What is a myth?
A Myth Throughout history, human beings have sought to explain phenomena and make sense of the different facts they have encountered, generating a whole system of beliefs unique to each region or people, which shapes a large part of their cultural character. The set of myths, called mythology, sustains the cosmovision of a given culture, since it is a series of beliefs with which the people explain the reason for the existence of what surrounds them.
Thus, myths allow to explain events such as the origin of the world, that is, the cosmogony of a people, as well as explaining the origin of the gods, known as theogony, and other aspects such as the human being on Earth, the foundation of nations, the origin of good and evil, among other elements discovered in its course through life.
Meaning of myth
The term myth comes from the Greek mythos, which refers to “tale” or “story”. Thus, it refers to a text that narrates events that often feature supernatural beings, among which we find fantastic figures, monsters or gods, and that deal with a subject to which an explanation is to be given.
For a long time, the myth was seen in a pejorative way by the Greco-Latin antiquity that argued with its themes through scientific and philosophical explanations, so that the myth acquired a judgment of falsity. However, its oral origin was much stronger and spread from different versions. The myth becomes the object of reworking of literature, expanding its explorations and remains alive in the present day through the transmission of generations.
According to the above, the definition of myth corresponds to a type of marvelous narration that, for the most part, is starred by fantastic beings, gods or heroes, and that occurs outside of historical time. Myth explains specific facts and gives meaning to human questions about the world.
In other words, the myth is a sacred story that contains a great symbolic and traditional load, and that is part of the religious system of a culture, since there they are considered as true.
What is the function of myth?
The myth, particularly, deals with existential questions of the human being, since it gives explanation to the creation of objects, the origin of beings, death, birth, good, evil, traditions, phenomena, among others. Thus, it includes philosophical concepts of culture. In short, the myth offers a kind of reconciliation between opposites that allows to offer tranquility and harmony between the elements it deals with.
It is important to keep in mind that the specific function may vary according to the culture to which it belongs. Thus, it can be completely explanatory to address the origin of aspects, there is also the pragmatic function oriented to participation as a structural basis of social processes explaining and marking a genealogical line, for example. And the function of meaning, in which, in addition to explanations, a consolation or reassurance is offered to the being from aspects such as victory, suffering and death.
Origin of the myth
The emergence and the main characterization of the myth is given to its intention and objective of presenting an explanation to the origin of the world and what is on Earth, reason for which there is no definite date of its birth, since it was adopted by different traditions and communities throughout the development of history. Thus, the myth was born, first in the form of an oral story, that is, it was transmitted through the spoken word and its details have undergone changes with the passing of generations and the regions it has reached, which is why its versions show modifications and alterations.
The myth is a primitive literature that was born in the first peoples, so it constitutes a tradition as a literary expression of the oldest known in the field of literature.
Characteristics of myth
The myth as a narrative text that seeks the explanation of elements, has a number of characteristics that are key to its understanding and distinction with the legend, a subgenre with which it is often confused. These are:
It is born in oral transmission
The origin of the myth is located within orality, which produced that, with the passage of time, it had modifications and variations according to the knowledge that was developed from generation to generation, although in essence it continued the same story. With the emergence of writing, the myth became a literary form that began to reproduce its versions in greater quantity.
Validity within the culture
Myths are not verifiable, so they are only true within a culture and in this sense, they explain phenomena that allow them to transmit values, concepts, beliefs and other aspects to the coming generations. Thus, myths have no validity outside the belief systems where they are located.
Relationship between fiction and reality
In myths, fantastic or imaginary beings and facts are frequently used, so that the characters can also be supernatural or extraordinary.
The myth often refers to an existential question, hence its variants allow us to distinguish different types of myth, as we will see below, depending on the entity, object or figure to which you want to find an explanation within its cultural and religious framework. These themes may revolve around the creation of the earth, birth, death and other fundamental aspects.
As part of the narrative genre, the myth shares the central structure, however its elements vary according to the subgenre. In this case we find that its structure is formed by:
It is the beginning of the story in which details and the main characters of the subject to be dealt with are presented. These details allow the reader to place himself in a certain time and space without delving too much into the development of the story as such. The introduction of a myth presents a general preview of the place where the events take place and anticipates some events.
Also known as knot, in this part of the myth the author delves into the myth as such, since a series of actions performed by the main characters arise and are decisive in the course of the story. They are axes that capture the reader’s attention and show disputes and conflicts that will be resolved at the end of the myth.
These situations are told in a divided, concrete and short way without expanding details, this will be one of the most important characteristics of the myth. However, important elements that nurture the myth from its content and objective should not be left out.
This is the final part of the myth where the immediately preceding situations begin to develop in order to configure the conclusion. In the case of the myth, the ending can be open or closed, where the antagonists of the story may be defeated or the conflicts may not be fully resolved, so that the audience is the one who has the ending and creates it from the imagination to define the objective of the myth.
Elements of the Myth
Now that we know its central structure, it is important to identify a series of elements that are part of its formation and configuration, as well as to distinguish it. The elements of the myth are:
It is the duration of the events that take place within the myth, these can vary and specify whether they are hours, weeks, days, centuries, epochs, etc. The use of time facilitates the sequence of the stories that are told within the myth and the central plot, alludes to the period in which it happens.
It is very important that the myth describes the place where the events take place and, in this sense, details the environment in which the characters are placed. Often the setting of a myth is a world prior to the action and the involvement of sacred beings such as the gods.
In myth, the narrative may refer to animals, people, gods or other figures who take sides in the actions that unfold in the story and may be imaginary or fantastic. The characters of the myth appear to give life to the world that is drawn in the narrative and inhabit it, so the story may revolve around their adventures and experiences.
Myth characters can be heroes, gods, demigods, giants, entities of Mother Nature, monstrous beings such as Cyclops, half-human half-animal beings, among others.
Types of myths
To date, it has been possible to identify a great variety of types of myths, among them we find the following:
They seek an explanation for the creation of the world, which is why they are better known and have achieved a wide production. Their most frequent themes are related to the existence of a race of giants, the titans, the origin of the earth in an ocean, gods and a primitive population on Earth.
It is based on the explanation of the origin of the human being, who is created from matter, be it an animal, clay, a plant, dust, etc. It is the gods who teach the human being to live on earth. This type of myth contains several elements of the cosmogonic myth but, focused on the human being.
The explanation of this type of myth is developed in the origin of the gods, so that explains the birth of these and also of the demigods.
These are myths that seek to explain the origin of beings other than humans, so that they also link the birth of things, institutions and techniques. This type of myths can also explain social, political and religious situations depending on their context and the elements they include.
It is a type of myth that explains the foundation of cities, which are realized by the will of the gods.
These myths focus on the explanation and functioning of good and evil, fundamentally focused on their existence and origin.
They are those myths that deal with the end of the world and are divided according to the element of nature that is the destroyer of the world, either water or fire. They often talk about an increase in the frequency of eclipses and other phenomena such as earthquakes and natural catastrophes, such as the Apocalypse.
How to write it?
The construction of a myth implies not only taking into account the characteristics we have seen, but also, a complete observation that allows us to create a text from scratch. Let’s see how to do it:
Observing the environment
The creation of a myth requires us to first observe our immediate environment, since that is where we will get the idea that explains a universal fact. To do this, it will be necessary to look at important elements in the city or country where we are. Think about events prior to the creation of the human being from what you observe around you.
Imagine a world before
Once we are located, we take the ideas that arise. For this, it is possible to start with a question such as, How did everything originate, What was there before everything I observe? Trying to explain the world and the origin of where we are from a complete observation of the environment, allows us to find many more answers to start writing. So, from this point on, we will try to imagine a different scenario from which everything we see arose.
Remember that myths house many possibilities for finding an explanation for phenomena, so the options are many, such as gods, aliens, objects from nature, etc.
Use of discourse elements
In the writing of a text like this, it is necessary to use several discursive markers that are part of the oral tradition, given the relationship of myth with this form of transmission. That is why it is extremely important to use terms such as “it was said”, “they say”, “there was at some time”, or other elements that guide the relationship of time.
Creation of the characters
Often in myths there is a hero who is the one who impresses in the story, a being who is admired, although he can be a real or fictional being. According to your intentions, you can incorporate different talents and virtues as superpowers. They should also have flaws and make mistakes, as their boldness often leads them down wrong paths that they must face and get out of. Remember that the actions of the characters must be justified, that is, there must be a reason for the character to perform a certain action.
You can also include magical characters such as gods, monsters, witches, etc. You can even create your own characters according to the characteristics of other beings.
Way of writing
It is very important that the myth is written in a direct and simple language, so that it is easy to understand and read for any kind of audience. Even, taking into account the use of discursive elements, you can try to imitate the way in which the most well-known myths are written in order to imprint your myth with this same value and increase its recognition.
Include a teaching
A large part of myths explain not only the origin of things, but also the reasons why a community or people adopt a particular type of behavior in relation to an experience or situation they faced in the past, therefore, some myths state a teaching in the ways of behavior. You might consider adding a moral that highlights, for example, good deeds and the rewards they get, or bad deeds and the punishments they receive.
Closing the myth
The myth ends once you have finished explaining what you wanted to answer or when the hero has reached the end of his challenges and in the course, learns the lesson or arrives at the intended moral. Often the myth ends with a sentence that relates the present time and concludes the why of what we see today.
At the end it will only be a matter of reading it several times, evaluating the coherence of the actions performed there, correcting spelling and analyzing if at the end the point you want to get to is understood.
Most important myths
One of the most important and best known in world literature, but also in history, is the founding myth of Rome by Romulus and Remus, who are suckled by a she-wolf after their mother abandoned them. Others are the Popol Vuh, as the myth of the creation of the earth by the Mayas,
Myths continue to be one of the most important narrative subgenres because they respond imaginatively to various human and existential questions, giving them form from a text in which a set of values that take place in the cultures in which they are born is also immersed. Their content, principles and reasoning reflect characteristics of the area in which they are located.