In my reading and research, I’ve been diving into myth and story. Mostly I’ve been trying to feed this into my current WIP, but I’ve seen some really interesting connections between myths, story, and meaning. In general, myths come down into several broad categories. The categories themselves are obviously a topic of hot debate, but I think I agree that you can characterize most myths into pure myth, folktale, and saga.
I am by no means a learned scholar in the subject, but it makes sense to me that pure myth encompasses those stories that attempt to explain something about the world that is either unknown or unknowable. Things like the origin of the universe, the rise of humanity, and even the nature of the elements and the forces that are beyond direct human control. Folktale, on the other hand, encompasses myths that try to reveal or explain things about humanity. These are usually nature of the species type stories. Off the top of my head, I can remember several folk tales that influenced me growing up. Whether or not I chose to listen, there was some great lessons that they taught about people and how people are.
Lastly and perhaps closest to history would come the sagas. Right now in the zeitgeist, the word saga probably brings up images of Viking warriors, Kings, and Queens. But in general, a saga is told as a historical account, whether or not it actually happened exactly as the story tells it. These stories are usually a lot narrower in the scope of what they are trying to teach. They might teach something about the results of greed, or emphasize the importance of treating friends well.
Myths are an important part of any culture. My reading has only reaffirmed this belief, and I think that by getting more in touch with the myths of any culture, you can learn to appreciate it at a deeper level. If you’re not the type to dive into the histories of Herodotus, or if Gilgamesh doesn’t really seem to be your thing, you might start with the show called American gods. Neil gaiman is an exemplary storyteller, and the show based on his book is extremely well done. Ricky whittle and the rest of the cast bring to life the characters from his pages, but he borrowed them from all of the myths from across the world. They are a great jumping off point for many and enjoyable Wikipedia Safari. Happy reading, and looking forward to hearing from you!