Category: Comparison Essay



Myths and Legends: Influencing Social Change

Student’s Name

Institutional Affiliation

Myths and Legends: Influencing Social Change

Myths and legends can influence social change when they are used to illustrate an idea on how to resolve a problem in the social realm. Influential or charismatic leaders can introduce the images and narratives in popular myths and legends as a way to reinforce a message on how to tackle social issues, such as inequality, oppression or slavery. They can resort to a positive image within the story of myths and legends to inspire the masses to take action. Moreover, elements of myths and legends aim at criticizing the status quo. The application of various ways to use myths and legends in order to influence social change can be understood in a deeper way after studying the literary work of two Filipino writers. In addition, Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech will be included as another example of how myths and legends can be utilized to have a social impact leading to change. Therefore, these two literary works and the King’s speech provide evidentiary support that it is possible to affect social change by means of elements from myths and legends, but only if concepts and ideas in myths and legends have a platform that enable them to reach the masses.

Defining Myths and Legends

Primarily, it is essential to define myths and legends. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary online offers several definition of a myth. However, for the purpose of this study, the most appropriate definition is the one that outlines that it as a popular belief (Merriam-Webster, 2017b). One can also say that it is a popular tradition that occurred from a significant event or due to life experience of an important person. Nevertheless, the most crucial element of the myth is how it is viewed as a vehicle carrying or embodying the morals of an institution or the society (Merriam-Webster, 2017b). For example, the myth that surrounds the story of mythical figures reflects the ideals of heroism, sacrifice, and endless love.

Furthermore, Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary provided several definitions for the term legend. However, with regard to this discussion, the most appropriate one is a story that came down from the past (Merriam-Webster, 2017a). It is further defined as popular story that is not verifiable or difficult to prove (Merriam-Webster, 2017a). One can also argue that a legend can be based on a factual event; however, after the passage of time, embellishments were added in order to highlight traditional values that are important to a particular nation or ethnic group.

Besides, the section that describes the two key terms of the paper must allow space for discussing appropriate examples of myths and legends. An overview of the two literary works of Filipino writers reveal that a significant portion of myths and legends incorporated in their narratives are taken from the Bible. It may offend some people to say that the stories in the Bible are narratives that constitute myths and legends. Nevertheless, the definition that was mentioned earlier supports this idea.

Religious books, in particular the Bible, are sacred texts for millions of believers around the globe. Moreover, it is factual to claim that narratives in the Biblical text can be considered historical and verifiable, if to negate the assumption that the latter can be categorized as a part of humankind’s myths and legends. However, from a different perspective, especially when under the terms and conditions of the scientific method, an objective analyst is compelled to regard elements in the Bible as the ones beyond the realm of the scientific world. Thus, according to this argument, it is possible to use Biblical tales and components as mythical or legendary in nature.

For the purpose of comparison and strengthening the line of reasoning, the following discussion also includes the analysis of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech in order to reinforce the idea concerning the influence of myths and legends on the social change. King’s speech was rendered during the event known as the March on Washington more than 50 years ago (Younge, 2013). When he made the speech, Martin Luther King was already an influential political rights activist. Nevertheless, after his death by an assassin's bullet, the speech resounded even more, and its impact seemed more powerful by contrast to the first time it was delivered.

The Filipino Literature

The first literary work under analysis is Efren Abueg’s The Death of Tio Samuel. The latter is a complicated story of a dream within a dream, and throughout the narrative, it is not easy to determine if the author talks about real-world events or discusses something about a Felipe’s dream; Felipe is the protagonist of the story (Abueg, 2005). In this piece, Felipe was a man of noble blood who fell in love with a native Filipino girl with superficial features that were different from those peculiar to the descendent of European ancestors. Although the story focused on the forbidden love between Felipe and Ligaya, which drew the scorn of Felipe’s uncle, Samuel, the backdrop revealed socio-economic inequalities between the rich landed gentry of the Philippines and the poor masses of the archipelago (Abueg, 2005). It is interesting to note that the author made a commentary for the purpose of affecting social change, and in this indirect commentary, he utilized a popular mythical bird known to many of his countrymen. The mythical creature is called Adarna (Abueg, 2005).

The Adarna bird is a colorful mythical figure. It is a resplendent bird that is not only beautiful to examine, but it also possesses magical powers (Mythical Creatures Guide, 2012). The bird’s arsenal of seven magical songs can heal any type of affliction (Mythical Creatures Guide, 2012). However, in the story of Felipe and Samuel, the bird’s magical abilities were expected to cure tuberculosis, a disease common among the impoverished Filipino workers (Abueg, 2005). In this story, the myth of the Adarna bird was used to symbolize a better future. When Felipe mentioned the name of Adarna, he wanted Ligaya to know what he intended to do in order to change the pitiful state of poverty that the people were trapped into. In effect, he implied that the business he aimed at establishing by means of imported machineries would hum and make a sound as beautiful as those created by the Adarna bird, and by allusion, the sound it produced would also bring healing to the bodies of the penurious workers.

The second literary work under examination is King’s Decree written by Pedro Cruz Reyes Jr. It is the story of a rebellious student who desired to determine whose authority figure he would obey (Reyes, 2005). It was clear right from the beginning that Minyong, the protagonist of the story, defied the power of the school’s faculty and staff. In addition, one can argue that he was more than willing to oppose the authority of those who were elected and considered traditional leaders of the society and its institutions.

Minyong wanted the world to have a change of perspective when it concern the public moral authority. He intended to challenge the current social norms and realize why people continue to adhere to the rules that are inconsistent, illogical and humiliating, in his opinion (Reyes, 2005.). In this literary work, the use of myths and legends was expressed in the way Minyong objected to the social norms by comparing and contrasting them with the actions of a legendary figure in Christianity, namely Jesus Christ (Reyes, 2005). From Minyong’s point of view, Jesus Christ was indeed a person worth of respect and emulation; therefore, following that frame of thought, he questioned the code of conduct that the school promoted, because it is a code of behavior that Jesus himself would violate (Reyes, 2005). For example, he said that the school would not admit Jesus because he had long hair and a beard (Reyes, 2005). Furthermore, Minyong referred to legends and myths to remind people of their hypocrisy (Reyes, 2005). He claimed that just like the church, the school is full of hypocrites asserting that Virgin Mary was supposed to be a poor wife of a carpenter but she was fitted with expensive clothes and adorned with jewels.

Martin Luther King’s Speech

In Martin Luther King's speech, he used the imagery of the mythical story of Jews escaping slavery and marching towards their freedom to the Promised Land. In the Biblical narrative, the Hebrew slaves were under cruel dominion of the Egyptian pharaoh, and after some time in their history, God saved them from oppression and they were emancipated from slavery. Martin Luther King introduced this powerful imagery to inspire African Americans to hope for a bright future (Younge, 2013). The reference to the mythical and legendary story of Hebrews triumphing over the evil of slavery was an effective strategy, because African Americans were able to relate to the narrative (Younge, 2013). In addition, the mythical story provides powerful illustration of the African Americans’ sufferings from the Civil Rights issues and exhibits how they could dream of experiencing a better life if only they had faith like the Hebrew slaves.


The examination of two literary works from Filipino authors revealed that it is possible to use myths and legends to affect social change. Myths and legends were utilized to address such social problems as inequality, oppression, or slavery. In case of Abueg, the mythical bird Adarna served the purpose of suggesting the idea of how the unselfish plan to develop a business model designed to uplift and empower the impoverished laborers can work like the Adarna song encouraging people and healing their infirmities. The mythical bird acts as an image that the community can relate to and which inspires them to think of a better future. In case of Minyong, the use of myths and legends aimed at showing something that the society treats with reverence and respect in order to make them realize their hypocrisy and double standards. Hence, myths and legends are supposed to embody certain ideals and promote particular moral behavior. Minyong was counting on the power of the myth and the legend to compel the public to see their mistakes.

Martin Luther King’s intention was the same as that of Abueg, when he utilized a mythical and legendary story in order to establish a connection with the masses. The story of the Hebrew slaves released from the shackles of poverty, hardships, and shame was well-known to the King’s audience. Although it has been made clear that myths and legends can indeed contribute to social change, the provided examples should lead to the acknowledgement that the mere use of myths and legends cannot be expected to produce this effect on a regular basis. It is important to create a platform or a mechanism that would allow a writer or a politician to spread his/her message.


Due to the analysis of the literary works of two Filipino writers and comparison of these writings to the speech of Martin Luther King, this review supported the idea that myths and legends may significantly affect social change. Besides, it is possible because of the powerful connection of people with myths and legends, which is based on the assertion that the latter are not only popular stories from the ancient past, but more importantly because myths and legends embody the ideals of the community. Moreover, they are the sources that in turn form the society’s belief system and the development of social norms. However, it has to be acknowledged that social change is only realizable if those preaching or espousing this idea have access to a mechanism that enables them to inspire the masses.


Abueg, E. (2005). The death of Tio Samuel. In B. Lumbera & C. N. Lumbera (Eds.), Philippine literature: A history and anthology (pp. 324-333). Philippines: Anvil Publishing, Inc. Merriam-Webster. (2017a). Legend. Retrieved from

Merriam-Webster. (2017b). Myth. Retrieved from

Mythical Creatures Guide. (2012). Ibong Adarna. Retrieved from

Reyes, P. C. (2005). King’s decree. In B. Lumbera & C. N. Lumbera (Eds.), Philippine literature: A history and anthology (pp. 358-366). Philippines: Anvil Publishing, Inc.

Younge, G. (2013). Martin Luther King: The story behind his “I have a dream” speech. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Related essays