Lecture 4 of the course
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What is Myth?
-Divine Myths, Legends and Folktales.
-From the Greek word mythos.
-Myth can be defined as a “traditional story”.
-With a plotline and characters like other stories
-Set in the distant past, but sometimes in actual places.
-Often part of an oral tradition, anonymous.
-Not something untrue as “myth” is often used today
-Different versions of the same myth can coexist
-Main characters are divine or supernatural (gods)
-Include Creation Myths (theogonies, cosmogonies,etc.) and other aetiologies of the natural world.
-Gods may be natural elements and/or real personalities with human weakness.
-Myth is separate from religious belief and ritual.
-Concern the great deeds of human heroes of the past, although gods can still play a part.
-Heroes are often semi-divine, and are members of royalty or the nobility.
-Ancient people believed in such legends as we regard history, helping to explain the past.
-There is usually a kernel of truth behind the legends
-Many heroes ay have once been real kings. Ex-> the Trojan war. Achilles.
-Includes aetiological explanations of social traditions
-Main characters are ordinary people, not gods or heroes
-But in folktale fables, characters are animals
-Focus on entertainment, but also justify social / cultural traditions.
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-Folktales combine motifs that appear again and again
-like a treasure guarded by a monster
-Over 700 types of folktales have been catalogued.
-Ex-> Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood are both Folktales.
The Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld
-2 versions of this story survive.
-The Sumerian version is 410 lines long
-Newer Akkadian version is only 140 lines long.
-This myth is connected with Akkadian cultures.
-Akkadian version found in Old Babylonian and Assyrian contexts
-Probably connected with cult ritual.
Taklimtu ritual in Nineveh concerning the bathing, anointing and lying – in-state of the statue of
Descent of Ishtar
-Ishtar is determined to go to the Underworld
Why? We don’t know
Kurnugi : Land of No Return
Erkalla: The Great City
Egalgina: Everlasting Palace
-Description of the Underworld:
-No possibility of return
-dead eat dust for food and clay for bread
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