What Is a Myth? - Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 What Is a Myth?
  • 1:00 What Do Myths Teach?
  • 1:31 Who Told Myths?
  • 1:52 Where Are Myths Now?
  • 2:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shelley Vessels

Shelley has taught at the middle school level for 10 years and has a master's degree in teaching English.

Myths aren't just any type of story. Myths are a specific kind of story told for a very specific reason. Jump into this lesson to learn what they are and how they've survived so many years!

What Is a Myth?

Just because a myth is a traditional story - one that has lasted hundreds of years or more - doesn't mean that it's boring. In truth, myths are filled with interesting characters that involve themselves in so much drama that they rival any reality television show that your mom may watch.

Myths are part of an oral tradition, meaning that these stories were told to others instead of being published in a book. Have you ever played the game Telephone where a group of people sit in a circle and whisper a word to each other to see how it changes from the first person to the last? If you have, you know things can change dramatically, with the starting word being 'lollipop,' and at the end of the line, it somehow changes to 'asparagus!' You definitely don't want to confuse those two!

So, what do you think happens when complete stories are told from person to person? They change! And, because they've been told many times over, details of the stories can be slightly different depending on the source. The overarching idea, however, should remain the same.

What Do Myths Teach?

Because ancient cultures didn't have the access to information the way we do today through the Internet, sophisticated libraries, and published works, cultures needed to create stories of their own to explain complicated things. Here's a sampling of the ideas that myths covered:

  • Natural mysteries: the seasons, the moon rising and setting
  • Something connected with humans, like how humans were created
  • The results of good and bad decision making
  • Special powers and flaws of the culture's gods and goddesses

Who Told Myths?

Many students may be familiar with Greek mythology, but there are a lot more cultures who told myths than the ancient Greeks.

Here's a list of some of the cultures:

  • Greeks
  • Romans
  • Egyptians
  • Israelites
  • Babylonians
  • Norse (Norway)
  • Chinese
  • Polynesian
  • Native Americans
  • Mexicans

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