Key ConceptsYou can connect Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids to your curriculum using these key concepts. They convey the main educational themes of the exhibition.
Mythic Creatures Teach Us About Cultures Around the World
Stories about mythic creatures embody belief systems, identity, moral codes, impressions of the natural world, and other aspects of humanity. As cultures change over time, the qualities of their mythic creatures can change, too. Therefore, we can study these creatures to learn about the history and evolution of cultures both ancient and modern.
Many Mythic Creatures Reflect Attempts to Describe the Natural World
Mythic creatures can offer perspective on how scientific discovery changes over time. Before formal scientific methods came about, a fleeting glimpse of an animal or a finding of unfamiliar bones was often enough to confirm a being's existence. Indeed, many mythic creatures are bizarre assemblages of parts of real animals. As methods for scientific observation and interpretation evolved, it became clear which animals exist in nature—and which are mythical.
Mythic Creatures Are a Medium of Cultural Interaction
When people from different cultures interact, they often blend and borrow myths, stories, and images. This cultural exchange can explain why numerous cultures have mythic creatures that appear similar. Some even retain similar meanings.
Mythic Creatures Take Shape Through Human Imagination
Mythic creatures are evidence of the uniquely human capacity for symbolic expression: the ability to express abstract thoughts about our world using symbols in language, art, and music.
Cultures Keep Mythic Creatures Alive Through Art and Literature
The narratives of mythic creatures frequently appear in literature, oral traditions, music, dance, drama, celebrations, and many other art forms. These powerful stories continue to resonate with us and persist as artists reinterpret them over and over. Knowing more about mythic creatures can help us interpret their symbolic use in art and literature.
WHAT IS A MYTHIC CREATURE?Dragons, unicorns, mermaids... and bunyips, rocs, cyclopes, and more. Mythic creatures are fantastic beings—some familiar, others unusual—that take shape through human creativity. They enchant, terrify, and amuse. Their forms and meanings are as diverse as their cultural origins.
Ultimately, mythic creatures serve as symbols of the human experience. That the often very ancient stories about these beings endure today is a testament to their powerful imagery and broad appeal in cultures around the world.