Myths and Legends
What is a Myth?
The word myth comes from the Greek word 'mythos' which means 'to tell a story'. Myths are very old stories which were passed on by the spoken word (before books were invented). Every culture has its own myths that are centuries old. Myths differ from folktales and legends as they are stories with a message. Groups of people (cultures) told myths to explain how life began and how the world of nature behaved. An example of a myth is the story from Greece of Cyclops, the one-eyed giant.
What is a Legend?
Legends are not true but are based on facts, such as a real person, a place or an event but with some made up or fantastical parts. The hero myths are most like legends, but legendary heroes usually have historical roots and elements of truth, while mythical heroes don't. In legends the focus is also on the adventure plot rather than the message. An example of a legend is King Arthur of the Round Table.
Created thousands of years ago, Greek myths were epic stories about Greek gods, passed down over generations. They often feature heroic battles and terrible creatures, and taught the importance of bravery, intelligence, and right and wrong. They showed that even the gods, like mortal men, could be punished or rewarded for their actions. Details of the ancient tales have been found on everything from pottery to temples to stone statues! Greek myths were a huge part of the religion in Ancient Greece, and offer a glimpse into the lives of the ancient people who told them. We have many books in the library on Greek mythology so take one home and wander through the corridors of time as you read these fascinating stories.
Icarus is a famous Greek myth about a man who flew with wings made of wax and feathers. Watch the video above to find out what happened to him and then play the game of Icarus on the right. There is a sea named after Icarus. Do you know what sea that is? Below you can make up your own myth by choosing different elements of the story. Follow the numbered instructions to create your own myth (it needs flash so you might not be able to play it on the ipad unless you have a flash-enabling app).
Dragons are among the most popular and enduring of the world's mythological creatures. Dragon tales are known in many cultures, from the Americas to Europe to India to China. The word "dragon" comes from the ancient Greek word "draconta," meaning "to watch," suggesting that the beast guards valuables. There is a theory that ancient people discovered dinosaur bones and built the myth of the dragon around theses bones. If you examine the picture on the right of the skeleton of a stegosaurus, you can see the similarity between it and an image of a dragon. Dragons still appear in many stories, books and movies today. One of the most popular series in the library is the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. Play the game below and train your very own dragon to fly, hunt and breathe fire!
The legend of Robin Hood
One of the most famous legends is that of Robin Hood. Robin Hood was the legendary bandit of England who stole from the rich to help the poor. The stories about Robin appealed to ordinary people because he stood up against—and frequently outwitted—people in power. Furthermore, his life in the forest—hunting and feasting with his fellow outlaws, coming to the assistance of those in need—seemed like a great and noble adventure. There is no evidence, however, that he actually existed. One source of that legend may lie in the old French custom of celebrating May Day. A character called Robin des Bois, or Robin of the Woods, was associated with this spring festival and may have been transplanted to England—with a slight name change. May Day celebrations in England in the 1400s featured a festival "king" called Robin Hood.
Myths from around the world
Myths come from every region of the globe. Click on the picture, then the red dots, to hear myths from many different countries including one from Indigenous Australians.