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Myths and Folktales
What is a Folktale?
A story of unknown authorship passed
down orally.
 Tell tales of ordinary people (or animals)
and everyday life.
 Includes fairy tales and folklore.
 May include supernatural elements, but
doesn’t have to.
Characteristics of Folktales
Animals can talk
 Begins with a phrase such as, “Once upon a
time . . .”, or “There once was . . .”
 Tales of good and evil
 Has a happy ending (usually)
 No known author
What is a Myth?
An ancient story dealing with
supernatural beings, ancestors, and heroes.
It explains the view of a group of people
Which cultures have myths?
Every culture has its own mythology
 Universal symbols and themes appear in
different cultures’ myths
 Greek, Roman, Native American, Celtic,
South American, African, and Norse
mythology are examples of myths from
different cultures
What are some characteristics
of myths?
Contain heroes and heroines
 Supernatural elements
 Gods and goddesses
 Explains a natural phenomenon
 Told orally (spoken)
Why did ancient people tell
To help explain the unexplainable
 To explain natural phenomenon
 To tell about their heroes
 To explain human nature
 To teach morals and values
Why do we still study
To learn about ancient cultures
 As inspiration for the arts
 As the foundation of literature
 To teach values and morals
 For entertainment
Four Functions of Mythology
There are four basic functions of mythology, according to Joseph Campbell.
1) The mystical function – stories that express the awe and
wonder of the universe
2) The cosmological function – stories that attempt to explain the
processes of nature
3) The sociological function – stories that support and validate a
certain social order
4) The pedagogical function – stories that explain how to live a
full, happy life
The Stone and the Banana:
An Indonesian Myth
Thus, the natives of Poso, a district of Central
Celebes, say that the Creator, who lived in
it, used to let down his gifts to men at the
end of a rope.
One day he thus lowered a stone; but our first
father and mother would have none of it and
they called out to their Maker, “What have we
to do with this stone? Give us something
The Creator complied and hauled away at the
rope; the stone mounted up and up until it
vanished from sight. Presently the rope was
seen coming down from heaven again, and
this time there was a banana at the end of it
instead of a stone.
Our first parents ran at the banana and
took it. Then there came a voice from
heaven saying: “Because ye have
chosen the banana, your life shall be
like its life. When the banana-tree has
offspring, the parent stem dies; so
shall ye die and your children shall
step into your place.”
“Had ye chosen the stone, your life
would have been like the life of the
stone, changeless and immortal.”
The man and his wife mourned over their
fatal choice, but it was too late; that is how
through the eating of a banana, death came
into the world.
“Death Agony” Edvard Munch
What characteristics of myth
did you notice from this story?
What phenomenon was the story
 What supernatural elements were present?
What can you tell about the Indonesian
culture based on this myth?
The word mythology is Greek in
origin (etymology)
 Muthos=
 Logo= speech or argument
Greek and Roman Mythology is
often called “Classical Mythology”
Gods and Goddesses in
Classical Mythology
 Poseidon
 Hera
 Athena
 Demeter
 Persephone
 Neptune
 Juno
 Minerva
 Ceres
 Proserpine
Area of Power
King of the gods; the sky
The sun; music
King of the underworld
Ruler of the seas
Wife of Zeus; marriage
Agriculture; earth
Goddess of the underworld;
Demeter’s daughter
Creatures in Classical Mythology
Native American Lit.
(“The Earth on Turtle’s Back”, “When Grizzlies
Walked Upright”, “The Navajo Origin Legend”,
“Museum Indians”)
Origin Myth: Story that explains how life began
Oral Tradition: Stories, poems, and songs that convey
a people’s values, concerns, and history by word of
mouth. (no written language)
basic building blocks of stories that all
writers use to create a world to which
readers can escape.
all cultures around the world use them to
build their stories.
Examples of archetypes are: the hero, the
damsel in distress, the battle between good
and evil, bargaining with the devil,etc.
Situational Archetypes
THE JOURNEY—the hero goes in search of some
truth or information to restore life to the kingdom;
THE QUEST—search for someone or some
object, which when it is found and brought back
will restore life to a wasted land, the desolation of
which is shown by a leader’s illness and disability.
Situational Archetypes
•DEATH AND REBIRTH—grows out of a parallel
between the cycle of nature and the cycle of life.
Thus, morning and springtime represent birth, youth,
or rebirth; evening and winter suggest old age or
Obviously the battle between two primal forces.
Mankind shows eternal optimism in the continual
portrayal of good triumphing over evil despite great
•THE RITUAL—The actual ceremonies the initiate
experiences that will mark his rite of passage into
another state (weddings, funerals)
Symbolic Archetypes
suggests hope, renewal, or intellectual
illumination; darkness suggests the
unknown, ignorance, or despair.
•HEAVEN VS. HELL—gods live in the
skies or mountaintops; evil forces live
in the bowels of the earth
Symbolic Archetypes
INTERVENTION—the gods most
often intervene on the side of the hero
to assist him in his quest
•MAGIC WEAPON—some object
used to fight the forces of evil that has
magical properties
Character Archetypes
•THE HERO—circumstances of birth
are unusual, some attempt is made at
birth to kill him; raised by foster
parents, returns to his kingdom to right
wrongs, marries a princess, becomes
•MENTOR—teacher or counselor to
the hero; often are father or mother
figures to the hero or heroine
Character Archetypes
forbidden to be together because of the rules
of society or family; often ends tragically
creature disfigured or mutated; monsters who
are the antagonists in the story
•TEMPTRESS—sensuous beauty; brings
about the hero’s downfall because he is
physically attracted to her
SHREK Archetypes
•DEATH AND REBIRTH—when they escape the dragon,
morning is dawning suggesting hope and rebirth
vs the Dragon and then later Farquaad
•STAR-CROSSED LOVERS—Dragons and Donkeys aren’t
supposed to be together. . .eew
first as an Evil Figure, especially with the remains of the
knights, but Donkey saves her and converts her to good
•CREATURE OF NIGHTMARE—Dragon before she falls in
love with Donkey
•THE JOURNEY—Shrek and Donkey face their fears and
conquer the dragon, finding Fiona to accomplish their task
SHREK Archetypes
•HERO—Shrek…literally doing superhuman deeds ( fighting
fire breathing dragon)
•QUEST—to find and rescue Princess Fiona
•TASK—to get his swamp back from the fairy creatures
make Shrek’s humanity come out and show that he is not just
an ogre at heart
•DAMSEL IN DISTRESS—Princess Fiona in the highest tower
•HEAVEN VS. HELL—glowing embers and fire are shown to
be the habitat of the dragon.
•LIGHT VS. DARKNESS—the castle is dark to represent evil;
Fiona is first seen in a ray of light; as soon as they escape, they
emerge into daytime since they have escaped evil