Mythology. The word comes from the Greek "mythos" which means "fable" or "legend". Mythology is a collection of myths.
Roman, Aztec, Mayan, Andean, Balkans, Egyptian, Indian, Arabian and Chinese mythologies are also important. All are rich sources of myths, legends and heroes.
Cupid is an example of Roman mythology.
Much Chinese mythology is based on animism, which sees the land itself as alive. It contains many therianthropic creatures, who are both animal and human, and demonstrates the playfulness of the gods.Chinese Myths
Joseph Campbell, the author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, has commented extensively on the similarities between many cross-cultural myths. Moving beyond noting recurrent themes (apples, in most western mythologies, etc.), Campbell notes rather that the structures of most myths are inherently similar, suggesting an underlying myth with a peculiarly great relevance to the human mind. The steps of the "monomyth" are, essentially,
- Identification of a commoner as the main character.
- The commoner is called to an adventure outside of his normal life, with the aid of a teacher figure.
- The commoner declines.
- The commoner enters the new "second world," where his adventure will take place.
- The commoner enters the "innermost cave," where the greatest challenge of the myth occurs, and finally,
- The commoner returns to his world, himself changed, and reflects upon the change wrought upon himself and his world.
An example of a modern "myth" following Campbell's structure is Star Wars, where the hero, Luke Skywalker, goes through all stages identified above. Star Wars was crafted with Campbell's structure in mind. An example of a myth that pre-dates Campbell is the Lord of the Rings trilogy, where, curiously, Samwise Gamgee appears as the main character (and Bilbo Baggins does the same in the Hobbit).