Kids loving learning about myths and legends from around the world. The stories are big, bold, exciting and stretch the imagination! In this blog post, I look at four reasons why you should explore myths and legends in your reading and writing classroom.
What is the difference between a myth and a legend?
A myth is a story passed down from generation to generation to help people to explain how the world came to be made, how people and animals came to live in it, and the characters and actions of the god or gods they worshipped. In comparison, while myths answer questions about how the natural world began and functions, legends tell stories about historical people and their actions or deeds. They differ from myths because they often have an element of truth or are based on historical fact.
An example of a myth that describes the origins of an animal is the story of how the kiwi lost its wings.
Four Reasons To Explore Myths and Legends
1. Interesting storylines
If you examine the storyline of different myths and legends from around the world, there is something for eveyone! Some myths and legends have humour, while some involve exciting action. Most have sobering morals or messages as their conclusion.
The Legend of the Wawel Dragon is a fascinating Polish traditional tale that is bound to engage even the most reluctant of readers. I won’t ruin the storyline for you here, but suffice to say, it features an angry dragon, a brave hero, and a very unexpected ending. You can read more about it in our Myths and Legends Reading Comprehension Volume Two.
2. Interesting characters
Robin Hood, Māui the Demi God, Cleopatra, Hercules, King Arthur, Joan of Arc – these characters are famous all over the world, and for good reasons. Exploring these characters, their motivations, and their actions can be very engaging for your students. It is also a great entry point for learning more about the historical time and/or culture that they existed within.
The dynamic characters and interesting storylines create great theatre. Consider setting your students the challenge of creating a play or soundscape to tell the story of one of their favourite myths or legends. We have also put together a play script that tells the story of Māui and the Sun. Click here to find out more.
3. Compare and contrast similar myths
It is common to find that various cultures have their own myth to describe the origin of the world or animals within it. In fact, there are over 50 myths from around the world to explain how the earth was created.
Various cultures can also tell the story of mythical heroes in their own unique way. For example, the myth of Māui capturing the sun is told in similar, but contrasting ways in Hawaii, Tahiti and New Zealand. The similarities and differences in the retelling of myths can be compared and contrasted to analyse the story and its characters deeper.
4. Integrate reading and writing
I love any chance to integrate reading and writing. During a study of myths and legends, there are plenty of chances to merge reading and writing. Here are a few examples.
- Write a myth to describe the origin of something.
- Read a myth or legend and create a comic book to retell the story.
- Choose a myth or legend and plan, write, and film a movie trailer to advertise a movie based on that myth.
If you would like more ideas of using myths and legends in your classroom, I would highly recommend the following article: How to use the enduring power of Greek myths in your classroom.
Māori Myths and Legends/Pūrākau
Maori Myths and legends or Pūrākau are ancient stories passed down orally from generation to generation. Māori storytelling isn’t only defined by narrating stories. These stories can be told through dance (haka), songs (waiata), chants and prayers (karakia) and poems.
Maori Myths and Legends tell the stories and legends of gods and heroes, the origins of the world, and how and why the world works. Due to their oral history, these pūrākau can differ from iwi (tribe) to iwi. These myths and legends continue to be told today. In fact, these myths form the basis of some of our most popular reading resources. We have a range of Maori Myths and Legends resources including discounted bundles. See more here!
- Māui and the Sun
- Hatupatu and the Bird-Woman
- Māui and the Giant Fish
- Paikea and the Whale
- The Creation of Night and Day
- Kupe and the giant wheke (octopus)
- How Māui discovered fire
- Rata and the Totara Tree
- Uenuku and the Mist Maiden
- Tūtānekai and Hinemoa
- Rona and the Moon
- Pania of the Reef
Did You Say Freebie?
We have put together a pack of “What are Myths and Legends?” posters as an introduction to your Myths and Legends or Māori Myths and Legends exploration. Sign up below to our newsletter to receive this as a free download.
Onwards and upwards!