Myths & Legends

Myths & Legends

About Myths & Legends

"The term mythology can refer either to a collection of myths (a mythos, e.g., Inca mythology) or to the study of myths (e.g., comparative mythology). According to Alan Dundes, a myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind assumed their present form, although, in a very broad sense, the word can refer to any traditional story. Bruce Lincoln defines myth as "ideology in narrative form". Myths may arise as either truthful depictions or overelaborated accounts of historical events, as allegory for or personification of natural phenomena, or as an explanation of ritual. They are transmitted to convey religious or idealized experience, to establish behavioral models, and to teach.
Early rival classifications of Greek mythos by Euhemerus, Plato's Phaedrus, and Sallustius were developed by the neoplatonists and revived by Renaissance mythographers as in the Theologia mythologica (1532). Nineteenth-century comparative mythology reinterpreted myth as evolution toward science (E. B. Tylor), "disease of language" (Max Müller), or misinterpretation of magical ritual (James Frazer). Later interpretations rejected opposition between myth and science, such as Jungian archetypes, Joseph Campbell's "metaphor of spiritual potentiality", or Lévi-Strauss's fixed mental architecture. Tension between Campbell's comparative search for monomyth or Ur-myth and anthropological mythologists' skepticism of universal origin has marked the 20th century. Further, modern mythopoeia such as fantasy novels, manga, and urban legend, with many competing artificial mythoi acknowledged as fiction, supports the idea of myth as ongoing social practice."

New Questions for Myths & Legends

See All Questions