Everyone in the contemporary world knows the word myth. Individuals hear it and learn about it from early childhood when parents tell them stories and educate them concerning various life situations. Once people grow up, they are also faced with myths quite often when getting acquainted with different types of information and trying to understand whether it is true or misleading. In other words, individuals are surrounded by myths their whole life and receive information from them during various life situations. The commonly known definition of myth suggests that these are traditional stories that do not have an author and usually serve as a way of explaining specific phenomena, teaching human beings certain life lessons, describing customs and traditions, giving an insight into institutions and religion. In general, it can be stated that myths play a fundamental role in society since they transmit important messages and help people understand their life better.
Nevertheless, millions of individuals all around the world believe that the only purpose of myths is entertainment. They claim that these narratives should not be understood seriously and be used as a way to educate children and adults about something. This is primarily because if taken seriously, myths can distort the image of life, spread misleading and false information, and cause misunderstandings and conflictual discussions between human beings. However, all these opinions are based on subjective thinking and reasoning, and there is a large amount of proof that myths are a significant aspect of contemporary life. For this reason, the following paper will support the idea of myths’ importance by exploring how they serve as a vessel for understanding the human journey and condition and act as a means of educating future generations rather than entertaining them. This argument will be proved in the essay by providing credible information from outside sources as well as using information that was discussed in class during the course.
The Definition of Myth and Its Varieties
One of the ways to explain the importance of myth in creating people’s worldview and perceptions about life is to start with defining this concept. Everyone knows that these are made-up narratives or stories which are passed from generation to generation in order to deliver an essential idea or tradition. However, academic sources provide readers with more professional and detailed definitions of myth by putting it into perspective. Therefore, it is essential to read, analyze, and reflect on the information provided by different sources, such as academic journal articles and books written in the last decades.
Various contemporary sources take the concept of myth and implement it into the everyday environment to find the correlations and differences with modern society. For instance, Bouchard and Scott (2017a), provide an overview of myth by applying it to the universe of collective imaginaries. This method allows specialists and individuals to explore the concept’s different dimensions, clearing up misunderstandings and ambiguities. As a result, Bouchard and Scott (2017a) were able to define myth as a story that can deliver critical ideas to individuals, such as how the society should be governed and developed, what values and views people should pursue, what role the past plays in life, and what are the perceptions about work and vacations in different communities. Furthermore, Egya (2019) also applies myths to the specific context of human life and one of them is materialism. The author puts myth against the myth of power and explains how these two concepts work together as well as contradict each other (Egya, 2019). Thus, already judging from the various ways myths can be applied to the contemporary world, it can be stated that it contributes to the understanding of the human journey.
In addition, the authors define a specific variety of myths which is a social myth that proves to be the force of modern society. It is believed that every community has its social myths which create the reality, worldview, values, and significance for them. These kinds of myths are the so-called collective myths that everyone accepts, trusts, and applies to their daily life. At the same time, Bouchard and Scott (2017a) make a note that social myths are not a utopian vision, harmless fiction, fable, or legend. Myth is something much more than that – it is a power that drives societies, created people’s worldviews, develops their values, and, in general, has an influence on their decisions and choices (Bouchard & Scott, 2017a). Hence, the definition of social myth also points out the crucial role of this concept in affecting human life.
The Conditions of Myths’ Effectiveness
Another reason why myths serve as agents informing the human journey and educating future generations is that they meet all the essential needs for narrative effectiveness. Because of that, they are able to influence people in the right way, break stereotypes, and form new perceptions. In order to understand this point in detail, it will be beneficial to choose a specific condition and explain its effectiveness. As mentioned by Bouchard and Scott (2017b), “a clear definition of the Subject (the target population) circumscribed by a territory that enjoys a very broad consensus provides optimal conditions for mythification” (p. 93). In other words, the authors mean that in order for the myth to be effective and have an influence on people, it needs to be created for a specific community and while taking into consideration its distinguishing features. Most myths that exist in contemporary society and came to the modern world from ancient generations meet this condition and aim at influencing a certain region, country, society, or nation. Therefore, this condition makes myths effective and contributes to their ability to influence individuals, their decisions, choices, and worldviews.
For instance, every culture had its specific religious heroes and villains. Individuals believe in their existence and influence on their concrete nation; therefore, they are interested in reading stories about them and following their examples. For this reason, when myths are created about these specific characters, it means that they target a certain community or country. People develop an emotional connection with the reading, learn about the portrayed lessons, and change their perceptions about different things. However, in case of myths would not be written to target an area or a community, they would be meaningless and unimportant because no one would understand the delivered ideas and would not be able to establish a connection with heroes.
The Purpose of Myths
It can easily be proved that myths have the power to educate the population and explain the human journey. A huge number of academic sources support this idea and the information that we received in class delivers more details and insights. In the second episode of The power of myth which is called “The message of myth” (1988), myths are described as the stories that men used to search for meaning, significance, to touch the eternal, to find out what they represent, and to understand the mysterious. Moreover, it was mentioned in the episode that myths encourage individuals to reach a better awareness of themselves and their life since they guided them through their personal and collective experiences, traumas, and mistakes (“The message of myth,” 1988). Consequently, it can be stated that these stories’ main purpose is to provide individuals with hints and clues about their past, present, and future. Myths are like short history books that give individuals an opportunity to travel in time and learn about the important events that contributed to their establishment as humans. In short, it can be stated that people do not use their minds to the full extent; therefore, narratives help to work and reflect on their experiences and knowledge.
Talking about the ancient myths, they were also created for the goal of educating people about specific issues and phenomena. The third episode of The Power of Myth called “The first storytellers” (1988) stated that “the ancient myths were designed to put the minds, the mental system, into accord with body system, with this inheritance of the body.” This idea created an understanding that from the very begging myths were created for the sake of development and advancement of life. They were not made for fun or entertainment; hence, it is not appropriate to claim that myths are meaningless and unimportant. Based on discussed information, when someone states that myths are just stories that do not carry any purpose or meaning, they simply wring because, from the very foundation of the word myth and creation of the first narrative, they were meant to educate people. For this reason, myths contribute to the understanding of the human journey by bringing the readers back to ancient times and creating specific parallels with contemporary life.
The Characters of Myths
It is obvious that in order to affect the readers, make them think, and reflect on a specific topic, book and novel authors create characters and represent specific characteristics and opinions through them. The same thing happens in myths – in order to influence the perception of readers and create a certain emotional response, the authors of myths created good and bad characters. The first episode of the series Myths and Monsters reflects on this topic in more detail. It is stated that for the purpose of creating tension and conflict in the story, it needs additional drama (“Heroes and villains,” 2004). Therefore, in addition to the main hero of the story, authors add villains that create obstacles for the main character (“Heroes and villains,” 2004). In this way, it is easier for the readers to understand the main point of the myth, apply the described situations to real life, and reflect on the topic.
In addition, such content appears to be much more interesting and insightful for children who are the representatives of the group of the society who learn from the myths the most. By reading the stories about characters, following their lives and adventures, and discussing exciting events with their friends, children learn and understand the realities of life through fiction. For this reason, it can be stated that reading myths are one of the most useful means of understanding life for children. They definitely entertainment them but, most importantly, educate and create a platform for discussions and reflections.
To summarize, myths have always done and still continue to play an important role in the life of individuals. Even in the contemporary world, when people are surrounded by many innovations and new ways of acquiring information, they still turn to myths in order to receive essential knowledge and understand certain life situations and people’s characteristics. In addition, these stories give an insight into certain life perspectives, cultures, and values. They teach people what to focus on in life, how to understand themselves, how to reach the desired happiness, what to fear as well as what to cherish.
At the same time, many people claim that myths are meaningless and unimportant. They say that they do not carry any information and knowledge; therefore, people waste their time while reading them and trying to understand their points and perspectives. However, the evidence that can be found in academic sources and information online, proves that myths have always been essential for the life of people. They started to appear thousands of years ago and continue to spread knowledge among individuals which then carry and pass it from generation to generation. Therefore, the presented paper supported this idea and discussed how myths help to understand the human journey and act as essential sources of education for children as well as adults.
Bouchard, G., & Scott, H. (2017a). What is a social myth? In Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries (pp. 23-47). University of Toronto Press.
Bouchard, G., & Scott, H. (2017b). The conditions for the effectiveness of myth. In Social Myths and Collective Imaginaries (pp. 93-111). University of Toronto Press.
Egya, S. (2019). Myth and materialism: Deploying myth against the myth of power. In Nation, power and dissidence in third generation Nigerian poetry in English (pp. 83-104). NISC (Pty).