There is such power in story-telling! Visionaries, seers, bards, poets, playwrights, and novelists have harnessed this vast resource for as long as man has existed. What a crowd we are part of. What shoulders we stand on. I am proud to be part of this most special class. All scribes should use their art to lift others up and gift others with their own gift. What a world it would be!
The subjects of myths are as numerous as the objects which present themselves to the mind of man; for everything excites his curiosity, and of everything he desires to learn the cause. Among the larger questions which many peoples have attempted to answer by myths are those which concern the origin of the world and of man, the apparent motions of the heavenly bodies, the regular recurrence of the seasons, the growth and decay of vegetation, the fall of rain, the phenomena of thunder and lightning, of eclipses and earthquakes, the discovery of fire, the invention of the useful arts, the beginnings of society, and the mystery of death. In short, the range of myths is as wide as the world, being coextensive with the curiosity and the ignorance of man. (Frazer, qtd. in Bascom, “Forms of Folklore,” Journal of American Folklore, 1965, 16)
Those in secondary worlds have their own myths and legends. One of the books Mr. Timnus of Narnia has carries the title Is Man a Myth? He learns the truth once he meets Lucy. In Tolkien’s sub-creation, Éomer and the men of Rohan consider hobbits merely figures from nursery tales and The Sword that was Broken a matter of legend. They discover both in the waking world. Aragorn says he and they will be considered as figures of legend themselves by later ages. Frodo becomes a legend in his own time to the people of Gondor.
So, what are myths? Truth? Fantasy? A combination: truth to one generation or age, fantasy to another? Perhaps this is the best answer with the great distance that separates us from the time of such people and events. Just because the lives of King Arthur, Robin Hood, and others are now wrapped in legend does not mean these men did not once truly exist.
For the imaginative wanderer, myths and stories open up worlds that can be entered no other way – and perhaps lead to the truth. Enjoy the journey!
What have you discovered as you travel through wonderful tales?