What does the story "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" say about the way myths originate?

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amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While there is no "there it is" answer to this question that you can point to since it's in italics or boldface print, it does indirectly explain that myths and legends begin because people don't know the real answers and attempt to fill in the blanks.  The women in this story begin weaving tales about the drowned man as they are cleaning him up and preparing him for burial.  They discover that he is larger than all the people in their own village, and more beautifully built.  They name him Esteban, and decide to sew clothing to fit him from sails and wedding veils in order to bury him with honor and dignity.  All the while they are creating stories about where he comes from, how he died, that he is embarrassed or tortured by his size--constantly bumping his head and having to duck under low doorways.  They don't know for sure if any of this is true of him, but these are the stories about the dead stranger who washed up on their shores that they will remember and continue to tell their own children.  Viola!  The myth of the man is born, and this is exactly how myths come about in all cultures.  They stem from events that people were not able to adequately explain, so explanations are created and stories are born.

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