Why Mythology Is Still Important Today

Mythology is important for quite a few reasons. For one thing, it makes up a major part of anybody’s heritage.  It is a constant reminder of who we are and where we come from. Every culture has their own legends, folktales, and myths – whether it may be Celtic by way of Scotland, Ireland, or Wales for example, or Germanic by way of Gothic tales. 

To understand mythology, one has to define what comprises a myth. One good definition comes from the American Heritage Dictionary, in which it is “a fiction or half-truth, especially one that forms part of an ideology.” Another good dictionary defines myth as “a story presented as historical, dealing with traditions specific to a culture or a group of people.” These stories can be either cosmological, like battles between deities, or mundane, which can be an average, ordinary person doing superhuman things under certain circumstances.

Even American culture has its own mythology. One excellent example is Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, called Babe. Another good one is the stories of the Brer Rabbit from the Uncle Remus tales by Joel Chandler Lewis. Those stories are rooted in African mythology. The Brer Rabbit is a trickster character similar to that of Loki in Nordic mythology. Native Americans have also contributed to our history of storytelling.

Another reason mythology plays an important role is because it becomes a foundation for a lot of religions that are practiced.  These particular myths are stories that tell us about battles between good and evil. Every religion has stories like that, both ancient and modern. The protagonist, or hero, has to go through struggles against the antagonist, or villain. During that journey, that hero learns important values and morals that are important and necessary to defeat that villain. One notices it a lot in the Christian Bible, as well as in ancient classics, like the Odyssey by Homer. 

Saint George and the Dragon is an excellent example. St. George was a warrior who had to learn important virtues that were necessary to possess in order to defeat the dragon, which was at that time the Christian personification of evil, and marry Una, who was the personification of the Catholic church. This story was first told in The Faerie Queene by Sir Edmund Spencer, through the character of the Redcrosse Knight.

The most contemporary example of mythology is in modern-day comic books.  How did Peter Parker become Spider Man, for example? Today’s fantasy fiction is especially rich in mythology. Look at Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson character, or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Their stories have a myth of their own.  C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia are loaded with characters that are rooted in Greek and Roman mythology. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit has become modern mythology.

But the reason why mythology is still important is that it is pure storytelling. Everybody either likes to tell a good story or listen to someone tell a good story. As a longtime scholar of mythology myself, I love to do both. I enjoy listening to a good story, so I can pass it on to somebody else, whether it may be my younger relatives or a community of fellow writers or other scholars.

So, the next time you visit your local public library, consider picking up a good piece of literature that tells a good myth or two. It is a good form of escapism– something new, unique, and different from what you are used to. Better yet, if you are a parent, it will be something to share with your children. When they grow up, they will share it with their kids.  

Bryan N Griffin Jr

I am a freelance writer and a citizen journalist of almost 20 years. I received my bachelor of arts degree in comparative literature from Cleveland State University.  During my time @ CSU I learned classical literature from great professors as Bruce Beatie, who plays a major role in keeping the Classical and Medieval Studies department in that college, and Edward Haymes, who teaches Latin as well as German.  During my time as a student, I learned how to translate Latin and Greek, which I still do to this day.

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Volume 5, Issue 2, Posted 5:06 PM, 02.01.2013