Exaggeration: History Becomes Myth


Eleanor teaches Social Studies to 6th graders and spends the bits of time left over writing books that bring history -- and magic -- to life. She enjoys rock climbing, bullet journaling, & gardening focused on plants you can actually eat.

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16 Responses

  1. Hey! Hey! Somebody else who’s read the Black Company! Yes! 😀

    Interesting topic! It’s part of why I went into history as my area of study: why learn how to write and the stories that have been created when I could learn where the stories came from to begin with? It’s served me well.

    And I’m not surprised your students didn’t get it. It’s part of why I left teaching.

    As to which war is more interesting, I think the answer lies in whether you want a story that focuses on upheaval with future growth ahead or if you want a story about a collapse and how people survive the ruins.

    • Eleanor says:

      Did you see that Graeme Flory did a Black Company Reread for Tor? Squee!

      That’s definitely the question, what do I want the story to be about; I’m trying to decide if I want it to be more “Game of Thrones” or more “Vikings,” and hoping that getting a sense of what other people prefer in their fiction will help me make that decision.

      • In terms of preference then, I rather like War of the Roses over Fall of Rome as a story. As a historian, it’s the reverse (Rome fascinates me), but I like stories that come to a happy sort of conclusion.

  2. I love how history can influence myths, and how myths can reflect history. It’s one of the reasons I love mythology so much. Like you said, history is biased. Myths can be as well… But together they paint an interesting picture.

    • Eleanor says:

      For me, it’s sort of the idea that statistics can be misleading… but at the same time, we have to remember that the plural of anecdote isn’t fact. They all go together.

  3. Alex says:

    Very good topic! My dad once told me Merlin was the real deal, unlike Harry Potter. It was completely baffling, so I asked him about it and he said that because it’s lasted so long and because there’s evidence of historical basis for King Arthur that this is proof that magic used to exist. Well, yes, most fiction is based off of fact to some extent. And sure, Harry Potter may not last so long, but there are books being written today that will. If you actually look you can find plausible bases for most myths. *sigh* I should know better than to discuss such things with him by now. He spends too much time watching videos and reading books by conspiracy theorist.

    I agree with your student who doesn’t believe in the Bible. I DON’T believe in God, but I’m willing to accept that a higher power may exist, however unlikely I may find the idea. But I’ll never be able to see the Bible as anything other than a book written by men to control other men.

    As for which story, I’m not sure. History is one of my weakest areas of knowledge. First instinct says The War of the Roses, though.

    • Eleanor says:

      Alex, your comment is super timely! The post I have scheduled for next week actually addresses people who think that myths about ancient magic are somehow proof of magic (albeit magic in the ‘sufficiently advanced technology’ sense).

      I think that some books of the Bible were certainly written specifically as propoganda; the Gospel of John is a perfect example. The Old Testament has Leviticus, which I don’t think anyone would argue is specifically intended to control people’s behaviors. But the narrative portions are more akin to an oral tradition of a culture’s historic heritage, and in that sense, by and large likely to be as true as anything we know about, say, Henry VIII or Caesar.

      That said, thanks for voting on what sort of historic underpinnings you like best in a story! That gives me one mark for the “internal strife” column 🙂

      • Alex says:

        Awesome! I’ll keep my eye out for it.

        Yes, that’s true. A lot of it is more like history than propaganda. I just can’t see it as God’s Word the way most religious people can, even if I’m willing to assume for an argument that God exists. 🙂

        • Part of the issue with the Bible is that people think you have to take it as 100% correct and as being all of a piece. Neither is accurate. There’s a reason we call them “books” of the Bible: each was written by somebody, for somebody. Knowing who and for whom makes understanding the Bible so much easier. And more interesting.

          • Eleanor says:

            The Bible is definitely WAY more interesting once you stop trying to make it all make sense as one cohesive whole and start understanding the reasons behind the contradictions. Eyewitness accounts differ; that doesn’t make them lies, but does give you insight into the perspectives.

  4. Shellah says:

    This reminds me that you have to question everything. As to your question, both wars are interesting to me.

    • Eleanor says:

      I think critical thinking is really important; we don’t have to doubt everything, but we should at least give it some genuine thought every once in awhile.

  1. Monday April 11th

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