Public Service Announcement: Hitting Myth

Look, it’s important that you understand this: it is actually IMPOSSIBLE to get a myth wrong. It really is.

This is fundamental to the nature of myths.

Because myths are not dogma. They are not fixed and unchanging. They arose from oral traditions, which varied from place to place (which is why, for example Odin and Loki are sometimes brothers, sometimes father and son, sometimes other things entirely; or why Ulysses has three different paternal grandfathers; or how there could be an ex-Muslim Knight of the Round Table before the birth of the Prophet). You can choose to privilege one over another, but whatever the criteria you use, if you’re honest with yourself, it really comes down to which one you like best.

Sure, these oral traditions have now been written down, and codified, and so on, but that just means that someone else made those choices already – and who can say what has been lost or gained in translation, syncretism, editing or bowdlerisation over the years? So it’s not like the version you like is really that close to the original anyway. In the Discordian sense, they are catma – relative meta-truths – but never dogma.

Now, it’s a thing apart to criticise a particular version of a myth for historical inaccuracies – that’s perfectly reasonable so long as that interpretation gives a historical reference point. If a version of the Arthurian legend cycle is set in the 9th century, it’s perfectly reasonable to criticise it for using armour from a later era. On the other hand, if this hypothetical text did not specify a date, but was otherwise the same, then that criticism would not be reasonable.

The important thing is that someone’s new version isn’t wrong. It’s a new version, a new interpretation, and it may or may not have artistic merit (a quality that exists wholly independently of its fidelity to your mythical dogma), but it’s not wrong.

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