871) an ...
. This theory posited that "primitive man" was primarily concerned with the natural world. It tended to interpret myths that seemed distasteful to European
Victorians In the history of the United Kingdom and the British Empire, the Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. The era followed the Georgian era, Georgian period and preceded ...
—such as tales about sex, incest, or cannibalism—as metaphors for natural phenomena like agricultural
fertility Fertility is the capability to produce offspring In biology, offspring are the young creation of living organisms, produced either by a Asexual reproduction, single organism or, in the case of sexual reproduction, two organisms. Collective ...
.McKinnell, John. 2005. ''Meeting the Other in Norse Myth and Legend''. Cambridge:
Brewer Brewing is the production of beer by steeping a starch source (commonly cereal grains, the most popular of which is barley) in water and #Fermenting, fermenting the resulting sweet liquid with Yeast#Beer, yeast. It may be done in a brewery ...
. pp. 14-15.
Unable to conceive impersonal natural laws, early humans tried to explain natural phenomena by attributing souls to inanimate objects, thus giving rise to
animism Animism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around prese ...
. According to Tylor, human thought evolved through stages, starting with mythological ideas and gradually progressing to scientific ideas. Müller also saw myth as originating from language, even calling myth a "disease of language." He speculated that myths arose due to the lack of abstract nouns and
neuter gender In linguistics, grammatical gender system is a specific form of noun class system, where nouns are assigned with gender categories that are often not related to their real-world qualities. In languages with grammatical gender, most or all nouns ...
in ancient languages.
Anthropomorphic Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. Personification is the related attribution of human form and characteristics t ...
figures of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that intentionally deviates from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetorical effect. Figures of speech are traditionally classified into ''scheme (linguistics), schemes,'' whi ...
, necessary in such languages, were eventually taken literally, leading to the idea that natural phenomena were in actuality conscious or divine. Not all scholars, not even all 19th-century scholars, accepted this view. Lucien Lévy-Bruhl claimed that "the primitive mentality is a condition of the human mind and not a stage in its historical development." Recent scholarship, noting the fundamental lack of evidence for "nature mythology" interpretations among people who actually circulated myths, has likewise abandoned the key ideas of "nature mythology."


Ritual

Frazer saw myths as a misinterpretation of magical rituals, which were themselves based on a mistaken idea of natural law. This idea was central to the "
myth and ritual Myth and ritual are two central components of religious practice. Although myth and ritual are commonly united as parts of religion, the exact relationship between them has been a matter of controversy among scholars. One of the approaches to thi ...
" school of thought. According to Frazer, humans begin with an unfounded belief in impersonal magical laws. When they realize applications of these laws do not work, they give up their belief in natural law in favor of a belief in personal gods controlling nature, thus giving rise to religious myths. Meanwhile, humans continue practicing formerly magical rituals through force of habit, reinterpreting them as reenactments of mythical events. Finally, humans come to realize nature follows natural laws, and they discover their true nature through science. Here again, science makes myth obsolete as humans progress "from magic through religion to science." Segal asserted that by pitting mythical thought against modern scientific thought, such theories imply modern humans must abandon myth.


20th century

The earlier 20th century saw major work developing psychoanalytical approaches to interpreting myth, led by
Sigmund Freud Sigmund Freud ( , ; born Sigismund Schlomo Freud; 6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for evaluating and treating psychopathology, pathologies explained as originatin ...
, who, drawing inspiration from Classical myth, began developing the concept of the
Oedipus complex The Oedipus complex (also spelled Œdipus complex) is an idea in psychoanalytic theory. The Complex (psychology), complex is an ostensibly universal phase in the life of a young boy in which, to try to immediately satisfy basic desires, he Uncons ...
in his 1899 '' The Interpretation of Dreams''.
Jung Carl Gustav Jung ( ; ; 26 July 1875 – 6 June 1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. Jung's work has been influential in the fields of psychiatry, anthropology, archaeology, literature, philo ...
likewise tried to understand the psychology behind world myths. Jung asserted that all humans share certain innate unconscious psychological forces, which he called ''
archetypes The concept of an archetype (; ) appears in areas relating to behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English) is the range of Action (philosophy), actions and mannerisms made by individuals, organisms, systems or Artific ...
''. He believed similarities between the myths of different cultures reveals the existence of these universal archetypes. The mid-20th century saw the influential development of a
structuralist theory of mythology In structural anthropology, Claude Lévi-Strauss Claude Lévi-Strauss (, ; 28 November 1908 – 30 October 2009) was a French anthropologist and ethnologist whose work was key in the development of the theories of structuralism and struc ...
, led by Lévi-Strauss. Strauss argued that myths reflect patterns in the mind and interpreted those patterns more as fixed mental structures, specifically pairs of opposites (good/evil, compassionate/callous), rather than unconscious feelings or urges. Meanwhile, Bronislaw Malinowski developed analyses of myths focusing on their social functions in the real world. He is associated with the idea that myths such as origin stories might provide a "mythic charter"—a legitimisation—for cultural norms and
social institutions Institutions are humanly devised structures of rules and norms that shape and constrain individual behavior. All definitions of institutions generally entail that there is a level of persistence and continuity. Laws, rules, social conventions a ...
. Thus, following the Structuralist Era (c. 1960s–1980s), the predominant
anthropological Anthropology is the Science, scientific study of Human, humanity, concerned with human behavior, human biology, cultures, society, societies, and linguistics, in both the present and past, including Homo, past human species. Social anthropolog ...
and
sociological Sociology is a social science Social science is one of the branches of science, devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to r ...
approaches to myth increasingly treated myth as a form of narrative that can be studied, interpreted, and analyzed like ideology, history, and culture. In other words, myth is a form of understanding and telling stories that are connected to power, political structures, and political and economic interests. These approaches contrast with approaches, such as those of
Joseph Campbell Joseph John Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) was an American writer. He was a professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College who worked in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work covers many aspects of the ...
and Eliade, which hold that myth has some type of essential connection to ultimate sacred meanings that transcend cultural specifics. In particular, myth was studied in relation to history from diverse social sciences. Most of these studies share the assumption that history and myth are not distinct in the sense that history is factual, real, accurate, and truth, while myth is the opposite. In the 1950s, Barthes published a series of essays examining modern myths and the process of their creation in his book ''
Mythologies Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. This includes oral traditions such as Narrative, tales, legends, proverbs and jokes. Th ...
'', which stood as an early work in the emerging post-structuralist approach to mythology, which recognised myths' existence in the modern world and in
popular culture Popular culture (also called mass culture or pop culture) is generally recognized by members of a society as a set of cultural practice, practices, beliefs, artistic output (also known as, popular art or mass art) and cultural objects, objects ...
. The 20th century saw rapid
secularisation In sociology, secularization (or secularisation) is the transformation of a society from close identification with religious values and institutions toward non-religious values and Secularity, secular institutions. The ''secularization thesis'' ex ...
in
Western culture image:Da Vinci Vitruve Luc Viatour.jpg, Leonardo da Vinci's ''Vitruvian Man''. Based on the correlations of ideal Body proportions, human proportions with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius in Book III of his treatise '' ...
. This made Western scholars more willing to analyse narratives in the
Abrahamic religions The Abrahamic religions are a group of religions centered around worship of the God in Abrahamic religions, God of Abraham. Abraham, a Hebrews , Hebrew patriarch, is extensively mentioned throughout Abrahamic religious scriptures such as the B ...
as myths; theologians such as
Rudolf Bultmann Rudolf Karl Bultmann (; 20 August 1884 – 30 July 1976) was a German Lutheran theologian and professor of the New Testament at the University of Marburg. He was one of the major figures of early-20th-century biblical studies. A prominent critic ...
argued that a modern Christianity needed to demythologize; and other religious scholars embraced the idea that the mythical status of
Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions are a group of religions centered around worship of the God in Abrahamic religions, God of Abraham. Abraham, a Hebrews , Hebrew patriarch, is extensively mentioned throughout Abrahamic religious scriptures such as the B ...
narratives was a legitimate feature of their importance. This, in his appendix to ''Myths, Dreams and Mysteries'', and in ''The Myth of the Eternal Return'', Eliade attributed modern humans’ anxieties to their rejection of myths and the sense of the sacred. The Christian theologian
Conrad Hyers Merritt Conrad Hyers (1933–2013) was an American history of religion, historian of religion and Ordination, ordained Presbyterianism, Presbyterian Minister (Christianity), minister. He taught for many years at Gustavus Adolphus College, and wrote ...
wrote:


21st century

Both in 19th-century research, which tended to see existing records of stories and folklore as imperfect fragments of partially lost myths, and in 20th-century structuralist work, which sought to identify underlying patterns and structures in often diverse versions of a given myth, there had been a tendency to synthesise sources to attempt to reconstruct what scholars supposed to be more perfect or underlying forms of myths. From the late 20th century, researchers influenced by
postmodernism Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or mode of discourseNuyen, A.T., 1992. The Role of Rhetorical Devices in Postmodernist Discourse. Philosophy & Rhetoric, pp.183–194. characterized by skepticism Skepticism, also spelled scepticism ...
tended instead to argue that each account of a given myth has its own cultural significance and meaning, and argued that rather than representing degradation from a once more perfect form, myths are inherently plastic and variable. There is, consequently, no such thing as the 'original version' or 'original form' of a myth. One prominent example of this movement was A. K. Ramanujan's essay " Three Hundred Ramayanas". Correspondingly, scholars challenged the precedence that had once been given to texts as a medium for mythology, arguing that other media, such as the visual arts or even landscape and place-naming, could be as or more important.


Modernity

Scholars in the field of
cultural studies Cultural studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines the political dynamics of contemporary culture (including popular culture) and its historical foundations. Cultural studies researchers generally investigate how cultural practices re ...
research how myth has worked itself into modern discourses. Mythological discourse can reach greater audiences than ever before via digital media. Various mythic elements appear in popular culture, as well as
television Television, sometimes shortened to TV, is a telecommunication medium for transmitting moving images and sound. The term can refer to a television set, or the medium of Transmission (telecommunications), television transmission. Television ...
,
cinema Cinema may refer to: Film * Cinematography, the art of motion-picture photography * Film or movie, a series of still images that create the illusion of a moving image ** Film industry, the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking * ...
and
video game Video games, also known as computer games, are electronic games that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joystick, game controller, controller, computer keyboard, keyboard, or motion sensing device to gener ...
s. Although myth was traditionally transmitted through the oral tradition on a small scale, the film industry has enabled filmmakers to transmit myths to large audiences via film. In Jungian psychology myths are the expression of a culture or society’s goals, fears, ambitions and dreams. The basis of modern visual storytelling is rooted in the mythological tradition. Many contemporary films rely on ancient myths to construct narratives.
The Walt Disney Company The Walt Disney Company, commonly known as Disney (), is an American multinational mass media and entertainment industry, entertainment conglomerate (company), conglomerate headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios (Burbank), Walt Disney Stud ...
is well-known among cultural study scholars for "reinventing" traditional childhood myths. While many films are not as obvious as Disney fairy tales, the plots of many films are based on the rough structure of myths. Mythological archetypes, such as the cautionary tale regarding the abuse of technology, battles between gods and creation stories, are often the subject of major film productions. These films are often created under the guise of
cyberpunk Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a dystopian Futurism, futuristic setting that tends to focus on a "combination of low-life, lowlife and high tech", featuring futuristic technological and scientific achievements, such as artificial in ...
action film Action film is a film genre in which the protagonist is thrust into a series of events that typically involve violence and physical feats. The genre tends to feature a mostly resourceful hero struggling against incredible odds, which include life ...
s,
fantasy Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction involving Magic (supernatural), magical elements, typically set in a fictional universe and sometimes inspired by mythology and folklore. Its roots are in oral traditions, which then became fantasy ...
,
drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on Radio drama, radio or television.Elam (1980, 98). Considered as a g ...
s and apocalyptic tales. 21st-century films such as '' Clash of the Titans'', '' Immortals'' and ''
Thor Thor (; from non, Þórr ) is a prominent god in Germanic paganism. In Norse mythology, he is a hammer-wielding æsir, god associated with lightning, thunder, storms, sacred trees and groves in Germanic paganism and mythology, sacred groves ...
'' continue the trend of using traditional mythology to frame modern plots. Authors use mythology as a basis for their books, such as Rick Riordan, whose Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is situated in a modern-day world where the Greek deities are manifest.


See also

* List of mythologies * List of mythological objects * List of mythology books and sources * Magic and mythology *
Mythopoeia Mythopoeia ( grc, , , myth-making), or mythopoesis, is a narrative genre in modern literature and film where an artificial or fictionalized mythology is created by the writer of prose fiction, prose, poetry, or other literary forms. This meaning ...
, artificially constructed mythology, mainly for the purpose of storytelling


Notes


Sources

* *
Myth
". ''
Encyclopædia Britannica The (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-d ...
''. 2009. 21 March 2009. * * * * * * * * * * * * * — (1997). "Binary Opposition in Myth: The Propp/Levi-Strauss Debate in Retrospect." '' Western Folklore'' 56(Winter):39–50. * ** ** ** * * *
Fabiani, Paolo "The Philosophy of the Imagination in Vico and Malebranche". F.U.P. (Florence UP), English edition 2009.
PDF * * * * * * * * * * * * *Northup, Lesley (2006). "Myth-Placed Priorities: Religion and the Study of Myth." '' Religious Studies Review'' 32(1):5–10. . . * * * Simpson, Jacqueline, and , eds. 2003. "Myths." In ''A Dictionary of English Folklore''. Oxford: Oxford University Press. . * * *


External links

{{Authority control Greek words and phrases