Why Do Certain Myths Have Universal Resonance?

Grace SnarrAugust 12, 2016Myth and MagicThe Big Question

Fables and legends have fascinated me ever since I was a little girl.

My personal connection to storytelling began when my mother and father put me to sleep every night. They would tuck me in, say prayers with me, and then tell or read a story. I listened intently to the tales ofLittle Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks. Myths have universal resonance because they convey morals that apply to all of us.

As humans, we are obsessed with trying to explain our nature. Since the dawn of time, stories have been the primary way for us to pass on traditions and knowledge, to teach and preserve history. Myths have grown out of our innate desire to understand who we are as humans. Their themes represent the same morals and values, interpreted across many cultures.

There are universal truths in myths that resonate with human nature and enable us to work through moral dilemmas we all face, including whether to choose the path of integrity. The ancient Greek tale of Heracles presents a dramatic story. Kakia, the Greek goddess of vice, and Arete, the Greek goddess of moral virtue, offer Heracles the choice between instant wealth and pleasure, or lasting glory through hard work.

Heracles triumphantly chooses Arete.

The strong, admired character of Heracles faces this obstacle: choosing between right and wrong. I encounter this problem every day! I have to make many choices, such as the possibility of going to university, who to hang out with, and the kind of media I consume. The myth of Heracles teaches the strength of choosing a path of integrity. I wouldn’t be able to make good decisions without moral examples, such as Heracles.

Though written in a different time and place, the Hebrew Bible also contains a story that illustrates the principle of choice and virtue very well. In the Book of Esther, there is a tale that describes the strength and courage of Queen Vashti. Her husband, the Persian king Ahasuerus, holds a banquet that lasts 187 days.

On the 187th day, the king, having drunk a lot of wine, requests that Vashti come to him in order to present her in all her beauty to his guests. She refuses to appear before the impulsive, drunken king and his court. She stands up for herself and her modesty, instead of dancing before the court. As punishment, King Ahasuerus and his counselors exile her with the sentence to never return to their country.

Just like Heracles, Queen Vashti showed courage and power by choosing the virtuous path. Even though the consequences are hard, she choose to stand up for herself and for the women of her kingdom. I admire her willingness to protect herself in the midst of enormous pressure. This story taught me about hard-core integrity even in the face of danger.

Queen Vashti and Heracles choose integrity, as do the heroes of countless other myths. This theme resonates with so many people because it has always been important to stand up for what’s right. When reading and listening to these stories, I feel a deep pull to the questions they force us to consider; tides of truth are what inspired the authors and us today.

Myths were once passed down from sage to apprentice. In modern times, they still allow information and morals to be passed down from generation to generation. The information available in our world today is enormous, and we learn treasured knowledge on the Internet and through movies. My generation has access to more information than any other previous generation in history. However, only the medium has changed, not the actual stories or themes.

Reflecting back on my childhood, I remember the meaningful moments I shared with my parents. They helped me identify universal truths in myths and stories. No matter how we encounter certain myths, their forms will always have a universal meaning because of their underlying teachings.

Grace Snarr is a teen leader and freelance writer who is inspiring teens to achieve their dreams and follow their passions. She has worked with Daniel Blanchard, award-winning speaker, author, and educator. She has also written for Lyndsay Johnson on her popular site. Grace is a sunshine enthusiast, a lover of people, and a passionate writer and leader!