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Introduction: Myth

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Chapter Summary

"Myth" denotes widely shared beliefs that are simply false, and tags apparently fictional stories that originated in early human communities as attempts to explain commonplace but mysterious events in the natural world. Despite the fact that these two senses originated in dramatically different social and historical contexts, they co-exist so comfortably in the popular imagination today because both are modernist in character in that they are based on the premise that one can somehow perceive and distinguish between reality as it really is, on the one hand, and reality as it happens to be (mis)represented, on the other. Although the use of the label "myth" to distinguish false from true stories continues to live on, the story of "myth" in the course of the past several centuries of modern scholarship fortunately is richer than that.

Keywords: early human communities; mysterious events; myth

10.1163/9789004281417_005
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