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Mythology Final Essay

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World Mythology Final Exam

2. The term myth is one that is not easily defined and my definition of the term has changed over the length of the semester. In our first essay I defined myth as “a story or narrative that attempts to explain something in a certain culture.” Looking back now I can see that I had a pretty good base for the definition but after learning so much about myths around the world I find it even harder to define myth now than before. It seems that the more I learn about myths, the more complicated they get.

I believe that to define myth you must first understand what myth is. Myths are used for a variety of reasons such as explaining natural phenomena, explaining human creation, giving reasons for the appearance of plants and animals, as well as special events in a culture. A lot of myths in different cultures try to explain the inexplicable, such as why the sun appears to move across the sky every day or what causes lightning. I would define myth as a story, either written or narrated, passed down from those of previous generations to explain natural events, supernatural events, or special events in their culture to help them feel more comfortable about the world in which they live in and gives them a sense of belonging. We have seen this time and time again in our readings and movies from class in everything from The Whale Rider, to Gilgamesh, to Ender’s Game. I believe that my perception of myth has slowly evolved throughout the semester because I now understand more about why cultures create and follow myths.
Myths have been significant throughout time in various societies, including our own today. For example, take the story of Gilgamesh, a man with great strength, intelligence, and beauty. In the beginning of the book Gilgamesh, the King is immersed in himself until he finds his equal in Enkidu and they become great friends. Once Enkidu died Gilgamesh was able to follow his friend into the underground world of death to attempt to bring him back to the natural realm. In the end, Gilgamesh is unsuccessful in bringing back Enkidu and is heartbroken for a long time. The lesson learned from this myth are to accept the death of those closest to you because there is nothing we can do to reverse it and to appreciate the friendships that people have in life and to not become egocentric because of wealth, power, or selfishness. This myth played a positive role in many ancient societies, serving as a guide to live ones life holding friendship dear and valuing love more than material objects.
One theorist who has commented on myths is Sigmund Freud. Freud was a social theorist and looked for the relationships between mental functions and the structure of human civilization. Freud said people have an unconscious part of the brain that holds all their basic urges. Freud’s basic hypothesis was that the subconscious was put at ease when people created and believed in myths because it helped them to feel more secure about the world they lived in if they could somehow explain it. This also gave the people a common belief system which they all shared, making them feel like they belonged to the community. I wholeheartedly believe this is why people believe in myths. Humans have always feared what they can’t explain, and if a culture believes in a myth, it puts their mind at ease because they understand the world in which they live in. Many myths also contain rights of passage that allow boys and girls to become men and women in their culture. With this common belief system an individual can feel like he or she belongs to the culture that they live in which brings them comfort in every day life.

5. The story Ender’s Game is a very interesting book and contains many elements of modern myth within it. The story follows the classical humans against an invading alien force plot but with many unique twists. Instead of adults saving the planet the combatants are children not old enough to buy cigarettes or drink. Ender is the most promising pupil and Earths last hope of defeating the invading “buggers.” The greatest twist came at the end of the book when Ender learns his training simulator has actually controlled the real battle between humans and buggers. After that the story reveals its purpose; the buggers had not understood the humans and by the time they did, the humans were on a mission to annihilate them.
The moral to the story is to try communication first, instead of conflict. The technology to communicate was there the whole time in the ansible, the device that allowed the human ships to mimic the bugger’s instantaneous way of communication. Had they used the ansible to attempt to communicate to the buggers the whole conflict would have been avoided and a species would have been saved from extinction. Sometimes the solution to a problem can be right in front of our eyes but we act too short sighted to see it. If more people understood and followed this idea I think that the world would be a much more understanding place.
The movie “Star Wars” is very different from Ender’s Game but the main characters still share some similar characteristics. “Star Wars” has had a cult following for years and I believe that one of the reasons why is because it follows the plot, good versus evil very well, with the good prevailing in the end. The story of good and evil is one that has been told for thousands of years. Another thing that “Star Wars” contains is the idea of mortality. Many times throughout the movie the characters were faced with deadly situations in which they had to escape. A great example of a myth we read in class that deals with mortality lies within the reading of Frazer when he talks of the bird with the message from God. God gave the message that all humans shall be granted immortality and gave the bird the job of relaying this message but along the way a snake is told the message, perverts it, and tells the humans that it is he who will shed his skin and become immortal while the humans grow old and die.

While “Star Wars” is still extremely popular and Ender’s Game is widespread I don’t think we can call either one a myth of our time. I think that today’s myths are concealed within religion instead of entertainment. As science has progressed far beyond what it was a few hundred years ago, I think that the majority of myths we believe in today are integrated into our religions. Some stories in the Bible such as Adam and Eve and Noah’s Arc are still followed today by those who believe in their certain religions. These myths are still used today to give people an understanding of the world around us and give us and idea of how we were created. Sharing common beliefs also help people to feel like they belong to their community by sharing the same culture. “Star Wars” and Ender’s Game both contain elements inside them which relate to myth but I consider myths to be something that is passed down from the elders in a culture to the younger generations. The purpose of myths is to help us understand about the world we live in, and neither “Star Wars” nor Ender’s Game accomplish this.

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