Myths are stories of oral transmission that narrate supernatural events and that serve as an explanation of different things. For example, the genesis
narrates the origin of the universe.
These narratives were and are taken as true by different civilizations and religions , since they arose to answer questions about the origin and existence of different phenomena. For example, certain natural events were believed to be generated by the gods.
According to what phenomenon they explain, there are different types of myths : the cosmogonic ones (they narrate the creation of the world), the anthropogonic ones (they narrate the origin of human beings), the theogonic ones (they narrate the origin of the gods), the etiological ones (they narrate the origin of other beings and phenomena, rituals and customs ), the foundational ones (they narrate the foundation of places) or the eschatological ones (they describe what the end of the world will be like).
At present many people study these myths in order to understand how certain societies perceived or perceive the world. In addition to being an important source for understanding the worldview of different societies, the myths could have served as an analogy for natural phenomena such as earthquakes, droughts and floods.
Characteristics of short myths stories
- Place: Events generally take place in places that are unknown.
- Time: The events can happen before the appearance of the people or when they already existed, but they are never placed in a historical time.
- Characters: They can be gods, demigods, people and supernatural beings. In many of these narratives the characters are heroes.
- Origin: They are anonymous narratives, which were transmitted from generation to generation and some passed into written texts, for example, The Metamorphoses of Ovid is a text in which many Roman myths appear.
- Topics: These narratives are explanations of various issues, so there are many topics, for example, the universe, elements of nature, battles, life and death, heroic deeds, adventures, and foundations of cities.
- Purpose: The objective is to explain the reason for certain events, the existence of various things, customs and rituals or to serve as a consolation for unanswered questions or adverse situations.
- Narration: It is very common that in different texts the myths do not appear fully told, because most of the people of the society in which the myth originated already knew the story.
Examples of short myths stories
1. Romulus and Remus (Roman myth)
Numitor was the king of Alba Longa, but was dethroned by Amulius, his brother. Rhea Silvia, the daughter of Numitor, had twin sons, Romulus and Remus. She was afraid that her uncle would kill them, so she placed them in a basket that she left in a river.
A she-wolf found them and raised them as her children. Later they were found by two peasants who took care of them. One day, the twins discovered his identity and went to Alba Longa to kill Amulio and return the throne to Numitor.
His grandfather thanked them for the feat and gave them land in Latium, where Romulus soon founded Rome.
2. Theseus and the Minotaur (Greek myth)
The minotaur was a monstrous being that was in a labyrinth on the island of Crete and that fed on humans. Theseus came to Crete to tell Minos, the king of this place, that he could kill the monster.
Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, fell in love with Theseus and decided to help him: she gave him a ball of magic thread so that he could tie it at the entrance of the labyrinth, kill the monster and be able to get out. Theseus fulfilled his mission and later married Ariadne.
3. The origin of the sun and the moon (Aztec myth)
At one time neither the sun nor the moon existed and the gods met to decide who was going to illuminate the universe. Tecuciztécatl said that he had to do it, the gods accepted this proposal and said that Nanahuatzin would become the moon.
The gods decided that in order to become the Sun, Tecuciztécatl had to throw himself into the fire, but the god was afraid and could not do it. In his place, Nanahuatzin threw herself into the fire and, by his brave act, was transformed into the sun. Tecuciztécatl was embarrassed by his attitude and decided to throw himself into the fire and then transformed into the moon.
4. The origin of Durga (Hindu myth)
Long ago the gods were at war with the demons, who were settling in the heavens. The gods had been displaced, they were on earth and they made the decision to create another god to save them.
Vishnu, Shiva and other gods concentrated their powers and a ray of fire came out of the mouth of each one and, thus, they created a goddess, Durga. She went to heaven and was able to defeat the demons.
5. Thor and his hammer (Norse myth)
The hammer that Thor had was magical, because when the god threw it, it hit the target and then returned to his hand. But one day, Thor woke up and his hammer was missing.
Thor learned that Thrym, the king of the giants, had the hammer. This king told Thor that he would return it to him only if he married the goddess Freyja, but she did not want to. Thor and the other gods agreed that Thor would disguise himself as Freyja, to pretend that she would marry Thrym, so that he could retrieve the hammer.
Thor disguised himself as Freyja, and in celebration, Thrym asked for the hammer to be brought to bless the ceremony. But Thor took it, killed Thrym, and was then able to retrieve the hammer from him.
6. Pan Gu and the origin of the world (Chinese myth)
When the universe did not exist, there was only an egg-shaped being inhabited by different forces and materials. Time passed and this egg gave rise to Pan Gu, a giant and very hairy being. But Pan Gu did not like to be surrounded by nothing and silence, so he created an ax and split the egg in two: yin and yang and heaven and earth emerged.
Pan Gu stayed on the border between heaven and earth so that they would not come together again. Some time later, the god passed away and from the remains of his body came the first people.
7. Amaterasu (Japanese myth)
Amaterasu was the goddess of the sun and one day Susanoo, her brother, challenged her to see who had the greatest power. She made rice fields appear and transformed her brother’s sword into three goddesses. He created five monsters and said that he was the winner, but Amaterasu did not accept it and accused him of cheating.
He got angry and destroyed the rice fields. She got angry, scared and went to hide in a cave, making the sunlight disappear. The other gods went to look for her and brought a mirror. For the locked goddess to come out, they began to make noise and, out of curiosity, the goddess came out. The gods explained to her that there was another goddess brighter than her, but it was not true, rather the other goddess was the bright reflection of Amaterasu in the mirror. She believed them, she left the cave to see this supposed goddess and the other gods closed the cave forever.
8. Gnowee (Australian myth)
A long time ago, men lit fires to see in the dark, because there was no light. One day Gnowee, a goddess, came down to earth to search for her lost child. She used a torch that illuminated the entire earth for a few hours to be able to search for him and then it was night, because the goddess needed to rest. This myth explains how the sun originated.
9. Origin of the Ganges (Hindu myth)
A long time ago there was a king, Sagara, who had had many sons. In a ritual, Sagara was honoring the gods together with his horse. But Indra, a god, stole it from him.
The king sent his sons to look for the animal. They found him in the underworld with a beggar whom they accused of stealing from him and, for this reason, this man turned all the king’s children to ashes.
A descendant of the king asked the god Brahma to remove the souls of the men who had remained in the underworld. The god sent the goddess Ganga to purify them so they could go up to heaven.
She went down, had some inconvenience: she was pushed by a current of water into the ocean, where the entrance to the underworld was, and was able to release the souls of Sagara’s children.
This myth explains how the Ganges River was formed and, therefore, in the Hindu religion it is considered a purifying river.
10. The origin of the world (Yoruba myth)
Before there were only two gods: Olorun, the god of the skies, and Olokun, god of water. They created other gods: Obatalá and Orunmila. Obatalá asked Olorun for permission to create the earth and the god of heaven replied that he had to ask Orunmila how he could create it. Orunmila told Obatala that she would need a gold chain, a chicken, a snail shell filled with sand, a seed, and a cat.
Obatalá used the gold chain to descend from the sky and when he reached the water he emptied the shell of the snail. Then he released the chicken to spread the sand and thus the earth was formed. Then he planted the seed so that the first tree would grow.
Obatalá played with his cat but he felt lonely, so with the clay he made little beings similar to him and asked his father to give them the gift of life. Olorun blew on these beings and that is how the first people arose.