Knowing Myths and Legends

 It is rightly said by Jean Cocteau, “And history becomes legend and legend becomes history…”

Fiction is written with reality and reality is written with fiction. We can write fiction because there is reality and we can write reality because there is fiction; everything we consider today to be myth and legend, our ancestors believed to be history and everything in our history includes myths and legends. Mind baffling, isn’t it? Not that much. Since a long time I have been fascinated and intrigued by the legends surrounding us and intend to introspect and ascertain the truth behind these legends, often mistook as myths.

In our suddenly realized glory of all our modern-day “advancements” we somehow fail to ask ourselves the question “Who designated myths and legends as unreality?” But I ask myself this often because who the hell decided that he was spectacular enough to stand up and say to our ancestors “You were all stupid and disillusioned and imagining things” and then why did we all decide to believe this person? There are many realities not just one. There is a truth that goes far beyond what we are told today to believe in. And we find that truth when we are brave enough to break away from our conservative, orthodox chains and what keeps everybody else feeling comfortable. Your reality is what you believe in. And nobody should be able to tell you to believe otherwise. Before going any further, let me clarify some things or should I say terminology..

History is a factfile of past events relating to ancient people, their culture, tradition, customs and the various sociopolitical aspects happening from times immemorial.Whereas, legends are primarily based on myths, i.e., half truth and half lie in order to mystify the historical truth. Human nature has certain weaknesses and the most dangerous one is that the superstitious people of olden times were more or less raconteurs and took great interest and joy in mystifying past figures of historical importance. These figures may be their army generals, emperors, kings or spiritual people like prophets and apostles. Gradually, simple people forming the masses would make it their forte to mention the legendary figures with great awe and fascination.Thus there is a difference between what was our history and what are legends!Personally, I believe legends and myths are largely made of truth.

As said by James Christensen, “Does progress mean that we dissolve our ancient myths? If we forget our legends, I fear that we shall close an important door to the imagination?”.

For those of you as amazed by the aura surrounding the Ancient Egyptians as me, I would like to share with you some of the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding Ancient Egypt, which as a matter of fact have been proven to be true and illuminate new areas of their advanced culture.

The ‘curse’ that blighted those who opened the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun was a triumph of media hype and public susceptibility. The myth is that a curse laid by Tutankhamun killed sponsor Lord Carnarvon and other members of the expedition. However later it was proved that he died of an insect bite that became infectious. In his 1939 obituary, the Times points out that Carter, despite being fairly sickly himself, lived long enough to be “the best refutation of the curse.” The curse is a prime example of people’s impulse to believe an exciting story instead of the facts.(P.S: for going into the deeper recesses of king Tut’s gold laden tomb, check out “The Sphinx” by Robin Cook.I bet y’all would be amazed)

Many believe that we have found out everything we can about Ancient Egypt, and that Egyptology is a dead and buried subject. This is simply incorrect. Fascinating discoveries are still being made daily about Ancient Egypt, shedding new light on their civilization. For instance, a “solar boat” is currently being extracted from the Great Pyramid. It is presumed that this solar boat would allow the dead Pharaohs to assist sun-god Ra in his eternal battle with Apep, demon of darkness.

Moving on, there are legends involving ghosts and spirits, and the most popular amongst them is that of the ‘Pontianak’. This is a female demon who entices men by her beauty and then kills them. Unlike Dracula, she derives nothing from killing but some unexplained pleasure. She is said to move only in rural areas. Film-makers capitalized on this legend by producing a series of horror thrillers such as ‘Dracula’ that came out in 1972. The films seem to have distorted the story, thus exaggerating the original legend.

The point about most legends is that they are an inflated, distorted account of incidents that are probably factual. Last week I heard about a highly ridiculous legend from one of my friends while we were studying for our forensic exam. As you all must have heard, many years ago, cases of thefts and molestation of women were being reported increasingly, and the offender was reported to be a very dark man, almost nude and gleaming with oil. He could probably have been an ordinary burglar.. oiled to evade capture. Or he could have assumed this unusual appearance to terrify his victims into subjection. Or he could have tried to convey the impression that supernatural forces were at work.Whatever maybe the reason, the point was that following a few incidents, news spread about a strange being ‘the oily man’.Gradually over the years it became a legend and it was even said that he could appear and disappear at will.

Mermaids have occupied our imagination for thousands of years, originating in ancient Assyria with the legend of goddess Atargatis, whose worship spread to Greece and Rome. In history, mermaids have been connected with hazardous events in European, African and Asian culture, including floods, storms, shipwrecks and drownings. In folklore, mermaids were often associated with bad luck and misfortune. They lured errant sailors off course and even onto rocky shoals, much like their cousins, the sirens  — beautiful, alluring half-bird, half-women who dwelled near rocky cliffs and sung to passing sailors. The sirens would enchant men to steer their ships toward the singing — and the dangerous rocks that were sure to sink them. As a medical student, I would like to make you aware about a condition in humans called ‘Sirenomelia’ or the mermaid syndrome.It is a rare and fatal congenital malformation characterized by fusion of the lower limbs. The condition results in what looks like a single limb, resembling a fish tail, leading some to question whether ancient cases of the condition may have influenced legends of the past. The list of such legends that have been mindlessly shaken off as myths is so long that it would be impossible to cover them in one blog post.

I would love to hear some of the stories you have been told while camping around the fire when you were kids.I am always open to comments and constructive criticism. Please forgive me if I went too long with this craziness( although I am sure some of you must have thought about these too). If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook.


Signing off



7 thoughts on “Knowing Myths and Legends

    1. Thanks for reading it. These “myths” all originate from facts but over the years the facts are distorted so much to make them seem unbelievable.That is why people start treating them as myths rather than as something that actually happened in the past (Atleast thats what I feel…)


  1. Fascinating post! Thank you for sharing this one, I very much enjoyed reading it. I do agree that myths and legends have arisen from factual or historical events/people, but that our earlier history as storytellers has built a mystique around those events or people. I often wonder how future historians would perceive our times, with the seeming abundance of information we share every day. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You should watch the documentary Killer Legends on Netflix. It’s about urban legends like the boogeyman etc. and where they derived from. It made me think of your post of how legends derive from truth.

    Liked by 1 person

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