Myth Traditional and contemporary approaches Defining myth The term myth is defined in widely differing ways The most narrow definitions treat myths as false narratives about the origin of the world and of
humans The widest say that myths are commonly held beliefs about pretty much anything that are not dependent upon factual proof for people to believe them the word mythology is used to refer to stories that, while they may or may not be strictly factual, reveal fundamental truths and insights about human nature, often through the use of archetypes. Also, the stories discussed express the viewpoints and beliefs of the country, time period, culture, and/or religion which gave birth
to them. One can speak of . . . the mythic elements within these faiths without speaking to the veracity of the faith's tenets or claims about its history. Although myths are often considered to be accounts of events that have not happened, many historians consider that myths can also be accounts of actual events that have become highly imbued with symbolic meaning, or that have been transformed, shifted in time or place, or even reversed. One way of conceptualizing this process is to view 'myths' as lying at the far
end of a continuum ranging from a 'dispassionate account' to 'legendary occurrence' to 'mythical status'. As an event progresses towards the mythical end of this continuum, what people think, feel and say about the event takes on progressively greater historical significance while the facts become less important. By the time one reaches the mythical end of the spectrum the story has taken on a life of its own and the facts of the original event have become almost irrelevant.
Features of myth Stark contrasts among characters Mystical/religious qualities Focus on heroic/villainous individuals Extreme conflict, no compromise or cooperation between camps Shallow characters
Often isolated in time and space Mythic narratives Well look at grand narratives that can be found in pretty much any culture Heroes/heroic quests Foundation myths/stories Mythic narratives
Predictable Limited set of recurrent actions Archetypes Does not need proof for cultural acceptance Propps analysis Vladimir Propp reviewed thousands of Russian folk tales
Morphology of the Folk Tale Identified 39 common (simple) actions (Structuralist theory) Many actions found in large portions of the stories Regular order of actions However, not all stories have all acts in the prescribed order
Room for a certain amount of originality Propps 8 character types The villain (struggles against the hero) The donor (prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object) The (magical) helper (helps the hero in the quest)
The princess (person the hero marries, often sought for during the narrative) Her father The dispatcher (character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off) The hero or victim/seeker hero, reacts to the donor, weds the princess False hero/anti-hero/usurper (takes credit for the heros actions/tries to marry the princess) Villains
Darth Vader Sauron Blofeld Evil queen/stepmother Dark knight/Mordred Kahn Heroes
King Arthur Neo Aragorn James Bond James T. Kirk Mulan How do we know heroes from villains? Donor
Chronicles of Narnia Lord of the Rings Galadriel
James Bond Saint Nicholas Q XXX Beauty and the Beast Enchantress plays opposing roles (enchantment and provision of the mirror)
Princess and her father Beauty/father Nala/father missing Princess Leia/Darth Vader
Confusion between heroes at first Princess Jasmine/the sultan Pocahontas/Powhattan Sleeping Beauty/king The Dispatcher M Mission Impossible voice Charlie
False Hero Balto Functions of dramatic personnel Conjunctive elements (ex machina, announcement of misfortune, chance disclosure
mother calls hero loudly, etc.) Motivations (reasons and aims of personages) Forms of appearance of dramatis personae (the flying arrival of dragon, chance meeting with donor) Attributive elements or accessories (witchs hut or her clay leg) After the initial situation is depicted, the tale takes the following sequence: Somehow a hero is chosen or accidentally enters into the scene:
A member of a family leaves home (the hero is introduced); An interdiction is addressed to the hero ('don't go there', 'go to this place'); Hero may be reluctant or unwitting Enter the villain
The interdiction is violated (villain enters the tale); The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance (either villain tries to find the children/jewels etc; or intended victim questions the villain); The villain gains information about the victim;
The villain attempts to deceive the victim to take possession of victim or victim's belongings (trickery; villain disguised, tries to win confidence of victim); Victim taken in by deception, unwittingly helping the enemy; 24 The villain acts
Villain causes harm/injury to family member (by abduction, theft of magical agent, spoiling crops, plunders in other forms, causes a disappearance, expels someone, casts spell on someone, substitutes child etc, commits murder, imprisons/detains someone, threatens forced marriage, provides nightly torments); Alternatively, a member of family lacks something or desires something (magical potion etc); Note: In many cases, this is the act that precipitates the quest (original disruption)
Misfortune or lack is made known, (hero is dispatched, hears call for help etc/ alternative is that victimized hero is sent away, freed from imprisonment); Seeker agrees to, or decides upon, counteraction; Hero leaves home; Hero is tested, interrogated, attacked etc, preparing the way for his/her receiving
magical agent or helper (donor); Hero reacts to actions of future donor (withstands/fails the test, frees captive, reconciles disputants, performs service, uses adversary's powers against them); Frodo and Galadriel at the pool Hero acquires use of a magical agent (directly
transferred, located, purchased, prepared, spontaneously appears, eaten/drunk, help offered by other characters); Hero is transferred, delivered or led to whereabouts of an object of the search; Holy Grail Mount Doom
Arc of the Covenant Lost City of Atlantis Hero and villain join in direct combat; E.g., final gun battle between Dirty Harry and Scorpio Hero is branded (wounded/marked, receives ring or scarf);
Villain is defeated (killed in combat, defeated in contest, killed while asleep, banished); Rambo destroys Vietnamese prison village
Frodo and Gollum struggle, Gollum falls into Mount Doom Gaston and the Beast struggle, Gaston falls to his death Dr. No drowns in his own reactor core Arthur kills Mordred with Excalibur Jack shoots Mina Initial misfortune or lack is resolved (object of search distributed, spell broken, slain person revived, captive freed);
e.g. spring comes to Narnia; Buttercup is released from the evil prince; the men from the nuclear sub are released; the nuclear warhead is disarmed; Hero returns; E.g., Bond returns from his fight with the villain; Frodo and Samwise return from Mount Doom; Galahad returns;
Hero is pursued (pursuer tries to kill, eat, undermine the hero); e.g., the evil queen tries to kill the prince; Hero is rescued from pursuit (obstacles delay pursuer, hero hides or is hidden, hero transforms unrecognizably, hero saved from attempt on his/ her life);
E.g., the good fairies cast spells to protect the prince; fish attempt to prevent Ursula from killing Ariel and the prince; Simba escapes through the briar patch Jaws is delayed by Russian agent so Bond can escape New Yorkers on bridge throw objects at Green Goblin allowing Spidey to save Mary Jane and resume battle Hero unrecognized, arrives home or in another country;
Odysseus returns to Ithaca and is not recognized Simba leaves to live in jungle, thought dead, returns and is mistaken for Mufasa False hero presents unfounded claims;
Difficult task proposed to the hero (trial by ordeal, riddles, test of strength/ endurance, other tasks); (Balto) Must pull sword from stone; must steal information from CIA headquarters; twelve tasks of Hercules; Task is resolved; Hero is recognized (by mark, brand, or thing given to him/her);
Neo is recognized as The One Baby is recognized by birthmark/Court Jester False hero or villain is exposed; Hero is given a new appearance (is made whole, handsome, new garments etc);
Scar is unmasked as murderer of Mufasa, forced to confess before pride; Steed? found out when Balto returns; false king revealed when true king returns Beast is transformed; Count of Monte Cristo Villain is punished; Scar is attacked, killed by hyenas;
Hero marries and ascends the throne (is rewarded/promoted) Bond has woman (only once married)
Ariel and prince are married Pocahontas and John Smith united Prince and Sleeping Beauty betrothed Mulan and generals son have dinner Aladdin is chosen by Jasmine, sultan changes law so he can be prince Simba and Nala have cub who is slated to be next king Pilot and computer programmer return from space mission and are greeted by their respective women However, in a number of stories the hero dies or sacrifices himself so that others may live
Spock in Wrath of Khan Frodo in Lord of the Rings Jesus Christ Aslan the Lion in Chronicles of Narnia Kirk in Star Trek ?
Boromir in Fellowship of the Ring Anakin Skywalker in Return of the Jedi/redeems himself Robert E. Lee Pruitt in From Here to Eternity Jim Brown in the Dirty Dozen Arthur dies in final battle with Mordred Joseph Campbell The most popular mythologist in recent times has been Campbell
He attempted to develop a theory of a monomytha basic story that underlies myths from throughout the world Controversial Not seen as rigorous scholarship Validity of monomyth questioned Heros journey Campbell was especially interested in the archetypal character
Followed teachings of Jung The heros quest was a spiritual journey as well as a physical one Left the seeker forever changedfor the better Leaving home symbolic representation of leaving childhood, becoming aware/adultgoing through a transformation
Campbell Sees the search as mystical/transformative and argues that the quest is a crucial part of a well-lived life If the quest is not truly transformative, not a true heroic myth Sources of concern
Teach people to think in terms of either-or approach to conflict/competition Inability to thoughtfully consider context, ambiguity Little consideration given to compromise Preach violence and brinkmanship as a strategy of dealing with conflict/competition Demonization of other side leads to escalation
Strengthens position of extremists No actions are mutually beneficial Life as a zero-sum game Sources for concern Portrayal of a world split into warring
factions Archetypal good and bad groups lead to a portrayal of those who are different in extremely negative terms Archetypes applied in the real world can quickly lead to harsh stereotyping or demonization of groups or individuals Sources for concern
Can promote a great man vision of the appropriate form of social control Authoritarian if not monarchic implications Lose patience with debaters, lily-livered liberals Star Wars as a heroic myth Star Wars is an influential science fantasy saga
and fictional universe created by writer/producer/director George Lucas in the early 1970s. The saga began with the film Star Wars, which was released on May 25, 1977. The film, later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, became a pop culture phenomenon, spawning five more feature films and an extensive collection of licensed books, comics, video games, spin-off films, television series, toys, et al.
Star Wars story employs archetypal motifs common to both modern science fiction and ancient mythology, as well as the romantic music motifs of those genres. In 2005, Forbes Magazine estimated the overall revenue generated by the entire Star Wars franchise (over the course of its 28-year history) at nearly US $20 billion, easily making it one of the most successful film franchises of all time. Star Wars began with a 13-page treatment for a space adventure movie that George Lucas drafted in 1973, inspired by
multiple myths and classic stories. Influences on Lucas Many different influences have been suggested for the Star Wars films by fans, critics, and George Lucas himself. Lucas acknowledges that the plot and characters in the 1958 Japanese film The Hidden Fortress, directed by Akira Kurosawa, were a major inspiration. Lucas has said in an interview, which is included on the DVD edition of The Hidden Fortress, that the movie influenced him to tell the story of Star Wars from the viewpoint of the humble droids, rather than a major player. It also played a role in the conception of Darth Vader whose trademark black helmet
intentionally resembles a samurai helmet. More particularly, the arch-villain in Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai wears a black samurai helmet to which Vader's helmet bears a remarkable resemblance. The Jedi, nearly extinct futuristic knights of the former republic also have a high influence from the Samurai as spiritual warriors and duelists with a strong sense of honor and devotion to their duty. Their traditional clothing even resembles kimonos. Prior to writing the script for Star Wars, George Lucas originally wanted to make a film of Flash Gordon. The rights for Flash Gordon, however, were held by Dino De Laurentiis, and Lucas decided to work on
his own science fiction project instead. Another influence in Lucas's creation of Star Wars were the writings of Joseph Campbell. Campbell's work explored the common meanings, structures, and purposes of the world's mythologies. Lucas has stated that his intention was to create in Star Wars a modern mythology based on Campbell's work. The original Star Wars film, for example, closely followed the archetypal "hero's journey", as described in Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
It is also thought that the setting for the Star Wars universe came from Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, published in the early 1950s. This saga also involves a galaxy teeming with inhabited worlds held together by a collapsing galactic empire using hyperdrives (for longdistance transportation). It also features the planet Trantor, which is entirely covered by the galaxy's capital, similar to Coruscant, and the protagonist of Foundation and Empire is Lathan Devers, a character resembling Han Solo. Even lightsabers have precursors in the The Foundation Trilogy as force field penknives.
It is also often argued that Star Wars was greatly influenced by Frank Herbert's classic science fiction book Dune. Many elements of Star Wars are often also evident in Dune. There are so many similarities, in fact, some Dune devotees consider Star Wars little more than a campy film adaptation of Herbert's work. While this is likely an exaggeration, many of the similarities are striking. For example, both Dune and Star Wars are set on desert planets. Both stories feature a mystical knighthood of sorts--the Jedi in Star Wars and the Bene Gesserit of Dune. In both stories the hero uses mystical powers, exhibits mind control (Jedi mind trick/the Voice), and duels opponents with sword-like weapons. Finally, both stories describe a corrupt empire and the hero's efforts to overcome it. An excellent comparison of the most often cited similarities between Star Wars and Dune can be found at the official Dune website:
http://www.jitterbug.com/origins/dune.html. Some comic book fans have also drawn parallels between Star Wars and Jack Kirbys epic Fourth World series, published by DC Comics. The cosmos-spanning series of titles was never completed: DC canceled it, ostensibly due to low sales. At the heart of the series was the battle between Orion of the New Gods and his villainous father, Darkseid (pronounced dark side.) Orion called upon the mystical force known as the source to aid him in this struggle. The Death Star is somewhat reminiscent of Apokolips, Darkseids home planet. It is also worth noting that Darth Vader shares some visual similarities
with Kirbys armored uber-villain Dr. Doom, co-created with editor/scripter Stan Lee at Marvel Comics. Why are heroic journeys so appealing? Simple, stark contrasts easy to comprehend, powerful and compelling Echo deeply-held feelings and beliefs that may
not be conscious Simple dialogue Personalization/individuation Good and evil Spirituality Exciting action, often violence Emotion rather than reason drives the action
Sources of concern Emotional rather than rational goals and reasoning Words that succeed while policies fail Irrational traditionalism Conflict based in religion, klan, nation
Can easily slide into some rather unpleasant representations Nazi use of Wagners epic heroic opera Teaches to make decisions, etc. based on tribal loyalties, heated passions rather than dispassionate, rational debate
Can justify extreme, uncompromising actions brutality War Enslavement torture
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