Storytelling Time: 4 Interesting Myths and Legends from British and American Culture

Since the beginning of time, people have always tried to find sense in the things they didn’t understand.  In the ancient times, there were many natural phenomena that were mysteries for people as they didn’t understands how these phenomena occurred.  In order to find reasons behind certain notions, people invented stories that often involved supernatural creatures, or some courageous heroes and explained how the world first came to be.

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These stories were passed on from one generation to another and as a part of cultural heritage they survive for hundreds and hundreds of years.  They are full of symbols and messages that should teach us a certain lesson and as such they are an important part of the development of all cultures. We’ve all probably been told such stories in our childhood and enjoyed listening to them while following those heroes on their quests and living their stories for brief moments.  

Every culture has its own myths that depict certain events and characters.  However, there are some universal similarities between certain myths as they deal with themes that have always been on the minds of people: origin of the world, birth, death, what happens after death, etc.

In this article, we will present you 4 interesting myths that originate from British and American culture.  

Jack o’ Kent

This folk hero is best known in areas around Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, and he is famous for managing to trick the Devil many times.  One of the stories about this mythical character and his encounter with the Devil, present us one instance when Jack made a deal with him to ensure the growth of crops.  The Devil’s part of the deal was to provide enough rain and sun for crops, and in return, Jack would give him a part of his harvest.  Upon being asked which part of the crops he desires to get, top or bottom, the Devil choose the top part in hope he would get wheat.  However, as clever as he was, Jack planted turnips thus leaving the Devil only with leaves.

This is one of the stories that depicts Jack o’ Kent as someone who could trick the Devil, thus sending a message that the Devil is not so smart and shouldn’t be someone who we are afraid of.  Another significance to these stories is that they explain origins of certain geographical features in these areas.

Wayland’s Smithy

Wayland’s Smithy is a burial chamber located in Berkshire.  As the intention of this chamber became a mystery, a story was developed as to explain its purpose.  The story tells us that this chamber is a residence of a smithy named Wayland who would fix a horseshoe onto any traveler’s horse if the said traveler leaves a coin on a stone and leaves for the night until the work is done. This legend and its main character Wayland originate from an Anglo-Saxon legend, a story about Wayland and the evil king Nidung.

Mothman

This is one of the recent legends that originates from the United States, dating back to 1966 when the first sighting of the mystical creature named Mothman is recorded.  This creature is described as being one half moth and one half man living in the forests of Northern Wisconsin.  There were several other occasions when people reported seeing Mothman during 1967 mostly around the Silver Bridge located in Point Pleasant, which coincidently collapsed in the same year leading to accusations that Mothman himself was responsible for this tragedy.  However, it has been rumored that his presence was actually a warning sign of the upcoming tragedy and that he was trying to send them a message of the future disaster.

Native American Myth on Creation

Native American culture possesses an abundance of folktales and myths, that among other things explain the phenomena from our natural surroundings, the relationship between people and the world of spirits, while the most common ones are those that deal with creation. These stories represented a way for passing down traditions, values and beliefs of the tribes and are of the great importance for Native American culture.

One of the myths that depict creation comes from the Cherokee tribe explaining us why, for example, there are plants that can be green all year.  This story says that many years ago there was an island that hung from four ropes floating in an ocean.  This island was inhabited only by animals as there were no people.  It was dark, so animals decided to create a sun that was floating from east to west.  After animals and plants were told by the Great Spirit to stay awake for seven days, most fell asleep.  The plants that stayed awake were rewarded by the possibility to remain green thought the entire year, while the plants that fell asleep had to lose their leaves in winter.  Animals that didn’t fall asleep were also rewarded by being able to find their way in the dark.

All of the myths and legends around the world are interesting and captivating in their own way.  They are important to us as they give us valuable insights into how people used to think.  Whether the stories serve as a lesson for us, or to entertain us, they are an integral part of the tradition of every culture and should be remembered and passed on to future generations.  

Is there any interesting myth or legend from your culture that you would like to share with us?

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