Chapter 2

Ways of Understanding Myth

People with significantly different fields of interest benefit from studying mythology. In this chapter, we explain why many professionals specializing in a wide range of areas study mythology. At the same time, readers of myths are enriched by keeping in mind that the original goals of their tellers were different from our goals today. That is, because myths represent a window into the world of the mythmakers, you can expect to gain through them an understanding of cultures other than your own.

Because myths are old stories, reading them in their original form requires some techniques not called for in reading retellings. To help you become an effective reader of the myths in later chapters, this one includes a discussion of the characteristics of oral myth—repetition, an abundance of names and titles, and parataxis—and of written myth—a literary framework, the author's goals, and rationalization.

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