Tag Archives: mythology

The Difference Between Myths, Legends, and Fairy Tales

Myths, legends, fairy tales—we know them well, the stories we pass down from generation to generation. Add in folktales and fables, and you have yourself a plethora of names for the sort of stories people often lump under the same category.

Yet each of these represents a story with its own distinct characteristics. The terms are not interchangeable.

Editors and readers have certain expectations associated with different genres, and you’ll want to play into those.

Myths

Myths explain the reasons why things have come to be—why our world looks and feels and works the way it does. Think creation myths. These provide a worldview, telling the reader how it is that a certain practice, belief, or natural event came about. How the world itself came about.

Gods and goddesses, in all their various shapes and traditions and cultures, fall under this category. We are living in the mud on Big Turtle’s back. The Fates are spinning their thread, doling out misery and suffering. He said “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Myths are old, ancient things, generally speaking.

They inspire legends.

5 Reasons Why I’m Excited for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Translation of Beowulf

J.R.R. Tolkien, noted author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, has a new book coming out this May, eighty-eight years after he wrote it. Also, I should probably mention, the book itself is a story written between 975-1025 AD. Yes, I know those numbers can be confusing, but they are accurate. In 1926, Tolkien finished a work of passion—a translation of Beowulf, the oldest Anglo-Saxon poem still in existence and the earliest example of English literature we have.

Translations aren’t an easy gig—the subtleties of language and the nuances of meaning leave a lot of room for differences between translated texts. Don’t believe me? Play with Google Translate for a few minutes, and you’ll get what I mean. Enter in a phrase and run it through a few languages, then back to English, and you’ll see how meaning can change.

Anglo-Saxon wasn't an option, but you get the gist. It's a subtle change, but subtly is a big part of story telling.
Anglo-Saxon wasn’t an option, but you get the gist. It’s a subtle change, but subtly is a big part of story telling.

All that being said, J.R.R. Tolkien’s version of Beowulf has me excited, and I’ll tell you why, in no particular order.

A New (Literary) Tattoo Idea

It’s dangerous being an English major with a love for old literature that adores tattoos. This quarter, I have finished a class on Mythology in literature and I have gotten my latest tattoo idea from Norse mythology.

I want to get two crows tattooed behind my ears.

That might sound a little odd, but let me explain.

Odin, known as the Alfather, father of Thor and the high one (among a huge list of other names) loved knowledge. Dude knew more than Wikipedia. How did he know all of this? Well, he doggedly pursued knowledge.

In one tale, Odin hangs himself form the world tree (Yggdrasil, say that three times fast!) and sacrifices his own eye to himself in order to gain more knowledge.

The one thing Marvel and the movie Thor got right about Norse mythology.

I’d call that being committed to education.

There is yet another tale where Odin tricks two dwarfs out of the Mead of Poetry so he could gain poetic knowledge (and fart out a little bad poetry along the way. Seriously. That’s in the myth.). Beyond that, Odin battled with giants all the time, but not to test his strength, but rather his wits. While Odin knew everything, he never knew enough.

This won't be my tattoo, but it's pretty awesome looking.
This won’t be my tattoo, but it’s pretty awesome looking.

Even his throne was not that of your average God/Father (fathers have thrones, right?). Seated on either side of Odin on his throne were his two crows, Huginn and Muninn. Huginn and Muninn gathered information from the world and whispered it into Odin’s ears, thus assuring that, even when resting on his throne, Odin was still learning and knowledgeable about the world.

He also had two wolves. Why two of everything? Because…that’s why.

So, in conclusion, I want to get two crows tattooed behind my ears to emulate what Huginn and Muninn did for Odin. I want the world’s secrets whispered into my ears wherever I go, so I can constantly gain knowledge. I’ve been a student all my life (turning 30 in September, thank you) so I think it’s safe to say that I am addicted to learning. My own little Huginn and Muninn will only aid in that quest, right?

You can’t convince me otherwise. Pictures of the crows and the actual tattoos are pending until I get the final design finished with my artist.

– Amanda Riggle