What is a Myth?

A myth is a story from the past that often involving a great deal of symbolism, beliefs, and understandings of polytheistic religions. These polytheistic religions include those of the Greeks and Romans. These stories often involve characters such as heroes, ancient ancestors, and most commonly, supernatural beings such as the gods in the previously stated polytheistic religions. Often the stories include customs of the time and culture, ideas and understandings about the prevalent society, and sometimes psychology. These stories were very prominent because they were regarded as popular belief.

Basic Dictionary Definitions

myth- a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation,
especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods

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Popular Myth: Heracles

Heracles is one of the most well known Greek mythological heroes. He was known for his tremendous strength. He was also known for his tendency to get angry very easily, hold grudges, but also be the first to admit his mistakes and punish himself.

He was born of Zeus and a mortal woman. Although he was half mortal and the last of Zeus's mortal sons, he was the strongest mortal and stronger than many of the gods. He himself after his death became a god because of the large cult that believed in his ways and worshiped him as a god.

He was very stereotypical of a muscular brute and was often portrayed only in this way. He was incredibly strong and not the smartest to say the least. Many of the stereotypical signs he was a muscular mindless being includes:

  • His tendency to hold grudgesexternal image Heracles-457x642.jpg
  • His large wooden club and garb of a skinned lion (with the head still attached)
  • He loved to eat food, drink wine, and he just overall loved women
  • He accidentally injured some of the gods (how does one injure a god)

Although he was a powerful yet mindless brute he was very self conscious of his mistakes and his strength. He had many self esteem issues. He was also the first to admit he made a mistake and did something wrong. Since he was the strongest mortal and stronger that many of the gods he was really the only being that could punish himself for his wrong doings. He did this very often.

Heracles is one of the most recognized Greek myths and heroes. He was a man of strength, great will, and sometimes a man of stupid mistakes. He was very stubborn and determined but he was also very aware of his mistakes and problems. He is a good example of a myth because he is the classic hero who people admired and yet also feared.

Myths vs. Legends and Folktales

Myths, legends, and folktales are all very similar in their make up and structure. They are all stories of the past that are for the most part understood to be fictional of make believe. Some myths, legends, and folktales however were believed to be true or have some sort of historical and factual background. There is also a difference between these narrative forms. Myths normally involve supernatural beings of ancient religious beliefs like those of the Greeks and Romans. They often involve either gods or heroes and were at the time of these cultures believed to be true but are now known to be just a religious belief. Legends and folktales are also sometimes based on ancient cultures and were most likely believed to be true at the time. However legends and folktales were not based on religious supernatural beings such as gods or heroes. They were based on actual living people or people that were thought to have been living at some point. These stories were passed down orally through the generations of a culture. Those are the similarities and differences between myths, legends, and folktales.

The stories about Olympians, gods, and Greek and Roman heroes are myths because they are based off the supernatural beings of the polytheistic religions of the Greeks and Romans. They were "real" to these religions but never really stepped foot on Earth. They are not legends or folktales because they were not based off of people or phenomenons that people saw or believed to have lived on the earth at one time.

What is a Legend?

A legend is an unconfirmed story handed down from generation to generation usually believed to be historical.

Basic Dictionary Definition

Legend- a non historical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical.


Legendsexternal image 8903181-archer--robin-hood-cartoon-isolated-on-a-white-background.jpg

A few well known legends include ; Robin hood, king arthur, and the three muskateers.

The Legend of Robin hood
Robin Hood is a well known character to all. An expert swordsman was Robin and a highly skilled archer as well. Robin took residence in the Sherwood forest of Nottinghamshire. He was a saint to the poor for he would steel from the rich and give to the poor. His band of Merry Men accompenied him on his outlawish adventures as he plundered from the wealthy. Robin Hood was thought to be a real man living in the late 14th century throught the 15th but his existance could never be proved. The legend of Robin Hood became popular among all in the mideveil age through to the present. Robin Hood, with his green tights and carrivan of Merry Men were praised by the poor and is now a legend of the 21st century.



What is a Folktale?

A folktale is a story or legend handed down from generation to generation usually by retelling. Folktales are often about things that are related to nature or a certain truth about life.

Basic Dictionary Definition:

Folktale- any belief or story passed on traditionally, especially one considered to be false or based on superstition.

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An example of a Folktale: The Boy Who Cried Wolf

The boy who called wolf is a classic example of a folktale. It is about a shepherd boy who was watching his village’s sheep one day. He was very bored of just watching sheep and wanted to entertain himself by shouting that the Wolf was attacking the flock of sheep. All of the villagersexternal image boy_who_cried_wolf_ink.jpg came running out to see what had happened and to try and help the boy fight off the Wolf. When they arrived, there was no wolf. One angry villager told him to not not call out for help when there is no wolf. He shouted for help again because he was very much amused to lie about the Wolf attacking. Much to his amusement, all the villagers came back up the hill angrier than ever. The villagers again found no wolf. They went back down the hill, still angry. When they all went down the hill, the real Wolf, came up the hill and attacked all the sheep. The shepherd boy once again called for help, but they did not come. When the Wolf left, the villagers came up the hill and saw the boy crying. The Wolf had scattered the sheep and the villagers still don’t believe him because they couldn't decide whether it was a truth or a lie.

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