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Mythology vs. Fairy Tales part 1

One of the things I feel it's important to discuss when you're talking about mythology is where you draw the line. My aforementioned myth prof uses four terms as limiting factors (and I hope to actually interview him for the blog at some point this fall). The spectrum goes like this:

Fairy tales

The spectrum displayed like this shows a shift from mythology (which I suspect is qualified in this structure as the earliest incarnation of idea/story) to fairy tale (not so close to the original idea/story in the ether).

I, on the other hand, find so much depth in the wealth of fairy tale resources that I tend to lump them into the broader mythology category (as you may have noticed in my "Essay for Karen" post). Vampires and werewolves get lumped in there, as well. In order to address my tendency to put them all in the same category, I thought I'd do a little research.

Where better to start than the Dewey Decimal System? The system baffles me on some of its qualifiers, as I've noticed them on the shelves. Why do books on American Indian religion appear in the 290s, but books of American Indian legends are shelved in the 398.2s?* I used my investigative skills and asked the cataloger at the library why it all worked, and she supplied me with a most excellent Dewey Decimal index that elaborates on what goes where. (I'd always thought cataloging was quite mysterious, but the index is a great demystifier.)

Here's the basic scoop: the 290s are "Religions other than Christianity." 292: Classical Religion (read: Greek and Roman mythology). 293: Germanic Relgion (Teutonic mythology, Norse mythology). 294: Religions of Indic Origin (Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sufiism are all here). 295: Zoroastrianism. 296: Judiasm. 297: Islam. (Christianity doesn't get all of 200-290, but it's pretty darn close. Which tells you a bit about Mr. Dewey's worldview.)

The 398s, on the other hand, are folklore. Anything dealing with superstitions, folktales about characters, folktales about specific creatures (I think that's 398.4), riddle games, rhyming games, etc., finds its home between 398 and 400.

I have some conclusions that I've drawn from this, but I'd like to open it to discussion first. After all, I was talking for awhile about writing a dissertation on this stuff (if I could find a religion program that would get behind me on it), so I've probably got more to say than anyone is particularly interested in hearing on the subject. It also means I'm interested in hearing what other folks have to say on the topic!

*I use American Indian rather than Native American here, in part because of the national museum in DC, and in part because of a very compelling argument posted, weirdly, by the Antiques Road Show; the full reasoning will appear over on the Cowboys and Aliens bonus pages in the next few weeks, and if you're interested, I'll post a link when it's up.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 14th, 2007 11:05 pm (UTC)
Too bad you're not in SoCal only for this reason: the religious studies program at Cal State Long Beach would totally get behind you. (I say that because what you are talking about is what my spouse teaches for a living.)
Sep. 17th, 2007 01:28 am (UTC)
Oh man, would that be cool! I wish going to grad school at all in the near future looked possible--let alone in SoCal. But man, would I love to see a syllabus... ;)
Sep. 15th, 2007 12:15 am (UTC)
All that math hurts Moon's head. *grin*

Yeah would love to see the article you mentioned at the end actualy.

Sep. 17th, 2007 01:34 am (UTC)
The version I wrote won't be up for a few weeks, but this is the article from Antiques Road Show that impressed me by being a pretty intelligent consideration of why to use which term.
Sep. 17th, 2007 01:40 am (UTC)
P.S. And thanks for posting over here! Nice to "meet" you. ;)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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