Theories in Mythology: Elements of Magic Realism

Gaster writes that “the mythological story presupposes activity on a level somewhat different from that of the actual and empirical. Its [. . .] characters can violate the normal laws of nature; they can change shape and sex, or traverse prodigious distances at a bound” (Sacred Narrative 129).  A suitable analogy to the genre of Mythology would be the works based on Magical Realism in contemporary fiction.  As in Magical Realism, the Mythology portrays events out of the ordinary and characters out of touch with reality.  Yet, their implication is always applicable to the existing reality.  The Greek and Roman Mythologies alongside the Indian Epics in the form of Ramayana present some striking examples of this fact.  For instance, the male protagonist in Ramayana can invoke divine assistance by reciting sacred verses.  Here, the human and God are seamlessly weaved into the character of Rama, which is an obvious breach of natural law as we understand it.

In this context, the theory that Gaster proposes sounds more plausible than that of kirks’.  Going back to the example of Ramayana, the character Hanuman flies across an ocean, mountain in his hand. This episode is consistent with Gaster’s theory that backs such extra-natural phenomenon in an essentially natural setting.  Empirical evidence is also of little significance here as the present moral dilemma of the mythic characters is sorted on universal and time-less laws of morality and ethic.  Hence, precedence and previous outcomes are given no importance.


Rank, Otto. (2004). The myth of the birth of the hero: A psychological interpretation of mythology (Gregory C. Richter and E. James Lieberman, Trans.) Baltimore, M.: Johns Hopkins University Press. (Originally work published 1909)

Tylor, E.B., Primitive Culture: researches into the development of mythology, philosophy, religion and art., 1871, Routledge/Thoemmes.

Hard, Robin., The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology (based on H.J.Rose’s original work), Routledge, 2003.