How to use Myth
It is important to understand that a myth is a classical story that has endured through in time—in other words; today’s writers generally do not create new myths, but rather create new ideas or storylines based on common elements of myth. Furthermore, myths that are present in works of literature or media are usually retellings or adaptations of the original tales. It is also a popular technique of authors to employ a classic mythological character or idea in a new story. Below are the most common ways myths are incorporated into fiction:
- Gods and goddesses are characters in new stories as themselves
- New characters that have the names of gods and goddesses, and often share the same traits, powers or abilities as their namesakes
- Characters that can control aspects of nature or science the way the gods and goddesses do in myths; i.e. the mutant Storm in X-Men, who can manipulate the weather
- Men learning lessons about what happens if they challenge higher powers
- Stories that explain the existence of people, places and things
- Explanations (with no basis in fact) about daily and/or unusual occurrences
Additionally, authors employ the techniques or features of classic mythologies to create new stories for modern themes, events, and mysteries. For instance, the short Pixar film, entitled Party Cloudy, uses the typical mythological themes to create a cute and funny story. The story explains the presence of certain animals with personification of the clouds, who each create different creatures and their offspring, and also effect the weather based on their moods. Below is the link to Party Cloudy:
When to use Myth
Something very interesting about myths is that they were originally developed in ancient society as nonfiction, but are today known to be fiction. It is widely agreed that myths were used when humans needed to explain mysteries of existence that could not be understood through the science of the time. Today, authors use them as parts of fictional stories. Though they may focus on real historical and natural events—i.e. the Trojan War—they always involve supernatural or mythical elements, which is why they are fiction. Many myths may have been developed based on real events or people, but they are not accurate or real accounts of history—they lack a basis in fact. So, as myths are works of fiction in themselves, they can be combined well with other genres of fiction and their elements are easily incorporated into modern stories. Of course, it is still popular to retell classic myths in their base form, for example stories about Hercules and other great heroes (see Examples in Pop Culture).
It’s important to know that myths are present in literature in two ways—not only as elements of fiction and stories in themselves, but also as the focus of nonfiction scholarship. Myths are significant part of mankind’s cultural, traditional, and religious history, and thus the study of mythology has been and will always be popular in cultural studies. So to clarify, myths are the common focus of academic and scholarly nonfiction writing, but they are never nonfiction themselves.