Since the beginning of human history, people have lived in close contact with animals—usually as hunters and farmers—and have developed myths and legends about them. All kinds of creatures, from fierce leopards to tiny spiders, play important roles in mythology. A myth can give special meaning or extraordinary qualities to common animals such as frogs and bears. However, other creatures found in myths—many-headed monsters, dragons, and unicorns—never existed in the real world.
Animals may serve as stand-ins for humans or human characteristics, as in the African and Native American trickster tales or the fables of the Greek storyteller Aesop. In some legends, animals perform heroic deeds or act as mediators between heaven and earth. They may also be the source of the wisdom and power of a shaman.
Animals often have a dualistic quality in mythology. They can be helpful to humans or harmful—sometimes both. They provide people with food, but at the same time, they can be dangerous...Click title for more