Theogony, Works and Days, and Elegies
LAY: An alternative spelling of --see above.
Indeed, it can be argued that the Modern Myths are far more important than classical Myths such as Odysseus and the Grail Legends because their impact on modern people and the familiarity that most people have with them is far greater than with the Myths of old. In the minds and imagination of a lot of everyday folk today, and especially in the younger generations, Modern Myths like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix and Dune; have a level of influence, relevance and meaning that perhaps in previous ages Myths like Odysseus and the Grail Legends would have had for their respective cultures. So generally speaking, the power of Myth in modern times really derives from the Modern Myths such as those mentioned. But what is the power of Myth? What is their influence on modern society and might be their effect on the greater scheme of things?
The power of Myth is multi-faceted and exists in various aspects some subtle and some quite direct. On a simple and direct level Myths entertain and excite, i.e. they serve as stimulating stories and gripping yarns. On a slightly higher level Myths can inspire. They can instill in people a sense of idealism, selflessness and even heroism. Especially in children and young people, Mythic Heroes can serve as role models or exemplars. It is probably not an uncommon phenomenon whereby impressionable young people have imagined themselves as Mythic Heroes after exposure to Myths and in particular Modern Myths. It has probably been fairly common for certain people to have identified with some of the characters of Modern Myth, perhaps Luke Skywalker of Star Wars, one of the Heroes from the Lord of the Rings or perhaps Neo from the Matrix. But then this has always been the effect of Mythology. People have always been inspired powerfully by Mythology for better or worse. To give two examples of famous historical figures who were driven by the Mythic imagination, for instance we know that Alexander the Great was heavily influenced by the Illiad/Odysseus myth. The infamous and perhaps not so great Adolf Hitler was much inspired by the Grail Legends and the story of Parsifal.
Does Gilgamesh neatly fit into the definitions we had?
At the same time this process of borrowing and re-telling is not something peculiar to modern myths but is also part of the process by which many of the ancient Myths were synthesized. For instance we have already mentioned how Homer the writer of the Illiad and Odyssey was influenced by some of the Myths which were known to him such as Gilgamesh. And the Grail Legends were constantly re-worked and re-retold such that there exist many versions of it to be found all over Europe, with some quite different storylines and inclusion of a variety of different Mythic motifs and themes. In this way Modern Myths shouldn’t be seen as being somehow less because they have borrowed ideas from the ancient Myths, because this has always been part of the process by which Myths have come into being. So in a very real sense people like George Lucas, J.R.R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert are like the modern day Homers of this world and present age.