But one great thing has come out of it: one of my students suggested a metaphor for adaptation and transmission of myths/legends/stories over time that I think is brilliant in its simplicity and its aptness.
We were talking about the way an historical event or personage becomes the basis of a folktale, and the ways that tale changes over time, until it bears very little resemblance to the truth. The context for this was, I think, the Paul Revere myth; we read Ray Raphael's chapter from Founding Myths about Revere, and Longfellow's
I tried to say something about adaptation and transmission and distortion and distance, and it probably made no sense at all. And then one of the seniors in my class raise his hand and said: "So it's just kind of like that game "Telephone"?"
And the more I've thought about it, the more this is just the best metaphor, or analogy, for how stories are passed along through time. It's also a great metaphor for evolution, which another student noted: as the story is passed along the "Telephone," the best bits get preserved, and the parts that don't excite or interest the teller/listener, get stripped away. Adaptation. Evolution. Storytelling. Mythmaking. Gossip. Telephone.