My children have noticed the many similarities between many of the worlds' myths, legends, stories of gods and goddesses (or Gods and Goddesses - whatever floats your boat). This week, my two younger girls were hearing the story of Romulus and Remus, the legendary twin founders of Rome. There are many versions of their story and we read three of them. My older girls saw many similarities from stories they have learned over the years, and my 6-year-old pointed out the parallels between this story and other ancient stories (she was specifically enthralled by the idea of lost children being raised by shepherds). My 5-year-old first pointed out the the story of Moses, and then asked "Why are all these baby boys floating down rivers in baskets? Maybe their moms should keep them away from the edge of the water." Yes, good point.
This naturally led to an excited discussion about the many, many stories we have read over the years. Because we don't believe that any of the stories are literally true, there's no pressure to feel that one carries more weight than any other, or that one is "more true" than another. I felt like it was a good opportunity to discuss the definitions of myths and legends (as well as parables, fables and fairy tales). What I hope they took away from our discussion (aside from keeping your baby away from the edge of the river) is that "the truth" in these stories doesn't really matter - the lesson we learn from it does. What can we learn from the characters, their choices, their outcomes, whether or not they are factual or fairy tale? And I have to believe my girls take away a sense of human oneness; that we all share more than we think, even down to our legends and stories.