dragoness_e: Raven on the wing (Raven on the wing)
This came up in the context of Greek mythology, but it probably applies to all myths and legends. The Greek myths that we know of post-Homer were written by Greek playwrights in the classical period. In that day and age, they wrote plays about contemporary events, political commentary disguised by using legendary heroes and mythical places and times. "Seven Against Thebes" isn't about events in ancient (Greek) Thebes; it's about how screwed up stuff was getting during the Peloponnesian War. It wasn't safe to talk openly about contemporary events or even very recent history--the fellow who wrote "The Persians" pretty much got ridden out of town on a rail. Like the authors of the apocalyptic books of the Bible, they wrote of fantastic events and legendary personages to talk about contemporary issues without official censure.

Thus, what we know of Greek myths and legends are what we received from the most recent set of Classical storytellers in a long line of playwrights and storytellers who had changed the stories to suit their own agenda. This is probably true of every other myth and legend out there. There is no "canonical" version of a myth or a legend; they are what the storyteller needs them to be. Only a specific story by a specific author has an "official" or "real" or "canonical" version, and not always then, if the author was prone to editing and changing things a lot. (What's the 'canonical' version of 'Star Wars'?)

Given the nature of myth, "Hercules: the Legendary Journeys" TV series is just as valid a set of legends as the classical "12 Labors of Hercules".

August 2017

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