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Definitions and Origins

Mythmakers

Are there other “Homers” around the world?

In some instances there are myths about the authorship of myths. In India, the legendary sage Vyasa is said to have dictated the epic events of the great poem, Mahabharata, to the elephant-headed god Ganesha, who wrote down the dictated text with one of his tusks. Another “Homer” of India was the legendary Valmiki, who is said to have authored the second great Indian epic, Rāmāyana. According to the myth, Valmiki invented poetry when his emotional words expressed his sorrow over a bird being slain by a hunter. In Ireland the mythical poet Amairgen is said to have sung the Irish myth into existence as did his Welsh equivalent, Taliesin.

Historical literary myth-makers such as the Roman poets Virgil and Ovid or the Icelandic-Norse poet-compiler Snorri Sturluson developed traditional myths in such ways as to make them more exciting or palatable to the cultures for which they wrote. Much of what we know of Roman mythology can be attributed to Virgil’s literary—that is, carefully composed and written rather than oral—epic, the Aeneid, which was meant to answer the nationalistic interests of the Emperor Augustus who wanted a Roman epic that could displace the traditional Greek epics of Homer. Many of what we think of as Greek myths today were actually re-written and altered by Ovid in his Metamorphoses to appeal to Roman sexual and moral tastes. And in his Prose Edda, Snorri gave new literary life to much earlier Norse myths.



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