A Tall Story? Blog Post 1/4

What is the difference between Myth and History? Myth is defined as a widely held, but false belief, while history strives to explain the causes of events by the objective use of evidence. For the most part history and myth are seen as opposites. However ultimately it is very hard to separate what they are.

History is usually not based on direct observation and sources can be limited or biased. The personal belief and prejudice of the writer or historian leads to different interpretations. The same can be said of a myth, passed down through generations, its purpose to teach, warn, glorify may also be inherently biased.  Both based on real historical events, they preserve a transmuted memory of the real event. 

Both history and myth tell us a story, a singular narrative that may omit the accuracies of the event. If this is true can we get confused between what is myth and what is history? Most myths start with a real historical event,  something so intriguing or mysterious that it is passed by word of mouth from generation to generation, sometimes remaining unchanged but often mutating. But why do people feel the need to elaborate or exaggerate a story? Why do these exaggerated stories and myths endure through time? Why are people still today so obsessed with myths from hundreds of years ago?  

Take Billie the Kid, the legend of Billy has acquired iconic status in American folklore yet the outlaw himself had minimum impact on historical events in New Mexico. The psychoanalyst Alfred Adler wrote a thesis of the mythic aspects of Billy the Kid, comparing him to King Arthur, King Oedipus and Robin Hood.  More has been written about Billy than any other gunslinger in history, with hundreds of books, films, radio, TV programmes and even a ballet inspired by his legend. But why has this anti-hero’s story been so glorified? What does it reveal about the minds of the American public at the time? In 1941 Life Magazine argued that he is a character who the audience have poured their hopes and fears, ideals and prejudices into. He symbolises the nation at a time when there was an ‘underlying anarchy in the heart of every man in history’. The word ‘myth’ is often seen as a fairy tale, a children’s story, a religious teaching, but does this example show how important myth is? Malinowiski argues that a myth is essential for the maintenance of normal social processes. This function of the myth within the human psyche shows us much about those living in the past.

In this project I want to continue to raise these questions, I aim to explore why myths are remembered and why people glorify them to such an extent. In Core Skills 2 we had to create a film to communicate and reveal something new about a myth in a location in England. I am interested in taking well known myths, and researching why they have endured over such a long time, why are people so obsessed by them?  Rather than focusing on the traditional narrative, how can I use film/animation  to reveal something deeper about the myth,  and what they show about different societies and their beliefs?

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