Monday, 26 September 2011

Understanding Mythology & Folklore

After a chat with Alan about some possible routes to take, I took a moment to re-track and research a bit into about Mythology & Folklore, to gain a better understanding of how to extract certain elements from a particular tale, and moderinise them effectively. Here are some informative notes that will make this post act as a research dump to refer back to when extracting from Yuki-Onna.

Theories of Mythology:

A form of extended metaphor by which objects, persons, and events refer symbolically to meanings outside the narrative itself. Thus, allegorical mythology is a way of reading the objects, persons, and events depicted in myth as symbolizing something beyond the story’s plot and the literal meaning of its words

The theory, held by Euhemerus that the gods of mythology were but deified mortals, and their deeds only the amplification in imagination of human acts, reaching god like status over time.

Myth-Ritual Theory:
The existence of myth is tied to ritual, this theory claims that myths arose to explain rituals, people begin performing rituals for some reason that is not related to myth; later, after they have forgotten the original reason for a ritual, they try to account for the ritual by inventing a myth and claiming that the ritual commemorates the events described in that myth.

That myths resulted from the personification of inanimate objects and forces. According to this, the ancients worshipped natural phenomena such as fire and air, gradually coming to describe them as gods. For example, the ancients tended to view things as persons, not as mere objects; thus, they described natural events as acts of personal gods, thus giving rise to myths.



Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of that culture, subculture, or group. In usage, there is a continuum between folklore and mythology. Stith Thompson made a major attempt to index the motifs of both folklore and mythology, providing an outline into which new motifs can be placed, and scholars can keep track of all older motifs.

Folklore can be divided into four areas of study: artefact (such as voodoo dolls), describable and transmissible entity (oral tradition), culture, and behaviour (rituals). These areas do not stand alone, however, as often a particular item or element may fit into more than one of these areas.

Oral Tradition

Folklore can contain religious or mythic elements and it equally concerns itself with the sometimes mundane traditions of everyday life. Folklore frequently ties the practical and the esoteric into one narrative package.

"Folktales" is a general term for different varieties of traditional narrative. The telling of stories appears to be a cultural universal, common to basic and complex societies alike. Even the forms folktales take are certainly similar from culture to culture, and comparative studies of themes and narrative ways have been successful in showing these relationships. Also it is considered to be an oral tale to be told for everybody

On the other hand, folklore can be used to accurately describe a figurative narrative, which has no sacred or religious content. In the Jungian view, which is but one method of analysis, it may instead pertain to unconscious psychological patterns, instincts or archetypes of the mind. This may or may not have components of the fantastic (such as magic, ethereal beings or the personification of inanimate objects).

These folktales may or may not emerge from a religious tradition, but nevertheless speak to deep psychological issues. The familiar folktale, "Hansel and Gretel", is an example of this fine line. The manifest purpose of the tale may primarily be one of mundane instruction regarding forest safety or secondarily a cautionary tale about the dangers of famine to large families, but its latent meaning may evoke a strong emotional response due to the widely understood themes and motifs such as “The Terrible Mother”, “Death,” and “Atonement with the Father.”

There can be both a moral and psychological scope to the work as well as entertainment value, depending upon the nature of the teller, the style of the telling, the ages of the audience members, and the overall context of the performance. Folklorists generally resist universal interpretations of narratives and, wherever possible, analyze oral versions of tellings in specific contexts, rather than print sources, which often show the work or bias of the writer or editor.

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