Guide to Literary Terms

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Myth

Myth - a legendary or traditional story, usually one concerning a superhuman being and dealing with events that have no natural explanation. A myth may also be an unproved belief that is accepted uncritically, or an invented idea or story. It usually attempts to explain a phenomenon or strange occurrence without regard to fact or common sense and appeals to the emotions rather than reason. A myth is less historical than a legend and usually persists through oral transmission, as do legends and fables.

The term is taken directly from the Greek muthos, meaning “fable.”

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville may be considered a myth. The Greek myth of Apollo driving his chariot across the sky is an early attempt to explain the rising and setting of the sun. Another Greek myth—that of Zeus throwing his thunderbolts—is an attempt to explain lightning and thunder.

see: legend