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Classical Myth: Chapter One
What is a myth?
Originally the greek word mythos meant “authoritative speech/story/plot”
Myth: a traditional story with collective importance
Considering myth as a story here are the components:
oBeginning: characters are introduced in a situation, usually one of
conflict with other characters, misfortune or themselves
oMiddle: situation becomes more complex, tension and conflict develop
oEnd: tension is resolved
Elements of myths:
oCharacters: can be gods, goddesses, supernatural beings, humans, or
even animals that speak and act in the manner of human beings
oSettings: time and place in which the action of story unfolds. They
always take place in the distant past or in a shadowy time altogether
outside human chronology. It could take place in an actual place (eg
Athens) or an obscure one where no one’s ever visited (the underworld,
oPlot: the beginning, middle and end
They are considered traditional because they are passed down from one
generation to another orally. (not written down)
The collective importance part comes from the fact that they, the myths, hold
meanings for entire groups of people and not just individual
oDescribes patterns of behaviour that are used as models for members
in society in times of crises.
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Myths are anonymous, they have no author
Logos: Greek word for account. It is a reasoned explanation of something
that emphasizes a continuing causal sequence
oWhere the suffix –logy comes from
There are many different versions of each myth and you can’t just one of them
is the correct version and the others are variants of that one. All of the
versions of the story collectively are the myth. (eg the myth of Oedipus
contains all the variants)
oSome variants are better known than others.
Types of myths…
The difference between the types of myths is the nature of the principle
characters and the function that the story fulfilled for the listeners and the
Divine myths: aka true myths/myths proper; stories in which supernatural
beings are the main actors; generally they explain why the world, or an aspect
of it, is the way it is.
Legends: aka sagas; stories of the great deeds of human heroes/heroines.
They narrate the events of the human past. Originally they are morally
uplifting stories about Christian saints.
Folktales: stories whose actors are ordinary people or animals. They
entertain audiences and teach/justify customary patterns of behaviour
These supernatural beings who are main characters as superior to humans in
power and splendor
They sometimes take on the form of animals and humans when they want
and can control forces of nature (wind, thunder, storm, rain, fire, water etc.)
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