Myth Story Examples From Around the World (2023)

A myth is a traditional story without an author that is usually intended to:

  • teach a lesson
  • explain one of the many mysteries of life
  • explain a phenomenon of nature
  • describe the customs, institutions, or religious rites of a people

In ancient times, something like a clap of thunder must've caused quite a fright. They didn't understand the inner workings of meteorology. Imagine the panic a hurricane or earthquake would've incited.

In order to understand these phenomena and, perhaps, bring comfort to people, myths were created as explanations for the many mysteries of life. Even our ancestors contemplated the creation of earth, natural disasters, flaws in humanity, death, and love.

The word myth is derived from the Greek word mythos, which means "story." Myths usually came about during a time when science, philosophy, and technology were not very precise.

Myths exist in every culture and country. Most cultures have their own creation myth. The majority of myths, regardless of their premise, tend to involve the exploits of gods or heroes who possess god-like qualities.

You'll find that many myths are set in a timeless place and involve a plethora of symbols that have multiple meanings. This is what makes myths such an interesting study: decoding their symbols.

Examples of Myth StoriesEgyptian Mythology: Ra

(Video) The myth of Pandora’s box - Iseult Gillespie

Ra was the sun god, often regarded as the most important of all Egyptian gods. Ra emerged from the chaos at the beginning of time and created the world. As well as being a god, Ra also ruled as Pharoah. Many Egyptian rulers claimed they were descended from Ra, to give credence to their seat on the throne.

According to the myth, Ra eventually began to grow weary of his duties. This made his people question whether he should be their ruler. When Ra learned this, he sent his daughter, the ‘Eye of Ra,’ to kill those who doubted him. She went on a rampage and Ra took pity on the humans. He tricked her into getting so drunk she couldn’t continue killing. After this, Ra left the earth for the sky.

This myth can be interpreted as a reflection on the flaws of humanity.

Greek Mythology: Poseidon

Poseidon was the god of the sea, son of Kronos and Rhea. He became ruler of the sea when the universe was divided after the fall of the Titans. Poseidon was bad-tempered and when he became angry, he would cause earthquakes. He managed to upset even Hades, the ruler of the underworld. Poseidon was most often depicted with his trident, and sometimes riding a horse (he is sometimes claimed to be the creator of horses).

Natural disasters still leave us flummoxed, even today. So, how could earthquakes be explained in ancient times? An angry god who shook the earth is one way.

Irish Mythology: Bean Sídhe

A bean sídhe was a fairy spirit, that would wail whenever a family member was about to die. (In English, we refer to them as banshees.) The bean sidhe didn’t cause death but announced the death or warned loved ones that death was near, so they could prepare. Some believed she escorted their loved ones safely to the afterlife.

(Video) Flood Myths From Across the World

Death - like creation - is one of those inexplicable facets of life. Many cultures employed myths in order to wrap their minds around how and why these things occurred.

Japanese Mythology: Izanagi and Izanami

Izanagi and Izanami are Shinto creator gods. Izanagi and Izanami created the Japanese islands and the deities of the sea, wind, mountain, river, trees, and rice. When Izanami gave birth to a fire god, it fatally burned her.

Izanagi resolved to have his wife returned to him and sought her out in the underworld. Izanami could not return because she'd eaten 'the dark food,’ but said she would beg the gods to let her go. After waiting a long time Izanagi lit a torch to go find her and when he saw her rotting body he fled and sealed the door to the underworld. Izanami then vowed to kill 1,000 people each day and Izanagi promised to create 1,500 to replace them.

This myth would once have been used to explain how everything came into being and the cycle of life and death.

Mayan Mythology: Huracán

Huracán was the god of the wind and storm, and could command the natural elements of the earth. He played a large role in the three attempts to create humankind, destroying the second generation that displeased the gods and creating the third and final version of the human race out of corn. The word 'hurricane' is derived from the god Huracán.

Like earthquakes, hurricanes are often unpredictable. Eons before the advent of meteorology, gods like Poseidon and Huracán were created to help people understand these phenomena.

(Video) Creation from the Void: Crash Course World Mythology #2

Mesopotamian Mythology: Marduk

Marduk was possibly the most important god in Mesopotamian mythology. Marduk led the new gods in battle against the old gods. Marduk and his army defeated the old gods and he became the supreme god. After this, Marduk created the sky and earth, as well as the first human beings. Marduk decreed that humans would do the work gods had no time for and in return the gods would care for them.

Even today, we debate the origins of the earth. This myth is another example of a culture's attempt to explain how we all came to be and our purpose in life.

Norse Mythology: Thor

Thor is the hot-tempered god of thunder in Norse mythology, the son of the chief god, Odin, and goddess of the earth, Fjorgyn. As a strong and courageous warrior, Thor was the protector of both gods and humans. Lightning bolts flew from his hammer Mjöllnir as he slew enemies, but it could also be used to heal and revive. Thor was so revered that when the Anglo-Saxons adopted the Roman calendar, they named the fifth day of the week 'Thursday', after him.

Thunder and lightning can be powerful and frightening. So, believing it was Thor defending his people probably soothed some terrified souls.

Roman Mythology: Cupid

This is one we all know, illustrating the magnitude of mythology. Cupid was the god of love and desire. He was the son of Venus and usually depicted as a winged child carrying a bow and arrows. His arrows could either draw people together or pull them apart.

(Video) What Is Myth? Crash Course World Mythology #1

This myth tries to explain why one person can be so intensely drawn to another and even why relationships don’t always work out the way you hoped. It also shows that myths didn’t only cover natural events but day-to-day life too.

Scottish Mythology: Cailleach

The Cailleach is the winter goddess who created the mountains and hills that speckle the Scottish Highlands. Some myths say she created them as her stepping stones. Others say she accidentally created them when she dropped rocks out of her apron. Her staff froze the ground but she kept the seeds safe for spring.

Her story encompasses the power and beauty of nature and the changing of the seasons. Of course, now we have the benefits of science. But, back then, it might've been helpful to attribute such glory to the hands of a god.

Stories to Ponder

Here we are, in the 21st century, and many of us still enjoy mythological tales. Courses are taught at universities. Tomes have been written on the subject. Even blockbuster movies relive the adventures found within mythological tales. Isn't it fun, just for a moment, to imagine a god of thunder who fearlessly protects his people from fates worse than death with a magical hammer?

Today, we don't need a storm god to explain wind and rain. However, you can see why myths were once created. Ancient people wanted to wrap their minds around mystifying acts of nature they couldn't otherwise comprehend. Perhaps the human condition hasn't changed much because they, too, couldn't make much sense of love. Maybe it's time for Cupid to step up his game.

If you want to delve deeper into these tall tales YourDictionary also has articles with more examples of Greek myths and Egyptian myths.

(Video) Nature Mythology From Around the World

FAQs

What is an example of a myth for kids? ›

Myths and Legends Poems for Kids

Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. The story of the boy who flew too near to the sun. Jason and the crew of the Argos set out on an epic quest to find the golden fleece, and claim it for their king.

What is an example of a myth story? ›

Some examples of famous myths are: Hercules and the Lion (Greece) The Birth of Horus (Egypt) The Children of Lir (Ireland)

What is a myth 7th grade? ›

Myths are stories that have been told for centuries and used to explain a natural phenomenon or teach a lesson.

What is a myth story for kids? ›

A myth is a traditional, ancient story that is fictional.

Myths were often written to explain natural phenomena and quite often involved gods and fantasy creatures.

What is a famous myth? ›

FAMOUS MYTHS

Ancient Greek myths include: The Trojan War – a story that summarizes the Trojan War between Troy and Greece. The Odyssey – a story of how one warrior, Odysseus, made it home to lthaca, and the troubles he found when he got home. The Founding of Athens – how Athens was created.

What is a myth in short story? ›

Myths are stories that are based on tradition. Some may have factual origins, while others are completely fictional. But myths are more than mere stories and they serve a more profound purpose in ancient and modern cultures. Myths are sacred tales that explain the world and man's experience.

What is myth in world history? ›

The word mythology ( Greek: μυθολογία, from μύθος mythos, "story"; "legend," and λόγος logos, "word"; "discourse") is the "branch of knowledge that deals with myths; the study of myths" In addition, it refers to the body of myths from a particular culture or religion, (e.g., Egyptian mythology, Norse mythology, or ...

What is a myth world history? ›

myth, a symbolic narrative, usually of unknown origin and at least partly traditional, that ostensibly relates actual events and that is especially associated with religious belief. It is distinguished from symbolic behaviour (cult, ritual) and symbolic places or objects (temples, icons).

What are the 4 types of myths? ›

Introduction. There are four basic theories of myth. Those theories are: the rational myth theory, functional myth theory, structural myth theory, and the psychological myth theory. The rational myth theory states that myths were created to explain natural events and forces.

What are three myths? ›

The Three Types of Myths: Aetiological, Historical, and Psychological. There are actually many different types of myth, not just three. In fact, there are several entire theories of myth.

Is the Trojan War a myth? ›

For most ancient Greeks, indeed, the Trojan War was much more than a myth. It was an epoch-defining moment in their distant past. As the historical sources – Herodotus and Eratosthenes – show, it was generally assumed to have been a real event.

What is a myth middle school? ›

A myth is a story from a long time ago. Some myths are thousands of years old. In Greek, the word 'mythos' means 'story'. There are myths from every culture in the world, but the best-known ones are from Ancient Greece, Rome or from the Norse people of Northern Europe.

How does a myth start? ›

Myths and legends began to be recorded just as soon as humans mastered the technology of writing. Often the very first texts were hymns to the gods or collections of mythological stories that became organised into cycles, explaining how the world was created, how humans came into existence or why Death is necessary.

What is a good myth to write about? ›

Examples include: Eros and Psyche, the Myth of Creation, Daedalus and Icarus, Noah and the Great Flood, the myth of Arthur and Camelot, and The Rain Queen. Why don't you write a myth using one of these ideas as inspiration?

What is a family myth? ›

The family myth is a blend of fact and fantasy preserving important events and notable personalities in the family's history. Family myths are narratives which include information about rituals as they were enacted in previous generations, with current family members playing 'time honoured' rbles.

Is Thor a myth? ›

Thor, the powerful god of thunder in Norse mythology, was the mighty defender of gods and goddesses, who were constantly under siege by the forces of chaos. Thor was the most popular god in the Norse pantheon, and his many exploits are recalled in many myths and tales—far more than any other Norse god or goddess.

What is a myth story called? ›

Mythology (from the Greek mythos for story-of-the-people, and logos for word or speech, so the spoken story of a people) is the study and interpretation of often sacred tales or fables of a culture known as myths or the collection of such stories which deal with various aspects of the human condition: good and evil; ...

What is mythology in high school? ›

In essence, mythologies are stories told to explain things that people have questioned. For instance, every culture has a myth that explains the creation of the earth and the universe. Myths help people to understand the things that they may not be able to explain.

What is African myth? ›

In African oral cultures, myths embody philosophical reflections, express values, and identify moral standards. Unlike Western mythology, African myths are not recounted as a single narrative story, nor is there any established corpus of myth. Instead, myths are embedded and transmitted in ritual practice.

How old is Zeus? ›

Semi-immortality: As a God, Zeus is incapable of dying due to old age. He is a lot older than most gods, being older than the Big Bang itself (making him over 13.8 billion years old).

Who is the oldest known God? ›

Inanna is among the oldest deities whose names are recorded in ancient Sumer. She is listed among the earliest seven divine powers: Anu, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag, Nanna, Utu, and Inanna.

Who wrote the first myth? ›

The Greek stories of gods, heroes and monsters are told and retold around the world even today. The earliest known versions of these myths date back more than 2,700 years, appearing in written form in the works of the Greek poets Homer and Hesiod.

Are fairy tales myths? ›

Myths, legends, and fairytales are all folkloric stories, but they aren't interchangeable. The components of these stories are what makes them different.

What is a religious myth? ›

Myths are religious narratives or stories that provide the religious basis for religious beliefs or practises. Some myths exist as written texts, whereas in non-literate societies they exist as oral narratives. These religious stories can be told in the form of art, music and dance.

What is a myth for kids? ›

A myth is a traditional, ancient story that is fictional.

Myths were often written to explain natural phenomena and quite often involved gods and fantasy creatures.

What is a myth or legend for kids? ›

Myths are stories that are passed down about how or why something came to be. Legends are designed to teach a lesson about a real person in history, with a few facts dramatically changed.

What is a myth Children's definition? ›

They are stories about how the world was created and why certain things happen. Today the word myth is often used to describe something that is not true. But a myth is not just a made-up story. Myths tell of gods, heroes, and events that a group believes, or at one time believed, to be real.

What is short myth? ›

myth, a symbolic narrative, usually of unknown origin and at least partly traditional, that ostensibly relates actual events and that is especially associated with religious belief. It is distinguished from symbolic behaviour (cult, ritual) and symbolic places or objects (temples, icons).

Videos

1. The myth of the moon goddess - Cynthia Fay Davis
(TED-Ed)
2. Creation Myths from around the World
(Unitarian Fellowship of Houston videos)
3. The myth of Arachne - Iseult Gillespie
(TED-Ed)
4. The Earliest Creation Myths - Mythillogical
(The Histocrat)
5. American Exceptionalism as Part of Myth America
(Professor Buzzkill)
6. What are Myths? Simple and Concise Explanation of Mythology
(Learn English with The Learning Depot)
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