Saturday, August 22, 2015

What Makes a Myth?

Anyone can tell a story; however, few stories truly capture their authors and intrigue their audiences so much as mythologies. Perhaps we all dream of a world beyond our own in order to make sense of what we see and to cope with difficult times, or perhaps we are simply intrigued by the notion of fantasy and empowered by stories of bravery and epic journey. Myths are created, often as origin stories or explanations of the history of some culture. Whether reflective of realistic or fictional cultures, each myth presents at least two major elements: interesting characters and the somewhat extraordinary tasks they face along their journey. Some of our most loved characters, from Frodo Baggins and Beowulf to even the more modern Harry Potter, exist as heroic figures who present historic change in their cultures after completing a perilous set of tasks. Frodo's journey to destroy the ring also reflects a time of extensive warfare and strife throughout Middle-earth, and his saga continues into the days after the ring is destroyed in order to show the effect his journey holds on the future of his world. Even Merry and Pippin, in their transformed militaristic states at the end of the third book, represent change through their conquering of the men who take over the Shire. If Middle-earth were a real place and not a fictional world, we as men would consider the fight to destroy the Ring of Power as one of the most significant factors which led to the Age of Men. We would celebrate Frodo, Gandalf, Galadriel, and the Kings of old. Mythologies, in truth, are in some ways overstatements of everyday conflict, presented in the form of journeys taken on by extraordinary heroes with special characteristics or supernatural friends and enemies. Perhaps we create myths as motivation. Personally, I think the study of how and why mankind creates beings beyond ourselves (for example, elves and wizards) is almost more interesting than questioning why mankind would feel a need to create myth in general.

1 comment:

Manwë said...

I agree with your idea that myths serve as a form of expression, that they are “overstatements of everyday conflict,” though I would further expand on the idea by stating that anyone could potentially become a hero. Most heroes start out as common folk thrust into a world of adventure and will (usually) ultimately succeed in their goal, no matter how far fetched or implausible- feats frequently achieved through pure force of will or strong character. I believe that people generally see themselves as strong individuals (which may or may not be true) that will succeed and overcome experiences that other people would fail- basically I believe that people view themselves as their stories own heroes that can accomplish anything simply because they are the ‘good guy.’ I think this is illustrated in many myths because people desire to be the hero themselves and preform amazing feats. I believe that this is also a common theme in modern entertainment as well; movies and especially video games will often have the hero be a common person who rises above the odds to save everyone and live happily ever after.