Welcome to How We…
Each month, members of the Children & Families team will be sharing How We have introduced aspects of our community to our children. We will cover everything from the Aether to Zeus and we invite you on our journey. We continue with How We…
From my earliest memories, myths and legends have formed a part of my life. It also difficult to say which cultural perspective that would be, as I was introduced by my parents at a very young age, to stories from around the globe. Whether that’s the amazing stories of the Middle East in A Thousand and One Nights, the dramatic Celtic stories of the Mabinogion, or the epic Sagas and Edda’s of Northern Europe, my life was filled with Gods, Spirits, Natural Entities, Magic, and Adventure. Growing up with a filter of the fantastic and magical allowed me to see the world as a place that contains secrets and mysteries that are just waiting to be found.
I have read these stories to my now older children and luckily my youngest son still enjoys a cuddle and a magical tale before bed. He, like me as a child, likes to ask many questions of the characters and decisions they made and this gives us a chance to talk about the moral, ethical, and, not forgetting, magical aspects of the story and how we can relate it to this often-challenging world we live in.
I’ll continue to study myths and legends personally and I’m sure my children will continue the bedtime stories with their own families when that time comes.
Northwest Liaison, Children & Families Team
My children both love stories. Being read to is my nearly 3-year-old’s favourite activity in an afternoon and my 6-year-old reads everything that has words on, story or not and constructs amazing flights of imagination from the most mundane starting point.
I have started to use the myths and legends of various cultures to introduce them to deities and spirits. We have read Norse, Greek, Celtic, African, Inuit and Inca. We also listen to story podcasts to hear others retell the tales. They are wonderful stories that tell of the creation of the world, how the animals got their traits and how the gods learned lessons about wisdom. Even across such a diverse geography of stories the same themes crop up again and again.
Our talk this week has been the similarities between Odin and the Cailleach, both having one eye. I love getting lost in a great story and as these myths and legends have been told for thousands of years, they are such a great place to start. They cover life, death, the afterlife and everything in between.
Southeast Liaison, Children & Families Team
We live myths and legends in our house, from the Greek classics to the modern urban myths and legends. Many morals and lessons can be learnt from these stories and it’s a great way to teach children.
Pandora’s box is a great favourite with much debate about “hope” and whether it is a positive thing or the worst evil to come out of the box. The riddle of the Sphinx was a myth that sparked an interest in puzzles and problems for the children. Echo and Narcissus and the story of Icarus flying to close to the sun have been great stories with moral guidance. Myths and legends expand the minds thinking which is great.
We also had conversations about the origin of myths and legends and how some of the stories came into being for specific reasons. Stories of monsters in the wood to deter children from going in there and getting lost. Fairy tales have their roots in these myths and legends and were originally very different to the ones they read today. They were cautionary tales turned into Happily Ever After Stories which is why I prefer to teach the children the old myths and legends.
Mid-West & Wales Liaison, Children & Families Team
We like myths and legends in our house. They pop up all over the place, in stories we read together or alone, in video games and TV shows. We don’t follow a particular path or prefer a particular mythos, rather reading these stories is a great way to introduce ways of understanding reality which are different to our current reality, not to mention different understandings of what a story is and what stories can teach us. As an astrologer and tarot reader, mythic and symbolic levels of reality are endlessly fascinating to me and reading myths and legends is a great way to pass that on to my children.
Over time there have been phases – at one point I was reading the Greek myths aloud to my youngest over and over. The Norse myths are a favourite too. There are so many good versions of the stories around these days, accessible to all ages. My 13-year-old is currently obsessed with Rick Riordan’s books, having moved beyond Percy Jackson into various series which cover not just Greek and Roman mythology but also Egyptian and Norse.
Sometimes the adaptations we’ve found have not quite fit with the values which are important to our family, but this can be useful too. There was an early reader version of the Pandora story which was particularly annoying to read aloud (!), with Pandora presented as coming into existence purely to be a “wife” and do whatever Epimetheus wanted. Epimetheus just sat around saying what a good cook she was and suchlike and then wondered why she got bored and opened a certain box… that made for some interesting conversations around the roles different folk play and why they play them!
London District Liaison, Children & Families Team