Revealing the Significance of Myths and Legends in Modern Society

'Odysseus Overcome by Demodocus's Song.'

'Odysseus Overcome by Demodocus's Song', by Francesco Hayez, 1813–15. (Image; via Public Domain)

Myths may seem illogical and untrue to the modern mind. After all, science and technology have advanced so much that adults may fail to see their purpose in modern societies. Yet, there is a reason why every culture has such myths and legends.

Myths are stories that have persisted for thousands of years and still serve a purpose in traditional and modern cultures. These stories explain timeless, widespread themes and human experiences and promote the art of storytelling.

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Prometheus (1868) by Gustave Moreau. In the myths of Hesiodus and possibly Aeschylus, Prometheus is bound and tortured for giving fire to humanity.
‘Prometheus’ (1868) by Gustave Moreau. In the mythos of Hesiodus and possibly Aeschylus, Prometheus is bound and tortured for giving fire to humanity. (Image: Public Domain)

What are myths?

A myth is a traditional story that tries to answer life’s general questions, like the origin of man, supernatural events, seasons, and evil. For example, in Norse mythology, Askr and Embla are the first man and women created from tree trunks by Odin and his two brothers, Ve and Vili.

Each of these gods gave Askr and Embla a gift. These were more than mere stories; they showed the adventures of gods and heroes in their quests to overcome internal or external forces of evil. They demonstrated what was right or wrong and were universally accepted by the tribe that shared them. They formed the basic foundation upon which their lives were based.

Detail from 'The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy' by Domenico Tiepolo (1773), inspired by Virgil's Aeneid.
Detail from ‘The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy’ by Domenico Tiepolo (1773), inspired by Virgil’s Aeneid. (Image: via Public Domain)

Modern technology and myths

Modern technology and science have made traditional myths less popular. Television, the Internet, and digital media have also cast a shadow over these. Today, most ancient myths and folklore are dead, and those alive are mainly found in animations such as Hercules or Aladdin.

Still, they are significant in modern society because they deal with important matters. Science has advanced, but we are not different from our ancestors at the core. We have the same emotions, and people still have to fight against adversity, jealousy, drought, or evil.

Why myths are still important

Such stories explore themes that still affect humans. For example, they demonstrate the importance of death, the cyclic renewal of life and seasons, and the significance of sexuality. Through myths and legends, people can also appreciate the importance of women, birth, and transformation.

According to one myth from Ceram Indonesia, life was not complete or “human” initially, but one day, Hainuwele, a girl with extraordinary gifts, appeared. Myths also offer explanations, warnings, and triumphs. We still create modern myths that tackle everyday problems, and something about these resonates with the human psyche.

How our curiosity connects us to the past

Myths show us our endless curiosity. People have sought to describe, learn, and understand human behavior and supernatural events. Throughout history, these stories have opened hearts to learning and understanding the deeper meaning of life and human connections, making us rethink modern living. They also show how ancient people lived, thought, and expressed themselves.

We activate an essential primal part by remembering, sharing, and listening to ancient stories.

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