Art by Rachel Lee

Mythology endures in student lives through fantastical stories

When then second-grader Jade Rothbaum first flipped through a book on Ancient Egypt, she became instantly intrigued by the stories of Egyptian mythology. The magic systems and complex characters within each myth captivated her. One of her favorite myths involved Isis, the Egyptian goddess of magic and healing, overthrowing Ra, the god of the sun, so that her husband could become the new king of the gods.

“To me, Isis forcing Ra to step down so Osiris could be king is an example of devotion so strong but also so blind, it greatly influences others’ lives, but not necessarily for the better,” Rothbaum said. “From Isis’s view, that loyalty might not have been blind at all. It’s curious to think about, from each perspective, the morals of who believed who else was right or wrong. You wonder if it was based off of a real life situation because coups were very common in some parts (of the (world).”

Now a freshman, Rothbaum continues to be fascinated by mythology. Books with mythological parallels like the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan have only continued to inspire her to research more about the fascinating topic and fuel her understanding. 

“I actually kind of admire Riordan because a lot of authors make up a ridiculous amount of the mythology while Riordan is quite accurate in most things,” Rothbaum said.

Rothbaum is one of many students drawn into mythology through Riordan’s books, which have enhanced her understanding of the subject.

Librarian Sima Thomas said she thinks recognizing mythology is useful in any kind of literature class.

“Stories are archetypal,” Thomas said. “And I think understanding the way mythology, the hero’s journey and those kinds of structures work in our culture helps you be more aware of (literature).”

Rothbaum agreed and said during the time of ancient civilizations, mythology could be a symbol of hope.

“It was often idealized, but a lot of historians also think that ancient mythology was based off of real stories that actually happened and then exaggerated,” Rothbaum said. “There’s always that small, realistic part of them. Some stories serve as a purpose to explain why some things are the way they are, and some of them are more to idealize human beings.”

Humanities and AP Literature and Composition teacher Mimi Park said mythology allows readers to visualize gods being relatable to humans, even if they are from an aspirational creation.

“(In) every major civilization that had a religion or a religious base, many of the deity figures were human in nature and had very human qualities,” Park said. “It really seems like there is an aspirational quality to it, like we want our deity figures to be the best versions of the people –– to embody the qualities of civilization.”

Park said mythology helped create a sense of order and explanation for things that ancient civilizations didn’t know about, something humanity tends to find comfort in. She also said she liked watching shows based on mythology when she was younger.

“It was fascinating to think there was this whole thing of fantasy, heroes, magic and really cool bada — (mythological) female figures in the ‘90s,” Park said. “ But it really was the possibility of another world that still connects to our world but is very different (that makes mythology so fascinating). And I think that’s very shared amongst most people who like fantasy and mythology.”

Rothbaum also said the most interesting thing about mythology is its world building.

“The idea of this world that is so different from the one that we live in, and in a lot of ways quite the same — that’s what makes fantasy worlds so interesting to fantasy lovers,” Rothbaum said. “It’s that there’s this world that has so many things different, and yet it has enough in common that we can relate to certain parts of it.”