What purpose do myths serve in society? What purpose do myths serve in society?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, one aspect of myths that cannot be denied is that they are ubiquitous across all countries and cultures. Every society has its own form of myths, and interestingly, often these different myths are re-tellings of central archetypal stories that are changed slightly to fit different cultures and experiences.

The popularity of myths and the way that they are still read and studied just as much today suggests very strongly that myths are much more than just stories, and that they have an important purpose in today's world, just as they were important in ancient civilisations. Myths can be described as sacred tales that help man understand the world and his place in it. Myths often try to respond to eternal questions, such as the origin of the existence of evil, and also, through the archetypes that they provide, seem to give guidance to every generation. Let us take one example: the hero's quest, that we see echoed throughout so many myths, such as The Odyssey, the Twelve Labours of Hercules and Beowulf, is a kind of model for youngsters to imitate as they go through the process of growing up and accepting adult responsibilities.

These are just some of the reasons why myths are still important and popular today. Myths open the window of the timeless and the essential, and this remains true whatever period of history we come from or however strong our scientific sophistication.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I like post #2's viewpoint more than post #3's, but then I'm not a cynic (at least most of the time).

Part of human nature is our attempt to explain things we cannot understand. People want to fill in gaps in knowledge that can't be rationally answered through experimentation and observation. Because we can't use logic to explain such situations, however, the alternative becomes the development of a mythological explanation, using supernatural beings or powers or events to provide the explanation that is unavailable otherwise. I choose to look on myths as indications of human creativity and the deep need to introduce faith in something greater than ourselves into our existence. We all desire order in our lives - myths help to provide it in situations where no other explanation is apparent.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Myths have served a myriad of purposes throughout history. In the past, they were the conduit through which stories were passed from generation to generation. They convey strong messages and teach lessons by using symbolism and creative license. Their format is even used in modern times to tell stories that are meant to entertain and keep the interest of the readers and the listeners. Myths are always in vogue, and will never go out of fashion. They are, in my opinion, literature's "hot gossip magazine" aisle.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some myths are stories which teach lessons.  We create "myths" out of the stories of our heroes -- military figures, sports heroes, etc.  We look to these people as having something to aspire to and embellish the man to myth in order to serve that purpose. Walter Payton was a great football hero -- but his work ethic and integrity have been elevated to myth status as a model for people in all professions.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Myths entertain and educate.  They are there to explain traditions or values or beliefs in every culture.  They are there to illustrate, at least in part, the history of the people who tell them.  So, the tellers get laughs and nods of familiarity from the generations in their audiences, but they also teach the young and perhaps the "new" to the tribe/culture the way things are done and (perhaps) why.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to Oxford's Robin Lane Fox in Pagans and Christians, myths have their foundation in realities of the distant past--realities that are hinted at in antiquity's histories and inscriptions--realities that come to be called myths that come to be rationalized as gropings for ways to understand things that escape mortal, non-scientific comprehension. Interesting, isn't it?

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you want to be cynical about things, you can say that the role of myths is to validate the way that the society is.  Myths that we are told are (you can argue) meant to make us believe that the status quo is the way things ought to be.  In this view, societies use myths to justify their existence and to make the claim that they are living in the way that they are supposed to live.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that myths possess the clues to mysteries. While some may not believe in myths, it is fun (as a teacher) to teach myths. Students love to question where things originated from and giving them different aspects and ideas helps to fully develop deep/cognitive thought.

As for in society, myths seem to be a way to connect to the past.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Myths encapsulate the values and knowledge of a society and its beliefs about the proper relationship of gods and humans in memorable narrative for so that they may be passed down by oral transmission and visual representation. Essential, the myth functions as a tool of cultural knowledge and normativity in oral-traditional culture.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Myths basically serve as examples of the distant past, reminding us how things were before our world became so technologically advanced and minutely scrutinized. They serve to emphasize the heroic, the supernatural, and the ancient ways, and they still are relevant in explaining our outlook on an idealic world.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Myths entertain, of course.  In ancient cultures, myths were used to explain natural phenomenon.  For example, most cultures have a creation myth about how the world came into existance.  So myths have always existed.  Modern myths are often built around people, as in the above example.

mudohahsi | Student

My point of view on myths is that,they educate us by making us aware of the past,how people lived,how wars were fought with bows,arrows and horses whereas now we have guns and nuclei weapons.They push us to be more creative e.g creativity all starts when people see that things are not going well and this can be seen in our society today.We are well advanced in technology because people heard different kinds of myths and stories that prompted them to make amends by being creative.Some of us are well cultured in today's society because we heard different stories that pushed us to be who we are today.In all,myths have a major role in today's society because they connect us to the past and they make us live by the lessons we learn from them.

texasmilly | Student

Myths entertain and educate.  They are there to explain traditions or values or beliefs in every culture.  They are there to illustrate, at least in part, the history of the people who tell them.  So, the tellers get laughs and nods of familiarity from the generations in their audiences, but they also teach the young and perhaps the "new" to the tribe/culture the way things are done and (perhaps) why.

You're right. Like those ancient stories from the desert dwellers of the near-east. Their oral tradition was handed down exactly as you described.

Myths are meant to introduce morals so that we can better understand the way we should live. Each story has a moral, whether it makes sense and should be applicable in life or not. Sometimes, it just a source of entertainment. I, myslef enjoy reading Greek myths just ofr the fun of it, but they usually do not help me much in soiety. Sometimes in assignments, I make references to Greek and Roman myths to add a bit of jazz to it, and make it sound less dull. Myths illustrate history too, and the way Greeks and Roman carried about their lives back then. It would be advisable to take a leaf out of their book, since they maintained such a successful empire for so long.

swimmy-megan | Student

myths are ruddy awsome !!!