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Cultural Myths

Across the World

Nowadays, cultural myths are a common way of scaling the various historical differences between alternate geographical locations. By analysing the various myths and urban legends a location has, a researcher can acquire a more select knowledge of the lifestyle, society, norms and values, of those which lived in that specifi c time period. Furthermore, diversity in urban myths, of the same time period, can portray a clashing in social lifestyle. Yet, while urban myths may contrast each other, it can similarly be said that they have a tendency to parallel each other in their main themes. This raises the following question: are urban myths a cultural phenomenon that can be used with historical value or do they highlight the repeated moral struggle with human nature, through admittingly different, but similarly themed tales?

It is not diffi cult to draw parallels between similarly themed myths. The Irish, for example, have a myth of leprechauns, which will bring one good fortune in the form of a ‘pot of gold’ at the end of the rainbow. Leprechauns themselves are said to be hard working, mischievous and are said to have the magical ability to grant wishes. If you take the myth of Saci Pererê, which originated from Brazil, you can see the distinct similarities this myth shares with the Irish Leprechauns. Saci Pererê, a one legged boy, who wears a cap, smokes a pipe, and causes mischief in the local forest. Initially he does not seem to have anything in common with leprechauns, besides their mutual love for mischief. However, the Brazilian myth further states that if you steal Saci Pererê’s cap, you will get a wish granted. Sadly for the Brazilian civilians who long to have their wishes fulfilled, his cap just smells too bad, and no one has any desire to steal it from him. Both these myths centre around the topic of wish fulfilment, as the leprechauns fulfi l the wishes of the hardworking, Saci Pererê shows that, even for a wish, there are some things that people, out of their self-centred nature, would simply refuse to do, making humankind fundamentally unworthy of having its wishes granted. Yet, is this resemblance enough to state that every myth shares a larger moral meaning?

The Harz Region, in Germany, has a myth which involves a more common theme. The Myth,called ‘Die Teufelsmauer’, states that in the rural area of Harz, farmers would always go to church on Sundays, yet one day the Devil wanted to stop them and spontaneously decided to build a wall around the farms, to prevent the farmers from attending church. Satan then vowed it would be finished before the first rooster had crowed. However, the next morning happened to be a market day. One farmer got up earlier than usual, to visit the market, and brought his rooster along. He was forced to settle down by the wall that was being built. At this moment, the rooster decided to wake up and, believing that it was morning, cawed. As the wall wasn’t finished, the Devil’s pride got hurt and he angrily kicked down the incomplete wall, vanishing from the area forever, leaving only small piles of bricks behind that can still be seen nearby Harz. Whilst this myth, perhaps, holds a larger biblical meaning, it also plainly describes why there are some seemingly random piles of rocks nearby Harz. Therefore, it can also be concluded that myths can be specific to a geographical, rather than a moral, point.

by Eva Hoedjes