, Research Paper
The Function of a Myth To understand the function of a myth, it is important to have a common understanding of what the word myth means. A myth is a traditional, often ancient story, dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves to describe an accepted fundamental view of a people. These views are communicated by explaining aspects of the natural world or outlining the psychology, customs, or ideals of society. In the world that we live in today, myths have been replaced by our advanced sciences. Many years ago, when science had yet to reach the level that it has today, the people of our world searched for answers to questions that they could not answer. In their time there was no way for them to research and study the creation of life, our plant or even our universe. Not having answers to these questions make it difficult for human beings to find a purpose for life or a rulebook to apply to the way in which they live.When I read the myths Creation, Death and Rebirth of the Universe , The Quarrel between Sagbatta and Sogbo , Raven and the Sources of Light as well as How the Kangaroo got its Legs a point that I found common between all these stories is that they all explain how something that people have always known to be, was created. Evidence of this is the following:i)In the myth Creation, Death and Rebirth of the Universe , the character Gangleri, directs his questions to the gods about events that are prior to the creation of humans. An obvious example of this is when Gangleri asks how all things came to be (meaning creation of the universe).i) In the myth The Quarrel between Sagbatta and Sogbo the myth communicates that the great goddess Mawu created the universe.ii) Although the story of Raven and the Sources of Light illustrates that humans were not always with light. It is important to understand that the reader of this story did not know how light in his world came to be.iii) In the myth How the Kangaroo got its Legs again the reader is not aware that the Kangaroo has changed from one form to another. This story explains points that the reader was not able to observe or explain. The facts above cause me to believe that one of the functions of a myth is to inform humans of events that they were unable to observe and explain.Three of the myths that I read had also covered topics of hierarchical values. When I read the myths I found that the hierarchical values did not just apply to class structure, but also to genders, races, tribes and religions.i) In the myth The Creation, Death and the Rebirth of the Universe , it shows that class structure is important to the Norse people. This myth places gods first, giants second and humans third in the class system. Furthermore, the myth displayed gender values indicating that men are superior to women. This is demonstrated by the fact that goddesses are always listed second and do not hold as important positions as the gods do. When the two humans, Lif (meaning life) and his wife Lifthrasir (meaning desiring life), are to carry on the human race, Lif is mentioned before his wife, and the meanings behind their names are also ranked in importance, life being more important than desiring it. This myth also shows how races are also a part of the hierarchical system. Giants are superior to humans, as gods are superior to giants.
ii) In the myth the Quarrel between Sagbatta and Sogbo class structure is shown when the mother god instructs her two sons to rule the universe in peace.iii) In the myth Raven and the sources of Light the fact that Raven is viewed as superior to the humans because he has light is also an example of class structure. Myths build views of hierarchical values, another function of myths. The values that are illustrated are values that were accepted by the society in which these myths were created. The myths often are based on the ideology of a people. The Creation, Death and Rebirth of the Universe was created in line with the ideology of the Norse peoples.All of the myths included sections that communicated the importance of good ethics among the people of the society. Another point that is demonstrated by all the myths is penalties for not obeying the laws that have been passed on through generations.i) This point is well demonstrated in the myth the Quarrel between Sagbatta and Sogbo . The greed of Sagbatta is punished, he has to give up the riches that he rightfully inherited from his mother, so that he is able to help the people of earth and enable them survive. ii) In the myth Raven and the sources of Light , the old man that has kept the light for himself, is deceived by the Raven, and loses the light to the people of the world. This leads me to believe that another function of a myth is to exemplify values that the gods or supernatural beings feel are important. They also often show the punishment possibilities that come from not obeying these values.A value that is taught by many myths is the importance of obedience. Myths illustrate obedience by illustrating the outcome of being disobedient. I believe that myths focus on showing the importance of obedience to younger readers to urge them to be obedient. An example of this occurs in The Quarrel between Sagbatta and Sogbo . By not being obedient to his mother, Sagbatta ends up losing much of the fortune that he inherited to his younger brother in return for favors.Therefore another function of a myth is to create a sense of importance of obedience in people. Obedience is also an ideology that is passed on from one generation to the next. Having myths that express ideologies insures that the ideology is not lost from generation to generation.Another function of a myth is to give a group of people cohesiveness with each other. Myths are part of the culture and tradition of a people group that serve to give them a sense of belonging to the group. The myths can also give hope to lower class peoples, such as peasants in a land ruled by a king. They create a sense of worthiness among people, at the same time keeping the highest mortals in line.For these reasons, myths were a very important part of people s lives. They give people purpose for life, explain the unexplained and give them a rulebook on which to base their lives.