‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍What is a myth, and how does it relate to folktales and legends?

A myth is a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍

Cupid and Psyche

Cupid and Psyche
Cupid and Psyche

Cupid the offspring of Venus was known for desire, love, and affection. All of princess Psyche’s subjects worshipped her and forgot about Venus. Because of this, Venus got very angry and jealous so she ordered her son, Cupid, to make Psyche fall in love with the most unpleasant thing in the world. Unfortunately, Cupid got himself with his golden arrow instead of Psyche. Venus and Cupid’s plan backfired. Cupid is now deeply in love with Psyche. He’s so deeply in love with her that while Psyche is sleeping, he would go into her room and speak to her, because she wouldn’t be able to see him. Even though Psyche didn’t catch Cupid talking to her, Psyche’s two older sisters did. They told Psyche what Cupid’s been doing. Since Psyche couldn’t find Cupid anywhere in the world, Jupiter gave Psyche the gift of immortality so that they could be with one another. Together Cupid and Psyche had a daughter named Voluptas.

A legend is a story which is based on historical matter; although it can be non-historical or unverifiable due to mythical ideas, and is passed down through tradition. A legend is a fictitious story that can involve symbolical representation of people, experiences, and objects. There are legends that can involve the supernatural as well. The main purpose of a legend is to teach a moral, or express an idea about a specific place, event, or person, and can sometimes engross miracles. It is a story in a narrative form.

Johnny Appleseed
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The legend of Johnny Appleseed is a widely known legend in American Culture. It tells a story about a pioneer apple farmer. Johnny Appleseed had a dream “to produce so many apples that no one would grow hungry” according to bestapples.com. Therefore, Johnny Appleseed planted thousands of apple seeds throughout the country, being remembered as a dreamy traveler. He would wander without any shoes, and would always walk by foot. He would plant his seeds wherever he found rich open land such as in the forest, along roadways, or by the streams. When Johnny Appleseed came around, all of the kids knew who he was by the way he was dressed. He wore coffee sacks as bags to carry his apple seeds in, and always had holes cut out at his arms. He also would wear a tin pot on his head as a hat. Johnny would linger around in the same area only until his apple trees where healthy and growing. Once he saw they started to grow, he would leave as soon as he came, walking to his next location. Johnny would always remember where he planted his seeds, and occasionally come back to check on them. Before he would leave an area though, he would sell his apple tree farm to the nearest farmer, or to random people. He would sell his apple trees for money sometimes, but would also take old clothes in exchange. That way if he came across a poor family in need at his next location, he could help them out. Johnny Appleseed was widely known as an extremely nice and friendly person, who certainly loved his apple trees.

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Factual Story:
Although the legend of Johnny Appleseed is real, there are more specific and factual details in the story. Johnny Appleseed’s real name is John Chapman. He got his nickname because he was commonly known as the apple seed man, and that name eventually evolved into Johnny Appleseed in the legend. John Chapman was a very organized, careful, and a wise businessperson that produced thousands of apple trees. John, and his brother Nathaniel, decided to travel west with the immigrants. Nathaniel eventually stopped and settled on land, as John continued. He went to Pennsylvania, then stayed in Ohio for a while, and presumed to Indiana. Every year he would plant his seeds and continue to travel farther west, with his leather bag of apple seeds around his shoulder. He would not just aimlessly plant his seeds anywhere; as the legend expresses, John would carefully select his spots where the soil was just perfect. He would then protect his farm by building fences out of logs. He would then sell his apple tree farms and would sell land he came across too. The legend of Johnny Appleseed is a traditional story still taught in schools today. Johnny Appleseed teaches children that they can help the environment, and people around them, just as John did. It is a unique legend, containing information as well.

Folktales are short stories meant for younger children. Originally, Folktales weren’t appropriate for younger children for many reasons. One argument was because of the violence. But Folktales have evolved away from all the violence. Now they’re mostly about the protagonists living happily ever after and the villains being punished or losing to the heroes / heroine. Each of these stories originated from a certain group of people and was passed down to younger generations by word of mouth. These tales are usually expressing the ideas of talking animals, magic, royalty, and mythical creatures. Since this generation doesn't really tell stories orally, the stories are being written down and told through books and television. Fairy tales are just one type of Folktale. The purpose of a Folktale is to enlighten morals and lessons.


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Once upon a time there was a young beautiful girl named Cinderella. Cinderella’s biological father decided to remarry since he was a widower. Her father’s second wife was truly evil. Ever since their marriage, Cinderella has been a maid for her step – mother and two step – sisters. The king wanted to find his son, the prince, a wife. So the king sent out an invitation for all the young ladies to attend the ball at his kingdom. Cinderella’s step – sisters were invited, but Cinderella was not allowed to go. Even though Cinderella’s wish was to be able to attend the ball, her evil step – mother had plenty of chores for her to do at home instead. On the night of the ball, Cinderella’s step – sisters ruined Cinderella’s home – made dress, Cinderella was so devastated that she went outside and just started to cry. Luckily, Cinderella’s fairy godmother came and changed her worn out clothing into a beautiful ball gown. Her fairy godmother also granted her a carriage, so she had a way to the ball. But Cinderella was warned that the spell only lasted till midnight. Cinderella was enjoying the ball with the prince so much, that she almost forgot that the spell only lasted till midnight. While Cinderella was hurrying home, she lost her glass slipper. Even though the prince didn’t get the chance to find out Cinderella’s name, he used her glass slipper to identify her. By going to each individual house and letting all the young ladies try on the glass slipper, the prince finally found the girl that he was looking for. Cinderella and the prince lived happily ever after.

Similarities and Differences- Myths vs. Legends and Folktales

Myths, folktales, and legends are all used to express some type of story. They all are typically used to convey a moral or to teach a lesson. All three are passed down through tradition as well, and include some type of hero in them. They also incorporate some type of symbolism in the stories, whether it is a person, event, or place. However, myths differ from the other two narrative forms because they have gods in the stories. They also have unnatural experiences in them, such events that cannot occur in real life. They explain why some things are the way they are in the universe. Myths also differ from the other due to the amount of historical information folktales and legends contain.

What makes the stories about Olympians myths, not legends or folktales?A myth usually includes a series of gods and supernatural humans. These traditional stories have no factual evidence or a natural explanation. Because these stories about Olympians include gods and not any evidence or explanations, it concludes that these stories would be considered myths. Folktales are more about magic and royalty. These tales weren’t meant to be told as true stories or sacred to the group who is telling the story. Whereas legends are about an actual event that happened. It just uses symbolical representation to express who or what is in the story. Both folktales and legends are to teach a moral, where myths show the strengths of what the different gods or supernatural humans can do, expressing different beliefs and natural phenomenons.

References for the following information:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/myth (retrieved on 9/14/11)
http://www.dictionary.reference.com/browse/legend (retrieved on 9/14/11)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legend (retrieved on 9/14/11)
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/folktale (retrieved on 9/14/11)http://www.longlongtimeago.com/llta_folktales.html (retrieved on 9/14/11)http://cuip.uchicago.edu/wit/2000/teams/onceupon/whatisit.html (retrieved on 9/14/11)
http://www.bestapples.com/kids/teachers/johnny.shtml (retrieved on 9/15/11)
http://www.comedyimprov.com/music/schmoll/tales.html#----Cinderella---- (retrieved on 9/15/11)
http://www.angelfire.com/il/adventureclub/hero.html (retrieved on 9/17/11)
http://appleparermuseum.com/ApplesAndEvolution.htm (retrieved on 9/17/11)
http://www.story-lovers.com/listsjohnnyappleseed.html (retrieved on 9/17/11)
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-folktale.htm (retrieved on 9/17/11)
http://myths.e2bn.org/teachers/info311-what-are-myths-legends-and-folktales.html (retrieved on 9/17/11)
http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/cupid.html (9/17/11)