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I'm writing a scientific paper (on an unrelated subject), and the need arose to refer to Robin Hood stories in film, literature and folk culture in general. I would like to use the expression "the Robin Hood mythos", but was advised to consider using "the Robin Hood lore" instead.

I've always thought that "lore" refers to common wisdom, things that are actually "known". It makes me slightly uncomfortable to use the word in relation to legends and (probably) fictional stories.

Is "lore" correct here, or should I stick to "mythos"? Or would yet a third alternative be even better?

Edit: As requested, here's a bit more context:

"As written, the case text is notably terse in describing the full complexities of Robin’s situation. However, the Robin Hood mythos has been thoroughly explored in literature and film, resulting in an extensive shared mental model. This mental model was used to construct an imaginary Robin Hood and Merry Men. These constructs were then interviewed in order to complement the information presented in the case. Although the answers supplied were naturally ultimately made up, it was fairly easy to remain faithful to both the mythos and the case text."

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    Maybe show us the sentence you're proposing? – Robusto Mar 13 '15 at 14:32
  • Sometimes, universe or realm are used to describe such things. – Ian MacDonald Mar 13 '15 at 14:36
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    What's the matter with the word myth? Why use a fancy and questionbegging word spelled like Greek but pronounced like English? Myth is precisely what RH is; just like King Arthur and Beowulf. A good story, told many times in many ways with many meanings by many people for many centuries. – John Lawler Mar 13 '15 at 14:50
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    @JohnLawler I was under the impression that myth refers to one single story or one specific personage, whereas mythos would encompass all the stories and versions thereof dealing with that character. I may well be wrong on this, though. – João Mendes Mar 13 '15 at 14:55
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    If you're a literary critic, maybe; probly depends on what church you go to. But in terms of cognitive metaphor, a myth is just a very very thoroughly articulated and associated narrative of some kind that functions as a cultural given. Like the Darmok episode of Star Trek, which uses the myth of Gilgamesh as a model. – John Lawler Mar 13 '15 at 15:01
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According to Collins (http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/lore):

lore

noun

1) collective knowledge or wisdom on a particular subject, esp of a traditional nature
2) knowledge or learning
3) (archaic) teaching, or something that is taught

Also, according to Collins (http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/mythos):

mythos

noun

1) the complex of beliefs, values, attitudes, etc, characteristic of a specific group or society
2) another word for myth, mythology

And from Collins also (http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/myth#myth_1)

myth

noun

1) a story about superhuman beings of an earlier age taken by preliterate society to be a true account, usually of how natural phenomena, social customs, etc, came into existence
2) another word for mythology (sense 1), mythology (sense 3)
3) a person or thing whose existence is fictional or unproven (in modern literature) a theme or character type embodying an idea ⇒ "Hemingway's myth of the male hero" (philosophy) (esp in the writings of Plato) an allegory or parable

After reading the edited question: I think that the best fit in this case would be lore if you want to express the culture or collective knowledge about Robin Hood, while if you want to make reference to the tale or the character itself, mythos would make more sense

  • That's funny, Robin Hood stories don't particularly strike me as "knowledge or wisdom", whereas Robin Hood is clearly "a person whose existence is fictional or unproven". In my reading, those definitions would seem to point to mythos rather than lore... Can you expand on your reasoning? – João Mendes Mar 13 '15 at 14:49
  • @JoãoMendes: Yes, of course. I base my reasoning in the fact that such collective knowledge is not required to be about non-fictional things. For example, you can find many references to fairy lore – SamuelVimes Mar 13 '15 at 14:54
  • @JoãoMendes: as I see it, lore would reference better the culture or collective knowledge about the subject (such as films, literature, folk-lore...) while mythos would refer more to the tale or the character itself – SamuelVimes Mar 13 '15 at 16:47
  • The argument in this last comment was the final selling point for me. I'm going to go with lore. – João Mendes Mar 16 '15 at 11:56
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If you want to split the difference, you might try

legend n
1. a. An unverified story handed down from earlier times, especially one popularly believed to be historical.
1. b. A body or collection of such stories
Definition from TFDO

This lets you introduce the idea of the story being unreliable, but leaves intact the supposition that some of it might actually be true.

[Edited to add definition 1.b. to forestall OP's objection that a legend is confined to a single act.]

  • Objection removed. Makes sense. I shall ponder on it. – João Mendes Mar 13 '15 at 15:05
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For many writers, contextual aptness tends to supersede correctness. In the paragraph you present, mythos strikes me as an odd choice, albeit not incorrect. I would agree that there are other alternatives, and lore is a worthy one. To show that it works for Robin Hood (which I've always considered a legend, by the way), here's the famous verse from Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven:

Once upon a midnight dreary
While I pondered weak and weary
Over a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore
While I nodded nearly napping
Suddenly there came a tapping
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door
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You can also use tradition: Robin Hood tradition.

Mythos - "a myth or mythology". (Oxford Dictionaries Online)

...thrived in an ether of celebrity mythos for nearly half a century. (the BNC)

Lore - "a body of traditions and knowledge on a subject or held by a particular group, typically passed from person to person by word of mouth." (Oxford Dictionaries Online)

The gesture, according to Hollywood lore,... (the BNC)

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    I was aware of these definitions. They don't really shed light on the question... I do like the suggestion to use "tradition". I shall ponder on it. – João Mendes Mar 13 '15 at 14:50
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OP asks, "Is "lore" correct here, or should I stick to "mythos"? Or would yet a third alternative be even better?"

My answer is that a third alternative does, in fact, exist: "archetype", "a shared mental model" which is an admixture of myth, [folk]lore, and legend.

Your paragraph could then read: "However, the Robin Hood archetype, a constellation of myth, folklore and legend, has been thoroughly explored in literature and film, resulting in an extensive shared mental model. This mental model was used to construct an imaginary Robin Hood and Merry Men. These constructs were then interviewed in order to complement the information presented in the case. Although the answers supplied were naturally ultimately made up, it was fairly easy to remain faithful to both the archetype and the case text."

From Dissertations & Theses—Gradworks

Archetypal analysis of Robin Hood and Maid Marian

by Azmi, Kimberly, M.A., CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, DOMINGUEZ HILLS, 2009, 72 pages; 1481385

Abstract: Robin Hood's story began in the Middle Ages as nothing more than a series of adventure tales. However, a transformation of the Robin Hood tradition occurred with works written between 1598 and 1911, and it can be demonstrated that through these works the stories about Robin Hood made a transition from simple archetypal narratives of adventure to more complex archetypal renderings, moving from Joseph Campbell's idea of the monomythic hero as one who does physical deeds to one who does spiritual deeds. Furthermore, the continuing popularity of these stories, over more than six centuries and in all formats, can at least partially be attributed to this archetypal transformation. Anthony Munday's two Renaissance dramas (1598, 1601) began this transformation, which was then further developed in works by Peacock (1818), Tennyson (1892), and Noyes (1911), the latter fully developing the spiritual aspects of this mythic tale. See, Dissertations & Theses—Gradworks LINK

From, Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography by Stephen Knight

Robin Hood is a constant presence in our history and literature, even as we change his name and appearance. Archetypal in form, he can represent Nature, a Folk-Hero, and a Trickster (although these elements of his character often intertwine and coalesce into what could be named the Robin Hood archetypal figure); see, About Education LINK

  • Sorry, if not clear. OP asks, "Is "lore" correct here, or should I stick to "mythos"? Or would yet a third alternative be even better?" My answer is, a third alternative exists which includes myth, [folk]lore, and legend--ARCHETYPE. "However, the Robin Hood archetype, a constellation of myth, folklore and legend, has been thoroughly explored in literature and film, resulting in an extensive shared mental model." (this shared mental model you refer to is precisely the definition of an archetype). "Although ... it was fairly easy to remain faithful to both the [archetype] and the case text." – user98990 Mar 14 '15 at 11:05
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    +1. I appreciate the suggestion. It's not appropriate for this particular audience, but it did increase my understanding of the term. – João Mendes Mar 16 '15 at 11:54

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