Children’s books, movies, games and even curriculum are often centered around fabled characters with roots in ancient times. The mythological genre offers exposure to world cultures, history, literature and art, while modern pop culture has inspired more interest than ever in all things magical. In this series, Myths, Heroes, and Legends, we examine various categories of our favorite movie adaptations in this area and how they enhance and inspire your child’s learning. In this post, we cover:
Britannic Myths, Heroes, and Legends
Brave, rated PG (2012)
While Greek and Roman legends have been passed down well preserved, much of Celtic mythology has been diluted, leaving us with little information regarding their pre-Christian deities besides their names and vague characteristics. Of the legends that have been passed own, Disney/Pixar writers and animators could be paying tribute to Artio, the Celtic bear goddess, by featuring bears as a ubiquitous symbol throughout the feature film, Brave. In addition, Hags are prevalent in traditional Celtic storytelling and parallels between the witch in Brave and the Celtic banshee, the Hag of the mist, include her description as an ugly old woman who possesses the power to become invisible. Wisps are also common throughout antiquated Britannic narratives and are said to be mischievous balls of bright light that lead travelers away from their favored path. Although the wisps lead Merida to the witch, who turns her mother, and inadvertently, siblings, into bears, Merida had to learn an important life lesson before they could turn human again. Because the lesson was imperative for Merida to live the life she wanted, while also pleasing her family, it is up to you to determine if the wisps in Brave were good or bad.
By watching Disney/Pixar’s Brave, students can develop an elementary understanding of Celtic mythology, learn from the morals Merida discovers, and discover a desire to learn more about legends of the Scottish Highlands. Kids can even participate in Disney’s virtual rendition of the Highland games and learn all about the origin of the games and how they still take place today.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail, rated PG (1975)
While themes, exploits, and characters of Arthurian legend vary widely from text to text, I would not consider Monty Python and the Holy Grail to hold any educational value beyond the depiction of certain relevant figures and symbols. Although it is wildly entertaining, I wouldn’t want viewers to think that the Trojan Horse was successful only after the failed attempt of the Trojan Rabbit. However, congruent figures and symbols include the Black Knight, the Holy Grail, and the Knights of the Round Table.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail can be a used as a reward for students who have studied and mastered an understanding of the widely accepted accounts of King Arthur, his entourage, and the Holy Grail.
King Arthur, rated R (2004)
Although history entrusts us with a plethora of fabled accounts, it has been unable to provide historically verifiable details of an actual King Arthur. The deluge of mythical narratives makes it difficult to dispute Antoine Fuqua’s feature film. Despite the lack of traditional Arthurian references, such as the Holy Grail and the vaguely alluded to love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, Arthur’s role and intentions reflect those of folklore; Arthur is aided by his sword, Excalibur, while he and his knights fight against the invading Saxons.
A vague glimpse of a single facet of the title character’s exploits, King Arthur is most valuable as a stepping stone in the pursuit to further educating oneself in Arthurian legend. For a more kid friendly narrative of the legendary king, check out Disney’s The Sword in the Stone.
What sources have you or your school used to learn about Britannic mythology? Have you found traces of mythological or legendary influences throughout your school-issued reading lists? Please share your experience with mythology and folklore and where you’ve noted their impact in popular culture.