What is a myth?

In folklore, myths refer to sacred stories about humans and changes in the world. In a broad sense, “myth” can refer to any ancient legend, which expresses national ideology in the form of stories. Myths originate from the period of primitive society, when humans explained natural phenomena through reasoning and imagination. But because the level of knowledge at that time was so low, it was often shrouded in a veil of mystery.

Most images of gods in mythology have superhuman powers and are idealizations of primitive human understandings and desires.

The history of primitive societies of many nations begins with myths and stories. Most characters in myths come from images of early humans themselves. Most mythical characters created by tribes with relatively developed hunting are related to hunting; Most of the mythical characters created by tribes with developed agriculture are related to agriculture. Heroes in mythology also use swords, axes, bows, and arrows as weapons. From the myths we can see some facts about our ancestors.

Whether they are the social primitive peoples of the first areas where civilization occurred in the world, or the peoples who are still found in primitive societies in the world today, many of the myths and stories they spread are similar.

Myths are also the precursors of literature and are the first oral prose works of humanity. For example, “Zhuangzi Yingdiwang” says: “Tai Shi, who lies slowly and slowly, is self-conscious. One considers himself a horse and the other considers himself an ox.”

Myths have certain regional and regional characteristics, and different civilizations or nations have their own understanding of the meaning of myths.

Academically speaking, what scholars call myths must meet several conditions:

Narrate a single event or story from the early era of humanity or the early stages of human evolution.
The heirs must believe that these events and stories are true. Stories that the heirs themselves know to be fictitious are called “fables.”
It must be created and transmitted collectively by people of ancient ethnic groups. If it is an individual creation and there is no inheritance or mass participation in its creation, the story will not be considered a myth no matter how magical it may be.
Concepts similar to myths include legends and folk tales. These three words refer to different types of traditional stories. Unlike myths, folktales can occur anytime and anywhere; the people who inherit them do not consider them real or sacred. [5] Legends are generally considered true, but legends usually occur in more recent events, and the world in the legend is almost the same as the current world. [5] The protagonists of legends are usually human beings, while the protagonists of myths are usually supernatural characters.

The three concepts of myth, legend and folk tale are defined only to classify traditional stories. In many cultures, there is not necessarily a clear line between myth and legend. Some cultures only divide traditional stories into two categories: folk tales and myths and legends. Even myths and folktales cannot be completely distinguished: stories that one nation considers fictional (folktales) may be considered historical facts (myths) by another nation. In fact, when a myth loses its religious status, it becomes more like a folktale. For example, European giants, fairies, and human heroes used to have divinity, but after the spread of Christianity, they were all considered folk tales.


Myths are broadly divided into three categories: creation myths, god myths, and hero myths. Among them, the creation myth is the most important.

Creation myth: a myth that tells of the early period of humanity and records the origin of affairs and institutions. They can be broadly divided into global origin myths, human origin myths, and cultural origin myths.
But this does not mean that all peoples necessarily have the aforementioned myths at the same time. Some peoples can talk about the origin of the human being but not about the origin of culture, but despite this they can still summarize one thing in common, which is telling the story of the “beginning of the universe.” It evolved into “rules of order.”