Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Myths, Legends, Fairytales, Urban Legends.

I have always been fascinated with myths, legends, fairytales, and, more recently, urban legends. Before I could even properly read, my dad bought me a book of Grimms' fairy tales. Now, I'm not positive that these are the originals, and I definitely want to get myself a new book of them, but I still love reading them. It's an old, green, leather book with gold printing on the front. Actually, the binding is stitched onto the cover, because at one point it started falling apart and I fixed it.

So, I've grown up with these fairytales.

Because these are so amazing to myself, I thought I'd define the different titles for you. :)

Myths generally take place in mythical settings. They often have to do with the creation of the world, or at the least, gods, goddesses, and fantastical things along those lines. They may or may not have humans in them, but if they do, these humans are more than likely going to be superhuman, posessing great strength, skill, wisdom, or some such. A good example of this is the Mayan creation story, which I will sum up...

The gods used to live in the ocean. Eventually they got sick, and commanded the earth to rise up and plants to grow on the ground. After that, they decided that the world was too quiet, so they made animals. Animals could not praise them however, so they attempted to make humans.
The first humans they made were made of mud, and could not stand. They only talked in gibberish, because they had no minds. After it rained they would also fall apart. The gods got rid of these humans as fast as possible.
The second type of humans they made were out of sticks. The stick humans could walk, talk, and stand on their own. They didn't fall apart when it rained. However, they didn't have any brains, or souls. They made no sense when they talked, and they didn't know right from wrong. They'd mercilessly burn their cooking pots, and beat their dogs. The gods made a flood of sap to try to destroy them. Many of them died. The dogs prevented many of them from escaping, and the pans burned them. The houses collapsed when they tried to hide on the roof, and the ones that escaped into the trees were turned into monkeys.
Before the gods created a new type of human, a crow, parrot, mountain cat, and a coyote came to them and showed them corn. The gods figured, hey, we've already tried sticks and mud, and snow won't work, so why not try to make them out of corn? So they fashioned them out of cornmeal, and then fed them special potion made out of corn. The potion worked like a myhical energy drink, and they were endowed with extreme wisdom and strength. They grew to know everything, and could see everywhere on the planet. Eventually the gods realized that they were too perfect, so they blew a magical mist into the cornmeal peoples' eyes, which lowered their knowledge and made them unable to see for miles in directions. Thus the humans were created.

As you can see, the humans were either mud, sticks, or superhumans.

A legend is different than a myth, in the way that it takes place to more or less regular people, in more or less regular settings, though often in a land far far away in a time long, long ago. The Odyssey is a legend- Odysseus is a more or less regular human who travels through what was believed to be the way the world was, and then returns. He is not a superhuman-- the only super things about him are his intelligence and his hubris.
(The Odyssey is too long to sum up. Go read it.)

Fairytales (or folklore):
A fairytale is not usually believed to be true. Unlike myths and legends, it does not usually deal with gods or goddesses, and does not have to do with regular humans. They are told mainly for entertainment, and to teach basic morals. The beautiful stepdaughter is a pious, good person, she shares some of her bread with the three dwarves, and then sweeps off the step- she finds the strawberries her stepmom sent her to get, and the dwarves make her grow more beautiful every day, make a gold coin fall from her mouth whenever she says a word, and say that she will marry a king. The evil daughter goes to try to get money, does not share her food with the dwarves, grumbles about sweeping the step... They make her grow uglier every day, make snakes and lizards fall from her lips whenever she speaks, and says that she will die a horrible death. (That's a real fairytale- part of one, anyway.) They often take place in parallel universes, or in the real world as it would be with magic.

Urban Legends:
An urban legend is different than a legend in the fact that it is often told to have happend to someone that the teller knows, in a local place, and relatively recently. Urban legends are stories, so they will have an intro, a climax, a series of characters, conflict, and so on. They often also convey morals, or lessons about life. They are not necessarily untrue. Many urban legends actually come from true stories, or at least facts. However, after being told by different people, and moved from locality to locality, their facts change, the characters change, they are exaggerated and embellished. What once may have started out with "my sister went to the mall and had some creepo try to hit on her" may end up with some story about how someone was lured from a shopping mall to then be raped and killed and how you should never trust anyone. Make sense?

Of all of these, I have to say that my favorites are fairytales/folklore, followed up by urban legends tied with myths. Legends are my least favorite, although even those are pretty fascinating. :)

To find fairytales: search "fairytales". You will find them. Or, go to your library and get a book on them. Or find a book you already have. Fairytales are everywhere.

Myths: go to the library (or search) for "myths". Often it's best if you add a civilization before hand... for example "Ancient egyptian myths" or "Spanish myths" or somesuch.

Legends: search for "legends", and try some of the more well known ones. (Odysseus, Beowulf... etc.)

Urban Legends: try snopes.com. ^_^


Caroline said...

Oh I love them all! This was such a goood post thanks for telling me more about them! :D

Jinx Grand said...

Nice post! I really like myths more than anything else.