Guide to Literary Terms

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What is myth?

Myth is traditional storytelling that centers around supernatural events and figures, often intending to explain aspects of nature or culture.


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Last Updated May 26, 2023.

A myth is a traditional story, often featuring early historical or allegedly historical events and heroic figures. Myths can explain natural phenomena or a people's cultural practices or beliefs. 


The myth originates from the Greek word mŷthos, meaning "speech, word, story."


Myths, legends, and fables are old stories passed down for generations, but significant differences exist between them. Myths generally contain more supernatural elements than legends and are more often associated with the culture's religion in which they are told. Fables often feature anthropomorphized animals or inanimate objects and are meant to convey a general truth. Legends are often presented as historical facts, but their authenticity is unverified, and they typically contain a mix of fact and fiction. 

Several works of literature are considered myths, drawing from ancient legends, folklore, and religious traditions. Examples include Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey, Greek epic poems, and The Epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient Mesopotamian tale. These stories feature fantastical elements, gods, heroes, and narratives that explore the origins of the world and human existence, often carrying moral and religious significance.


see: legendfable

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