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Fantasy Civilizations Day 5/6: Origin Myths

1. Context: 10, general, rural

2. Broad, Lifelong Goal/s & Rationale: Understanding the inner

workings of society and civilizations is important for students. When they
learn how civilizations interact they can better look at and judge civilizations
in real life. Through creation and examination of their own civilizations,
students can begin to recognize the elements of societal interactions in
reality as well as learn to articulate these details through their writing.

3. Specific Daily Objective: Students will learn about the specifics of

origin myths and begin to recognize the elements of these particular kinds of
literature to better write origin myths about their fantasy civilization.

4. Common Core (Ohio) Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.4:

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text,
including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative
impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the
language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal

5. Assessment and/or Outcomes: The students will be assessed of

their understanding of origin myths based on their discussion on day 5 and
the completion of their civilizations origin myth on day 6. Informal,

6. Materials: Greek Origin Myth Summary (attached), African Tribal

Origin Myth (attached), Common Origin Features (attached), Writing Origin
Myths (attached)

7. Methods:
Day 5:
Anticipation: The teacher begins class by asking the students
to write about where they came from. The students are
instructed to write for three minutes (a few extra minutes can be
added if necessary) telling about where they came from, such as
their hometown, their parents, or whatever else the student
deems appropriate. Once the short writing is completed the
teacher asks for a couple of volunteers who feel comfortable
sharing. The teacher will also share what they would say about
themselves to the students. (5-7 min)

Overview: The teacher once again brings up the thematic

question dealing with how civilizations should interact. The
teacher prompts the students by asking why it is important to

Jackson Aukerman
Wright State University
examine the interaction of civilizations and to learn about other
groups of people. Once the short discussion is complete, the
teacher explains that a story about where someone or something
comes from is its origin. More specifically, many civilizations
have stories about how the world was formed and where their
people came from. The teacher identifies these types of stories
as origin myths and explains that they will be finding some
common themes in origin myths before writing original tales for
their civilizations. (5 min)

Modeling: The teacher reads the Greek origin myth out loud to
the students. Once finished, the teacher marks down important
moments of the myth as follows (10 min):
The Earth and Sky are created and fall in love with one
They had many children (titans) who began to have
children of their own (gods)
Kronos begins to eat his children, fearing they will rise up
against him. Zeus is spared by his mother
Zeus frees his siblings from Kronus
Zeus has Prometheus and Epimetheus create humans and
Prometheus creates human and steals fire from the gods
Zeus punishes mankind by having Pandora open a box of
horrors (plague, sickness, envy, greed, etc)

Guided Practice: The teacher distributes the African Tribal

Origin Myth to the students and has them get into their
civilization groups. The teacher instructs the students to read the
myth together and mark down important moments that occur.
After about 10 minutes of work time, the teacher brings the class
back together. The entire class discusses what common
moments occur between the two myths. The teacher records
these possible responses on the board, including the creation of
humanity in some form, a moment where someone disobeys, and
punishment for humanity. The teacher explains that the
responses are common themes in origin myths and should be
considered when the groups write their own origins for their
civilizations. (15 min)

Application: The teacher distributes the Common Origin

Features and Writing Origin Myths handouts to the students. For
the remainder of the class, students are instructed to begin
brainstorming an origin myth for their civilization which they will
begin writing the following day. (15 min)

Jackson Aukerman
Wright State University
Day 6:
Writing Workshop: Picking up where the previous class period
left off, the students are instructed to spend the class writing the
origin myth for their civilization. The teacher instructs the
students to follow the directions on their Writing Origin Myths
handout and utilize the Common Origin Features sheet from the
previous day. The origin myth is due at the end of the period or
first thing the next day if further time is required. (entire class)

8. Adaptations: Students can be given more time on their anticipation

on the first day of the lesson if required. Extra support can be provided by
the teacher during the reading of origin myths if needed by the students,
such as if there is a difficult concept to understand. If necessary, larger print
versions of handouts can be provided.

9. Possible Problems & Solutions: Students could possibly take issue

with origin myths of another culture or religion. In this case, the teacher
would remind the students that these myths are being read as a piece of
literature and not as any sort of statement for or against a certain religion.

Jackson Aukerman
Wright State University
Greek Origin Myth Summary

In the beginning, there was an empty darkness. The only thing in this
void was Nyx, a bird with black wings. With the wind, she laid a golden egg
and for ages she sat upon this egg. Finally, life began to stir in the egg and
out of it rose Eros, the god of love. One-half of the shell rose into the air and
became the sky and the other became the Earth. Eros named the sky Uranus
and the Earth he named Gaia. Then Eros made them fall in love.
Uranus and Gaia had many children together and eventually they had
grandchildren. Some of their children become afraid of the power of their
own children. Kronus, in an effort to protect himself, swallowed his children
when they were still infants. However, his wife Rhea hid their youngest child.
She gave him a rock wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he swallowed,
thinking it was his son.
Once the child, Zeus, had reached manhood his mother instructed him
on how to trick his father to give up his brothers and sisters. Once this was
accomplished the children fought a mighty war against their father. After
much fighting, the younger generation won. With Zeus as their leader, they
began to furnish Gaia with life and Uranus with stars.
Soon the Earth lacked only two things: man and animals. Zeus
summoned his sons Prometheus (forethought) and Epimetheus (after-
thought). He told them to go to Earth and create men and animals and give
them each a gift.
Prometheus set to work forming men in the image of the gods and
Epimetheus worked on the animals. As Epimetheus worked he gave each
animal he created one of the gifts. After Epimetheus had completed his work
Prometheus finally finished making men. However when he went to see what
gift to give man Epimetheus shamefacedly informed him that he had
foolishly used all the gifts.
Distressed, Prometheus decided he had to give man fire, even though
gods were the only ones meant to have access to it. As the sun god rode out
into the world the next morning Prometheus took some of the fire and
brought it back to man. He taught his creation how to take care of it and then
left them.
When Zeus discovered Prometheus' deed he became furious. He
ordered his son to be chained to a mountain and for a vulture to peck out his
liver every day till eternity. Then he began to devise a punishment for
mankind. Another of his sons created a woman of great beauty, Pandora.
Each of the gods gave her a gift. Zeus' present was curiosity and a box which
he ordered her never to open. Then he presented her to Epimetheus as a
Pandora's life with Epimetheus was happy except for her intense
longing to open the box. She was convinced that because the gods and
goddesses had showered so many glorious gifts upon her that this one would
also be wonderful. One day when Epimetheus was gone she opened the box.

Jackson Aukerman
Wright State University
Out of the box flew all of the horrors which plague the world today -
pain, sickness, envy, greed. Upon hearing Pandora's screams Epimetheus
rushed home and fastened the lid shut, but all of the evils had already
Later that night they heard a voice coming from the box saying, "Let
me out. I am hope."
Pandora and Epimetheus released her and she flew out into the world
to give hope to humankind.

African Tribal Origin Myth Summary

People did not always live on the surface of the earth. At one time
people and animals lived underneath the earth with Kaang (Kng), the Great
Master and Lord of All Life. In this place, people and animals lived together
peacefully. They understood each other. No one ever wanted for anything
and it was always light even though there wasn't any sun. During this time of
bliss, Kaang began to plan the wonders he would put in the world above.
First Kaang created a wondrous tree, with branches stretching over the
entire country. At the base of the tree, he dug a hole that reached all the way
down into the world where the people and animals lived. After he had
finished furnishing the world as he pleased he led the first man up the hole.
He sat down on the edge of the hole and soon the first woman came up out
of it. Soon all the people were gathered at the foot of the tree, awed by the
world they had just entered. Next, Kaang began helping the animals climb
out of the hole. In their eagerness, some of the animals found a way to climb
up through the tree's roots and come out of the branches. They continued
racing out of the world beneath until all of the animals were out.
Kaang gathered all the people and animals about him. He instructed
them to live together peacefully. Then he turned to the men and women and
warned them not to build any fires or a great evil would befall them. They
gave their word and Kaang left to where he could watch his world secretly.
As evening approached the sun began to sink beneath the horizon. The
people and animals stood watching this phenomenon, but when the sun
disappeared fear entered the hearts of the people. They could no longer see
each other as they lacked the eyes of the animals which were capable of
seeing in the dark. They lacked the warm fur of the animals also and soon
grew cold. In desperation, one man suggested that they build a fire to keep
warm. Forgetting Kaang's warning they disobeyed him. They soon grew
warm and were once again able to see each other.
However, the fire frightened the animals. They fled to the caves and
mountains and ever since the people broke Kaang's command people have
not been able to communicate with animals. Now fear has replaced the seat
friendship once held between the two groups.

Jackson Aukerman
Wright State University
Common Origin Features

The following are themes commonly seen in origin myths, including the
ones we have read. Not every myth needs to contain every one of these
features, rather some of these common threads will usually exist within an
origin myth.

Themes of birth or a beginning

Some sort of higher power or deity responsible for creation
Some myths have humanity start above or below the Earth
Some myths contain humans and animals living in harmony for a time
Some sort of disobedience on the part of the humans leads to
punishment from the deity
Fire is often a representation of this disobedience or sin
Some also contain mistakes on the part of humans that cause harmony
with animals to be broken


Writing Origin Myths

Directions: Now that you have your civilization description, it is time to

write the origin myth that your civilization believes in. As a group, complete
a write up of your civilizations origin myth following these guidelines:

The origin myth should include at least three of the common features
from our Common Origin Feature handout.
The origin myth should make sense with your civilization description.
Try to relate the elements of your civilization to your myth. Take the
opportunity to explain why your species acts in a certain way or has a
certain structure in their society.
The myth should be written like a narrative, meaning it tells a story
and has a beginning, middle, and end like the myths we read in class.
Refer back to those examples if you need help with this.
There is no requirement of length, but you will probably need about
250-300 words to fully incorporate the required features and tell a

One note about using common features from the list. All our examples
and common features deal with humans and human civilizations. For our
purposes, substitute your species in for humans. This write-up is due from
your group by the end of the next class.

Jackson Aukerman
Wright State University
Jackson Aukerman
Wright State University