However, the story can be taken more literally as well. In a city, women and men do not walk on the ground. They are cut off from nature by the ground they walk on, which is not the ground at all but a thin veneer that masks our nature, the unmentionable biological and physiological processes that lurk beneath civilized life. The alligators then, are an expression of the fears we have of all the unknown parts of living in a city, all the natural or instinctual parts of ourselves that, as civilized people, we are not completely comfortable or completely familiar with.
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However, the story can be taken more literally as well. In a city, women and men do not walk on the ground. They are cut off from nature by the ground they walk on, which is not the ground at all but a thin veneer that masks our nature, the unmentionable biological and physiological processes that lurk beneath civilized life.
The alligators then, are an expression of the fears we have of all the unknown parts of living in a city, all the natural or instinctual parts of ourselves that, as civilized people, we are not completely comfortable or completely familiar with.
The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh which dates from about B. We will be studying more about these views in Chapter X, on the theories of Levi-Strauss, who looks at all myth as a conflict between forces of nature and culture. Social or sociological meaning In addition, the story of the alligators expresses something about the fears we have of each other in a community.
Working together in a community is a good way to get more done than could be accomplished by any individual. However, living in a community also means being stuck with the ill effects of the actions of others. In a city, people live close together. If you flush away your pet alligator or other unwanted items, I, your neighbor may well have to deal with the aftereffects of your carelessness. And yet, the story expresses some true concerns and conflicts of human beings who live in cities and participate in cultures, concerns that have been true of humans for many thousands of years, if the Epic of Gilgamesh can be believed.
For four decades, his ideas excited and inspired students. He has written numerous books about mythology, the most famous of which is probably The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In the long course of our biological prehistory, living creatures had been consuming each other for hundreds of millions of years before eyes opened to the terrible scene, and millions more elapsed before the level of human consciousness was attained.
Analogously, as individuals, we are born, we live and grow, on the impulse of organs that are moved independently of reason to aims antecedent to thought-like beasts: until, one day, the crisis occurs that has separated mankind from the beasts: the realization of the monstrous nature of this terrible game that is life, and our consciousness recoils. In mythological terms: we have tasted the fruit of the wonder-tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and have lost our animal innocence.
Throughout the primitive world, where direct confrontations with the brutal bloody facts of life are inescapable and unremitting, the initiation ceremonies to which growing youngsters are subjected are frequently horrendous, confronting them in the most appalling vivid terms, with experiences -- both optically and otherwise -- of this monstrous thing that is life: and always with the requirement of a "yea," with no sense of either personal or collective guilt, but gratitude and exhilaration.
For there have been, finally, but three attitudes taken toward the awesome mystery in the great mythological traditions; namely, the first, of a "yea"; the second, of a "nay"; and the last, of a "nay," but with a contingent "yea," as in the great complex of messianic cults of the late Levant: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
In these last, the well-known basic myth has been, of an originally good creation corrupted by a fall, with, however, the subsequent establishment of a supernaturally endowed society, through the ultimate world dominion of which a restoration of the pristine state of the good creation is to be attained. So that, not in nature but in the social order, and not in all societies, but in this, the one and only, is there health and truth and light, integrity and the prospect of perfection.
The "yea" here is contingent therefore on the ultimate world victory of this order. Cosmological Function of Myth Myth helps us in "formulating and rendering an image of the universe, a cosmological image in keeping with the science of the time" The second of the four functions served by traditional mythologies -- beyond this of redeeming human consciousness from its sense of guilt in life -- is that of formulating and rendering an image of the universe, a cosmological image in keeping with the science of the time and of such kind that, within its range, all things should be recognized as parts of a single great holy picture, an icon as it were: the trees, the rocks, the animals, sun, moon, and stars, all opening back to mystery, and thus serving as agents of the first function, as vehicles and messengers of the teaching.
Sociological Function of Myth Myth helps us in "validating and maintaining some specific social order" The third traditional function, then, has been ever that of validating and maintaining some specific social order, authorizing its moral code as a construct beyond criticism or human emendation. In the Bible, for example, where the notion is of a personal god through whose act the world was created, that same god is regarded as the author of the Tablets of the Law; and in India, where the basic idea of creation is not of the act of a personal god, but rather of a universe that has been in being and will be in being forever only waxing and waning, appearing and disappearing, in cycles ever renewed , the social order of caste has been traditionally regarded as of a piece with the order of nature.
Man is not free, according to either of these mythic views, to establish for himself the social aims of his life and to work, then, toward these through institutions of his own devising; but rather, the moral, like the natural order, is fixed for all time, and if times have changed as indeed they have, these past six hundred years , so that to live according to the ancient law and to believe according to the ancient faith have become equally impossible, so much the worse for these times.
Psychological Function of Myth Myth helps us in "shaping individuals to the aims and ideals of their various social groups" The first function served by a traditional mythology, I would term, then, the mystical, or metaphysical, the second, the cosmological, and the third, the sociological. The fourth, which lies at the root of all three as their base and final support, is the psychological: that, namely, of shaping individuals to the aims and ideals of their various social groups, bearing them on from birth to death through the course of a human life.
The Trojan War as an Example of the Four Functions of Myth Introduction Paris -- his son Helen -- wife of Menelaus We saw above that urban legends can be looked at as expressing the conflicts and concerns of a culture or a people. As Joseph Campbell suggests, mythological stories can in the same way provide us with an insight into the minds and aspirations of the people who tell them.
The Greek story of the Trojan War is a good example. Greek mythology has it that in B. The war arose over the kidnapping of Helen, wife of Menelaus, a Greek woman, by Paris, the son of Priam, the king of Troy. The Judgment of Paris. Hera -- queen of the gods Athena -- goddess of wisdom Rank discusses a group of myths containing prophecies like this. See Chapter X. According to the myth, Paris at least believed that he was entitled to Helen.
Aphrodite, the goddess of love awarded him to her for awarding her the prize in a beauty contest he was judging.
The story is as follows. One day, Hera, the queen of the gods, Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love, got into an argument about which of them was most beautiful. They decided to put the matter before a judge, and selected Paris, son of Priam, the King of Troy. As it turned out, the prophecy was well-founded. The three goddesses did not really want an impartial solution to the matter of who was most beautiful; each of them simply wanted to win the contest.
Their next move was to offer bribes to the judge. Hera offered him political power over Europe and Asia, Athena offered to make him the bravest and wisest warrior in the world, and Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world, who was Helen, the wife of Menelaus. Paris rejected political power and honor as a warrior and chose success in love. Accounts differ about whether Paris kidnapped Helen or persuaded her to go with him.
Political Background Menelaus and Agamemnon -- Leaders of the Greek army at Troy At the time of the Trojan War, Greece consisted of a group of separate city states with separate governments. However, the leaders of these cities formed an alliance to get Helen back. This alliance accepted the common leadership of Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon.
The Greeks sent a large expedition across the Aegean sea to Troy, and besieged the city for ten years -- it was on a height, on top of a great hill, and thus was very hard to capture. However, when the war first started, it looked as if he would not take part in it at all. His mother Thetis knew that there was a prophecy about her son that if he went to Troy, he would die there. He would either have a short and glorious life, or a long and ordinary one.
Thetis hid her son on an island and disguised him as a girl. However, Odysseus, a very clever Greek leader, persuaded Achilles to join the expedition. The Capture of Troy B. Archaeologists today believe it fell c. In the tenth year of the war, on the advice of Odysseus, the Greeks built a large wooden horse, filled it with armed men and pretended to sail away.
The Trojans, thinking the horse was an offering to the gods that would bring them luck, took it into their citadel. At night, the Greek warriors climbed out of the horse, opened the gates to their fellow soldiers who had snuck back, and together they captured the city. The Greeks burned Troy and took Helen back home again to her husband. After the Trojan war was over, many Greek leaders had a difficult time trying to get home. The voyage across the Aegean Sea was treacherous, and many of the leaders had offended the gods in one way or another while capturing and pillaging Troy.
They suffered for their sins on the homeward journey. Some died in trying to get home. Some, like Agamemnon, were killed by conspirators after they got home. Odysseus -- Greek leader from Ithaca Poseidon -- god of the sea Odysseus was the Greek leader who had the most extensive adventures in trying to get home. It took him 10 years to return to Ithaca: this meant he was away for 20 years altogether, since the war itself also took 10 years.
Odysseus was a strong and brave fighter and a great leader who was especially known for his intelligence and quick wit. He was the leader who came up with the idea of the Trojan horse. Ultimately, though, his wit that got him in trouble: he offended Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, and the god interfered with his attempts to get back to Ithaca.
Even when Odysseus got back home, his troubles were not over. He found a bunch of rowdy young men had taken over his house and were trying to convince his wife to marry one of them, so they could take over his kingdom. With the help of his son Telemachus, and of the goddess Athena, who was his special protector, Odysseus defeated the troublemakers. Homer in The Odyssey tells us the story of how Telemachus went from being a helpless boy to asserting himself like a warrior.
The boy was raised mostly by his mother Penelope. At first Telemachus feels powerless to stop the boisterous suitors who insist on coming to his house every day to eat and drink and flirt with his mother.
Eventually, with the help of Athena, Telemachus stands up to the suitors, organizes an expedition to look for his father, and returns to fight the intruders, alongside the swineherd Eumaeus and Odysseus himself.
Nostalgia The Greeks told many different stories about the adventures of leaders in trying to get back home after the Trojan War. Our word nostalgia comes from the word nostos or homecoming and algia, from algos, meaning pain.
In its root sense, nostalgia is the pain you experience in trying to achieve a homecoming. In our language it tends to mean the sadness we feel about what we have lost in the past. From archaeological excavations, we know that, over the centuries, people built different versions of Troy, one on top of the other, in the same place.
Archaeologists numbered these cities. The one called Troy VIIa shows signs of having undergone a siege and being destroyed and burned at around the time that mythological accounts suggest for the Trojan war. Thus, it seems likely, that the myth of the Trojan war was not just a "false story, but an account of a real war. Other archaeological evidence suggests that the war did take place between Troy and Greece, and that it probably had to do with trade rivalries.
The kidnapping of Helen may have been part of the conflict, though. We know from our own experience that wars are not usually caused by just one event but by a series of conflicts.
You may remember from your modern European history that the cause of World War I was was the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, but that Europe had been undergoing a series of conflicts and rivalries for quite some time, and that the assassination simply triggered hostilities. The story of the Trojan War has a metaphysical or mystical function, helping those who hear it to accept the limitations of their lives.
The gods in the story represent higher forces in the universe which determine the fate of humans. For instance, the account of the judgement of Paris shows that human beings are often powerless as they are swept away by forces like war that affect their destinies and change, or end, their lives. Achilles ultimately decides to extend his life beyond death by achieving fame and glory that will live on after him.
Cosmological Function Deals with: the universe as understood by science For more about Greek science, see also: Chapter 2, "Creation Stories. They encounter gods who control natural phenomena, like Aeolus, god of the winds, Proteus, a sea god who can change himself into any natural phenomenon and Poseidon, the great god of the sea.
Greek science at the time portrayed the physical universe as made up of conflicting and complementary natural forces, like wind, water, air and fire. The myths of the time portrayed these forces as arising from differences of opinion between different gods.
Introduction to Mythology
One of my favorite classes so far, and probably my most favorite textbook by far. Renzo Ruiz marked it as to-read May 13, Raven — African and African-American trickster stories — Greece: African and African-American Trickster Stories Extensive marginal notes provide cross-references and explanations of terms and culture-specific concepts, while a glossary of deities, suggested readings for devinndy chapter, and more than illustrations, photographs, and maps further enhance the volume. Want to Read saving…. Myths of creation and destruction — Pt.