Story Bite #18: Creating Myths

As I’ve been sheltering in place to help keep my community safe, I’ve been thinking about what stories do for us during challenging times. They can help us look with new perspectives at what surrounds us, sometimes understanding it better or more deeply. They can also help us escape into worlds far from ours. Many people throughout history have used storytelling as a means of doing both.

I know that some people want to look straight at what’s going on while others would prefer to look away, so this Story Bite offers a few options. We’re going to work on a rousing myth. And here’s our image:

This is a classic deer hunting scene carved on a stone from sometime between AD 700 and 850. This stone was found in Scoonie in southeastern Scotland and now is kept by the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. (photo: Diane Magras)

Ancient people—and people of today as well—often commemorated events with a sculpture. It might be a carving like this or built from other things (clay, sand, wood, glass, metal, or found objects like branches and leaves or bicycle rims and gears). But the artist is always thinking of the story that a piece will tell. Sometimes, from particularly ancient pieces like the one pictured, the story disappears into the mists of history (especially if there is no written documents for historians to examine as well).

So let’s create a story for this image and start with some questions:

Who does this image depict? Is it an ordinary hunt led by an ordinary person? Or a hunt led by royalty? Or a deity? (And if it’s a deity, is the deity the hunter, the deer, or the dog?)

What does this image depict? What’s going on with the central character? What’s the story that this picture is showing? You’ll want to imagine what happened before the scene depicted as well as after.

What’s the main point the image’s creator wanted to convey? Think of the takeaway, the warning, or the lesson of this story. It can be as simple as a tale meant to depict a character’s bravery and cleverness or a story with a clear moral.

For your Story Bite (pick one), write one paragraph or more:

1. Answer the three questions above with the pictured stone in mind. Create your own myth around it (though you can set your myth in your area or any place you like).

2. Draw a picture or build a sculpture depicting a mythical scene that you imagine. (Are there swords? Had to ask…) Answer the questions and create a myth for that scene.

3. Think of a story that describes something going on today and draw a picture or build a sculpture depicting it. Then answer the questions above and create a myth for today.

4. Pick a work of art from one of the amazing museums sharing their collections online these days (here’s the Getty Museum in Los Angeles as one resource) and answer the questions about that work.

If you want to go a step farther, give your myth a title. It can be as simple as “The Deer Hunt,” for instance, or be your takeaway point in a few words.

Further Directions:

If you’d like to share your story bite with me, please submit it through your teacher or with your school email address or home email address and include: your first name, grade, school’s name (or “homeschooled”), town, and state.

Teachers: if your make story bites part of a lesson, please let me know how it went. And share them! I’d love to see your students’ work.

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