I think Paul Christensen had it right when he wrote “Myth is a sort of family history…and who the heroes were in the great struggle” (Christensen, pg. 311) when considering the reasons for old myths, those passed down from ancient times. But myth now, more modern myths, are something a little different and have evolved in a relatively short time even within their timeframe.
Myths are the tales that we tell ourselves in the dark for entertainment, to scare young children into being good, and to remember those people that came before us. Even without the knowledge of the original author of the tale, the first storyteller, we often pass down stories and myths simply because they were told to us, we were the frightened children in the dark around a campfire or huddled in front of a bathroom mirror too scared to turn around that third time. Unfortunately for myths, we’ve grown as a scientific society, and lost our belief in magic and ghosts and bumps in the night. We no longer need “traditional tales [myths to] maintain contact with the past … and pass inherited wisdom on to the future.” (Powell, pg. 2) We’ve managed to fairly well figure out why most things happen in life (i.e. natural disasters or disease) as well as, within reason, where we’ve come from, even though there are differing views on that particular topic. We don’t need myths to explain to us why the moon sometimes changes color, or the sun goes dark in the middle of the day. Humans don’t have to blame illness on a forest demon (though some may still do so if they so choose.)
Myths originally happened because we didn’t know any better, we needed to understand what was happening around us so that we didn’t need to feel quite as afraid anymore (unless we wanted to.) Humans would gather around a story teller, and the best story teller would be the most believable, so his explanation must be the truth, yes? As we grew in understanding, the old myths lost some of their luster and have hung on, at least partially, out of tradition. Newer myths grew out of the expanding understanding and either blossomed, learned to evolve with a changing society, or dropped off into forgotten lore. Now we write and tell myths (for the most part) for entertainment.
Sarah Ockershausen Delp
Christensen, Paul. “The “Wild West”: The Life And Death Of A Myth.” Southwest Review 93.3 (2008): 310-325. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 July 2015.