I don't remember exactly how I discovered Home Star Runner-- for sure from students a few years ago-- but I fell in love in five seconds. For those of you without adolescents conveniently at hand, this is a flash animation cartoon site, with completely original content, done by brothers Mike and Matt Chapman.
The title character is a strange humanoid with a propeller beanie, no arms, a big underbite and speech impediment, and a t-shirt with a star on it.
Strong Bad, a midget muscle type with wrestling headgear and boxing gloves (see picture), has become the most popular denizen of the site. He speaks with a Latino accent somewhat reminiscent of Cheech Marin, is fond of saying "Holy Crap!" and runs an email question-and-answer that has to be the most brilliantly off-the-wall comedy ever on the Internet.
If you click here you will be transported to the Strong Bad email page, which features over 100 short flash animation movies, all on the theme of Strong Bad answering fan mail.
One of the most recent shorts concerns "myths and legends," and makes a great teaching tool in addition to cramming more laughs into 4 minutes than most guts can take.
Go there, then come back and read the rest of this. A fast Internet connection is recommended.
Consider, gentle reader, the popular view of mythology as seen on cable television channels "in the high hundreds, next to the CG Dinosaur Channel and the Homes with Roller Coasters in Them Network:"
Mysterious myths and legendary legends
a. Have their source in constellations ("The skies of old").
b. Can be interpreted using drawings with no texts ("Ancient fence paintings showing... family bike rides-- or family pie sitting contests.")
c. Get corrupted through "bad storytelling and the Telephone game."
d. Are either factually true or false, and it's important to find out which one ("Now that you've seen the evidence, it's up to you to decide."
As Strong Bad would've said if he had had time,
a. It is very romantic to look up into the skies, connect starry dots, and then make up a story about it. But contrary to popular belief, the ancient Greeks told very few star stories until they became acquainted with the astrology-mad Near East in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.
I have no statistics to back up my conviction, but I would be surprised if a large fraction of the most significant stories of the world concern stars, the sun, moon, and the sky (A Story from Uganda with no sky stuff in it).
b. Similarly, it is a lot of fun to look at pictures (like on "ancient fence paintings") and figure out stories from them if there is no text to go along with them. Unfortunately, as Strong Bad points out, you never know if something is a bike ride or a pie-sitting contest.
c. It has always been popular to believe that ancient peoples are like silly kids playing Telephone who can't repeat a story verbatim. In fact, peoples of the ancient world had stupendously good memories, because most of them could not read and had to rely on hearing and memorization of important information. You can bet the details of stories that were important to people in those times did not get changed. Stories "get corrupted" when they lose their relevance or original importance-- from transfer to new cultures unlike the old, or when the old culture itself changes. The "fish with the fro wig" and "the British distance runner" would have had to do a lot of travelin' to be transformed into the "shark held by the bear."
d. Myth always has a grain of real life in it-- you can't imagine a dragon without having some experience with a snake, for example. But the endless speculation about what in myths "really happened" takes away from their intrinsic interest as good stories. I prefer asking, "What did it mean?" to "Did it happen?" But that's just me.
I predict Home Star will be the next Simpsons. And if not, it should be. Go here for Home Star merchandise. The whole site is free, so show your appreciation by buying some cool stuff.