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The classical myths of Greece and Rome have much in common with medieval myths, because ultimately, all myths have elements in common. The Greek and Roman myths dwell most often on heroes, Gods, and Goddesses. Their characters are larger than life - someone the reader can look up to. Medieval myths also heavily rely on heroes who commit heroic deeds, such as Charlemagne and King Arthur. One difference is many of the heroes in medieval myths were real people, while most of the heroes in Greek and Roman myth were just that - myths. Medieval myths took mythology one step further, because they often commemorated and idealized the deeds of real people, and this was quite a step away from classical mythology.
However, many elements remain the same, and as such, become timeless reminders of the most successful myths. Heroism is one timeless element, and romance is another timeless element. Most all heroes have at least one love interest, and medieval myth took this to another level, and created the romantic myth, where heroes not only won over the odds, they won the girl as well. Heroism is evident in just about all cultures, from Native American to Greek, Roman, and beyond. The Native American Coyote myth often uses coyote as a mythical hero who can transform himself and has great power, just like most mythical heroes (Lindemans). Of course these attributes of heroes, both strength and romance, make themselves known often in our own culture, from film to romance novels. These stories embody our own modern form of myth, and they contain many of the elements of traditional myth, from strong and impossibly good looking heroes such as Brad Pitt and Russell Crow, to the beautiful Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman. The romance novels of Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts are simply a furthering of old mythical tales, and our culture feeds on these stories, just the way classical Romans and Greeks fed on their own persuasive and pervasive myths.
The Native American myths of transformation differ from Greek and Roman myths in many ways. While there are transformations in Greek and Roman myth (for example, the legend of Prometheus is known as a transformation myth, for he is the character who brought death to the world, via Pandora's box), they usually harbor death and destruction. On the other hand, the Native American transformation myths usually harbor the transformation as part of the "Trickster's" role, and as such, it is not aligned with death, but with life - especially the pranks and nonsense of the Trickster in his many different animal forms. Transformation is used to entertain and mollify the listeners, while in classical myth, it usually portends something disastrous or deadly.
While the transformation myths have many differences, there are certain commonalities among them, as there are commonalities in all myths. Even the Tricksters have heroic qualities, as we have seen with Coyote, who can not only transform himself into a variety of animals, he has extraordinary (heroic) powers and endures many "labors" and adventures. Mythology, no matter where it originates, has common themes and common elements, because ultimately, these myths are meant to teach and educate people, as well as keep them entertained. Thus, each myth has a moral somewhere, and Native American myth is no exception. For example, in one myth, Trickster's antics leave an amusing yet helpful moral. "Trickster thought he could do everything, he could not do so slight a thing as enter the orifice of an elk's skull and, secondly, to point a moral: Large people should not try to get into small holes" (Jung, Kerenyi, and Radin 58). The ancient myths also contained morals, although they might not have always been so amusing. These myths entertain, but their lessons are even more important, and even our modern myths contain some sort of lesson. For example, the film "Pretty Woman" could be said to contain the lesson "even bad girls can live happily ever after."
Hercules (or Heracles in Greek) is probably the best known hero of Greek myth. He was the son of Zeus and enjoyed heroic powers such as unbelievable strength and marksmanship. Hercules embodies the hero in myth, for he has superhuman strengths, and superhuman weaknesses. To prove himself, he had to complete several "Labors," and this is quite consistent with the best heroes, they must prove themselves by using their best qualities. In comparison, Odysseus is another well-known hero…[continue]
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