Pondering on Myths


We are all familiar with myths of old.  There’s the rich Greek, Roman, and Norse mythologies that still inspire stories today.  There are lesser-known myths from Babylon, Assyria.  Then there are the tales and legends from Japan which influence video games.  There is folklore of werewolves, vampires, and zombies, monsters that have become especially popular again in recent years.   What is a myth?  Why do they captivate us so much?  As a Fantasy writer, it is undeniable that myths are a heavy influence on me, therefore I feel it is important to take a closer look at.

The term “myth” has come to mean something that isn’t true, especially superstitious or spiritual beliefs held in ancient times.  It is also applied to a widely held belief that is untrue.  However, I feel that is a watered-down view of myths.  Concerning mythology of ancient times, they were stories rooted in fact intended to convey a philosophical or moral message.  Essentially, a myth may or may not be real, but that doesn’t diminish its intent or meaning.  I believe that most myths are rooted in truth, whether it the truth is found in the message or something else.  Even modern myths I find it likely to be rooted in some truth, obviously not all.

Stories of strange encounters or haunting are intriguing, especially for me since I’m a writer.  Some are of course more believable than others.  In the modern age of science, it is difficult for those of us who live in the west to see truth in myths or mythology. It is how we were trained to think, which isn’t necessarily bad.  However, we lose something if we dismiss a story simply because it doesn’t fall nearly into a scientific worldview.  That’s not to say reason and science should be thrown out the window, not at all.  The point is that there can be truths revealed about a person or a people group when it comes to the myths they believe.  That’s because a myth is something Legendary, popular, a well-known story passed down.  An example of what I mean is Abraham Lincoln.  He was a real man who had real accomplishments, but he is a legend among American presidents.  He has become a symbol of the office itself.  Many things he is credited for aren’t true or partially true, some things are true.  It would be silly to say Abe Lincoln didn’t exist, but at the same time it wouldn’t be wise to believe everything culture says about him.  George Washington and Julius Cesar are just a couple more examples of real myths.

Myths, especially those from ancient times, are enthralling and far deeper and richer than we can often realize.  It is the natural reaction of a modern westerner to dismiss something that isn’t completely factual or can be reproduced in a lab.  Again, rationality should never be thrown away, but there is wisdom in acknowledging the value of myths.  For myths don’t have to be untrue in order to be classified as a myth.