Jason: Because Hades had very poor social skills and thought, "Dating... abduction.. same thing, right?"
The "Just So" Story (also known as a "pourquoinote story," "origin story," or "aetiological tale"note ) is a myth or folktale which, to quote Wikipedia, "purports to describe the origin of some feature of the natural or social world." The question, often posed to an adult by a child, could be "why do the seasons change?", or "why do zebras have stripes?", or "why do people speak different languages?" The answer given is usually that some god(dess), hero(ine), or mythical ancestor did something a long time ago that caused that thing to become that way: "Because Hades abducted Persephone and took her to the underworld", or "Because the zebra's son burned himself in the baboon's campfire", or "Because God punished humanity for trying to build a tower to heaven."
Typically, inanimate forces of nature are personified as gods or spirits, complicated variables are simplified in order to identify one clear-cut cause, and explanations of natural phenomeona that contradict modern scientific knowledge are accepted in a culture which lacks modern scientific methods, instruments, and theories. Some of these stories are weird enough that relating these to modern ears may elicit cries of Values Dissonance. Still, even modern people are entertained by these stories despite knowing better than to believe them literally. Also, Lies to Children is the easy way out whenever a small child asks you about something you don't know how to explain: the real explanation is often too complicated for them to understand, and you might not even know the answer yourself, so you can use the "Just So" Story to satisfy the kid's curiosity and get them out of your hair. This can backfire if the kid gets into trouble by naively believing what you told them.
Named for a collection of children's stories by Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories, which included tales like "How the Whale Got Its Throat" and "How the Camel Got Its Hump" (Kipling had written a kind of tryout called "How Fear Came", explaining how tigers got their stripes and why they aren't herbivores, in The Jungle Book). See the sister trope, Painting the Frost on Windows.
These stories often assume that Lamarck Was Right, proposing that some modern person, animal, or plant inherited an acquired, non-genetic characteristic from a particular ancestor. Turning to Kipling for another example, the elephant's child ended up with a long trunk because a crocodile bit his originally short nose and stretched it out: even though no genetic mutation is said to have occured, the story claims that his long trunk somehow got passed down to all elephants ever since.
Not to be confused with Superhero Origin. A Creation Myth is a particularly ambitious "Just So" Story regarding how Life, the Universe and/or Everything began. Compare Peeve Goblins, Painting the Frost on Windows, and Griping About Gremlins, for when smaller-scale occurrences are attributed to supernatural beings.
- The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye: The annual contains one of these, explaining the origin of Cybertronian civilisation, and the nature of the mysterious Guiding Hand, who are apparently gods created by Primus at the beginning of time, who created Cybertronian civilisation with "a wave of their hands", and that Cybertronians are supposedly immortal since they killed their god of death. Later revelations in the series show two claims from these stories, the aforementioned immortality and the fact that one of Cybertron's moons was destroyed are patently untrue (they aren't, and it wasn't, respectively).
- A DC story depicted Krypton as tidal locked at one point in its history, with a twilight area the only habitable zone fought over by two different tribes. Eventually they decide to have one final battle between their champions, during the course of which they discover that the metals they use for their weapons interact to generate a rotational field. Informed by this both tribes come together to gather as much of these metals as possible in a giant chasm, finally making all of Krypton habitable through a proper rotation.
- Double Agent Vader includes several Tatooine legends about the trickster hero Ekkreth, some of which are "just-so" stories. One tells how Depur (the character in the stories who represents every slaveowner) punished his slaves by taking the moon out of the sky and locking it away; Ekkreth stole it back, but had to smuggle it out in three pieces, and that's why Tatooine has three moons instead of just one. Another recapitulates the increasingly elaborate methods used by Depur to keep his slaves in line, and how with Ekkreth's help the slaves found ways to escape each one.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan-made animation Snowdrop is a Just So Story detailing the origin of snowflakes. Title character Snowdrop, a blind pegasus filly, carved the first snowflake from her frozen teardrop, in a tribute to the season of winter and to the stars she could never see.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist fanfic Sins of the Father in Ishvallan folklore, the creator god Ishvala had a brother, the destruction god Natan. While they made the world together, Natan grew jealous as everyone paid more attention to his brother. So he tried creating things on his own, becoming the first alchemist. One day, Natan crossed the line by attempting to create life, resulting in an abomination so horrible that Natans hair immediately went white and he gouged his eyes out. Ishvala banished his brother for his failure, but created humans in Natans new image to keep him company. So Natan was the first alchemist and the first Ishvalan.
- Warriors Redux:
- Clan cats have a story about how their forest came to be. It involves a monstrous creature called the Mother eating smaller monsters and then giving birth to three children: Rokhar (Tiger), Suriin (Leopard), and Horoa (Lion). Her children created the water, trees, clouds, etc. The Mother created the wildlife, with some being made out of the monsters she had ate. Her greatest creation was the domestic cats and as a result she gifted them the forest.
- The sun and moon are the eyes of Horoa and Suriin respectively. A cat named Mernatha convinced them to each give up an eye to keep watch over cats.
- Cats mark their territory because Mernatha had the forest marked with the Mother's blood in order to scare off cat-eating monsters. As a result, cats do the same for their own enemies.
- Little Fires: Clan cats have a "just so" story about why winter days are so short. LionClan and TigerClan would argue about the sun often: The lions wanted more sunlight so that they could bask in sun's warmth, while the tigers wanted more darkness so they could hunt more in the shadows. A war broke out and so StarClan intervened. Half the year would have long days and half would have long nights.
- Paradise has a just-so story on how pegasi came to be: a smart earth pony named Quick Wit outwitted a hungry griffon by telling the griffon that he was blessed by the moon. He told the griffon to take him to the sun first. While there, Quick Wit told a lie about how the moon had blessed him so that ponies will favor her over the sun. The sun became jealous of the moon and so she gave the pony a set of wings so that, when he flies, others will look up into the sunny sky.
- According to Melody Time's Pecos Bill segment, coyotes howl at the moon out of sympathy for a man who lost his love.
- The racist Peter Pan song "What Made The Red Man Red" explains that so-called 'Red Indians' are red because one of them blushed when he was kissed, and they've all been red ever since.
- According to Disney's The Princess and the Frog, stars are actually created from the ghosts of dead fireflies, a story that also appeared (in a slightly different form) inThe Lion King.
- A few natural phenomena happen because the demi-god Maui did it.
- The movie itself can also be seen as a Just So Story on why the Polynesians stopped voyaging for a thousand years (known as the "long pause").
- Towards the beginning of Disney's Song of the South, the protagonist comes upon a gathering of black sharecroppers in the shade, singing about Uncle Remus' tales, which tell how the how the leopard got his spots, how the camel got those humps, and how the pig got a curly tail.
- The Story of the Weeping Camel: Opens with an old man telling a story about why camel's don't have antlers. It turns out that once upon a time a camel lent his antlers to a deer, who made off with them.
- Paul Bunyan has got a lot of these: Minnesota has 10,000 lakes because his giant footprints filled up with water. The Mississippi River goes all the way down the country 'cause Paul dug it as a canal to float his logs down (incidentally, the piles of dirt he scooped out became the Rocky Mountains). Michigan looks like a mitten because Bunyan had lost his and subconsciously logged the peninsula in that shape. Lake Superior is so cold because Paul's icebox is at the bottom. The Grand Canyon is the result of Paul dragging his axe behind him. Kansas is flat because he flipped it upside down, so that all its mountains are buried underground. The moon's so full of craters 'cause Paul kicked a hard-headed splinter cat right into it. And the Aurora Borealis is caused by Paul rough-housing with Babe the Blue Ox, knocking frozen light out of the ice and snow in the Alaskan tundra.
- Same goes for Pecos Bill. He dug the Rio Grande to irrigate his ranch and the Grand Canyon while prospecting for gold. He invented centipedes and tarantulas as practical jokes, taught the bronco how to buck, and made Death Valley when he fell off a tornado and left a crater in the ground.
- The Norwegian Fairy Tale "Why the Sea is Salty" has it that this is because of a magical food-producing hand-mill, which a greedy sea-captain set to producing salt. It churned out so much salt that the boat sank, and thus nobody was ever able to stop it. The mill sits on the ocean floor to this day and continues to churn out salt, which is why seawater is salty.
- According to Christian folklore:
- The dogwood tree used to grow tall and broad until its wood was chosen to make the cross for Jesus' crucifixion. Because it regretted having to be used for such a purpose, God made it so that dogwoods would be small and slender from that point on, thus making them unsuitable for building crosses. In addition, God gave the dogwood its distinctive flowers, with four white petals tipped with rusty red and a crown of "thorns" in the center, which bloom during the Easter season as a reminder of Jesus' sacrifice.
- Christian folklore abounds with flowers that the Blessed Virgin Mary somehow brought into existence. Lilies of the Valley grew at the foot of the Cross, where Mary's tears fell. And when Mary was assumed into Heaven, Easter lilies grew from the last bit of earth that she stood on.
- One of the stories that makes Joel Chandler Harris' "Uncle Remus" stories (supposedly collected from former slaves around the South) so famously racist is one about why people have different skin colors. Long ago, all the people in the world lived in one "neighborhood", and were black. One day somebody discovered a lake outside town that turned your skin white (which was a desirable thing, obviously). The people that jumped at the chance and ran for it got full exposure and thus became white people; the people that walked became "merlatters" (which Uncle Remus assures us includes the Chinese); and the people that came last found that the lake had been used up and were forced to remain black because they were so lazy. Needless to say, this particular tale doesn't crop up in many adaptions...
- In Islamic folklore, Muhammad's friend Abu Hurairah had a cat named Muezza, who saved Muhammad from a snake. In gratitude, he stroked Muezza's back and forehead, causing all cats to be blessed with the righting reflex. Some other versions add that he also put an "M"-shaped mark on the cat's forehead, and that all cats who have that marking are descended from Muezza. A similar legend puts a cat at the Nativity, and in gratitude Mary drew the M-shaped marking on that cat's forehead, which all (or most) cats have to this day. (Never mind that neither Mary nor Abu Hurairah used the English alphabet.)
- A Nenets fairy tale, The Blueberry, is about a girl who was kidnapped, then managed to escape, but couldn't go back home because her clothing caught on a branch and she was so tiny she couldn't get off it by herself. So she cried and cried until she turned into a blueberry. And since it was her kidnapping that started all that, blueberries are very hard to find because they always hide from humans.
- Various tales associated with the Lorelei—a cliff of slate rock flanking the Rhine river, situated in the gorge-like Upper Middle Rhine Valley—offer Just-So Stories for the natural features of the area:
- Heinrich Heine's poem "The Loreley" describes how a skipper is entranced by the river nymph Loreley and, staring only at her, does not notice the dangers of the river, and thus is shipwrecked (and presumably drowned). This suggests all nautical accidents in the area are really to blame on the Lady Loreley.
- In the last stanza of Clemens Brentano's ballad "Lore Lay", the narrator claims he heard this very song sung by a skipper on the Rhine, and takes note of the name "Lore Lay!" echoing thrice from the Three-Knights-Rock (Dreiritterstein, a part of the Lorelei rock). In conjunction with the preceding stanza, which reported the tragic death of the three knights who tried to climb after Lore Lay, this implies the Dreiritterstein derives its name from the dead knights, and the threefold echo just may be the voices of their ghosts haunting the place.
- One day, God created the human, the donkey, the monkey and the dog. He told the donkey "You will spend 60 years plowing the fields and working your ass off to feed your family". The donkey replied "60 years doing that is too long, 20 is enough." And God agreed. He then told the monkey "you will live 30 years to act like an imbecile to amuse the children". The monkey replied 30 years doing that? That'll get boring after a while, so 20 is okay for me.". And God agreed. Then He told the dog "You will spend 30 years guarding a territory and barking at everything that approaches.". The dog replied "30 years? That will be too long. 20 is enough for me.". And God agreed. Then God told the human "You will live 20 years and have fun, eat good food, have sex and so on." And the human replied "Hold on. The Donkey gave up 40 years, the monkey 10 and the dog another 10. I want them." And God agreed. This is why humans spend the 20 first years of their lives as pampered children, the next 40 years of their lives working hard to provide for their families, the next 10 years acting like an imbecile to amuse their grandchildren and their last 10 years of life barking at everything that approaches their home.
- Spoofed multiple times in Discworld:
Then Tak looked upon the stone and it was trying to come alive, and Tak smiled, and wrote All things strive. And for the service the stone had given, he fashioned it into the first Troll, and delighted in the life that came unbidden.
- In Pyramids, the citizens of Djelibeybi believe a number of different stories on why the sun moves through the sky: it's being rolled by a dung beetle, carried by a boat, pulled by a chariot, etc. (Most of which are based on real Egyptian Mythology — over time, different deities fell in and out of popularity, so there were several Egyptian sun gods at different times). A freak accident involving pyramids traps the country in a pocket dimension where all these stories are true, which results in about a dozen sun gods fighting over who gets to carry the sun. This segment even includes one of the priests calling the play-by-play as if it were a rugby match (before being promptly killed for his heresy).
- In The Last Hero, the N'Tuitif tribe has such "myths" as How The Giraffe Got Its Long Neck: an ancestor of the giraffe had a slightly longer neck than other animals, and could reach higher leaves, with the longer-necked giraffes surviving more easily to pass their long neck to their children... sound familiar? Their stories seem to end with a phrase like "This is just a thing that happened" or "and so it is".
- Another Pratchett example is from Nation, where the prologue is titled "How Imo Made the World, In The Time When Things Were Otherwise And The Moon Was Different" and manages to combine three explanations from one story.
- Dwarf mythology contains this for the differences between dwarfs and humans (and trolls). Tak created a geode underground which hatched into two brothers. One left the cave for the outside world, and with no roof over his head he grew too tall and became a human. The other brother remained underground and thus stayed the "proper" height, becoming a dwarf. Extremist dwarfs claim that a portion of Tak's spirit became trapped in the geode, bringing it to life as a troll "unbidden and unwanted", and this is used to justify hatred against trolls. But an ancient recording is discovered containing a much older version of the myth, which is far kinder.
- Watership Down includes a generous helping of rabbit mythology. The creation tale has the sun, Frith, make all the animals, only they're all the same and all eat grass. The rabbit, El-ahrairah (Elil Hrair Rah — "Prince with a Thousand Enemies," obviously not his name at the time), began making babies so abundantly that they ate most of the grass, leaving the other animals hungry. They complained to Frith, so Frith blessed them with teeth and claws that made them into the creatures they are today. Many of these changed creatures had a hankering for rabbit meat, and when El-ahrairah heard of it, he began to dig a hole in which to hide. Frith moseyed on up to the burrow and there is the following basic exchange:
Frith: My friend, have you seen El-ahrairah? For I wish to give him a gift.
El-ahrairah: No, I have not seen him.
Frith: Come out, and I will bless you instead.
El-ahrairah: No, I cannot. I am busy. The fox and weasel are coming. If you want to bless me, you will have to bless my bottom.
Frith: Very well. Be it so.
And El-ahrairah's tail grew shining white, and it flashed like a star. And his back legs grew long and powerful. He tore across the hill faster than any creature in the world.
Frith: All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies. And whenever they catch you, they will kill you... but first, they must catch you. Strong digger, fast runner... be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.
- In C. S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces, the narrator mentions a sacred story as to why pigs are an abomination to the local goddess, but does not tell it. More importantly, at one point she comes across a priest in a forest shrine who tells her a story explaining why the seasons change, which she realizes is a retelling of the story of her sister and a local god. Angry that the gods have planted their version of the story in the imagination of storytellers, she resolves to write a book giving her own version.
- In the Warrior Cats guidebook Secrets of the Clans, there are stories explaining how adders came to exist and how tigers got their stripes.
- There used to be only one adder in existence, a monstrously large serpent named Mouthclaw that lived near Snakerocks when LionClan still ruled. She was a feared and dangerous monster, capable of swallowing a lion whole, and had killed all warriors who tried to take her down. A warrior named Sunpelt eventually decided to destroy her to win fame and respect, and when he went to fight her he dodged and avoided her attacks until she was too exhausted to defend herself any longer. Realizing she could not win, she promised Sunpelt that she would grant him any one wish in exchange for her life. Sunpelt wished for her to become the length of a cat's tail, as she would then be too small to be any real danger, but in doing so Mouthclaw's might was split into a thousand smaller snakes. These adders continued to breed with one another in Mouthclaw's old realm, becoming the adder population native to Snakerocks in the series' present day.
- "How TigerClan Got Their Stripes" describes how the first tigers were entirely orange, without any markings. A tiger named Thorntooth, envious of the leopards' spots and the lions' manes, decided to kidnap the daughter of the LionClan leader; in retaliation, the other two clans banned the tigers from being seen in the light of day for a moon's time, forcing them to only come out in the dark of night instead. When the moon was over, the time spent living in darkness had marked the tigers' coats with deep black stripes.
- In Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear, Elodin asks the main character Kvothe during his exams. "Where does the moon go when it is not in the sky?" It was the one question he genuinely did not know. Cue several chapters later, a companion of his tells a childhood story explaining how a young boy learned the moon's name and trapped part of the name in a box. Later events show that the Just So Story is essentially true (except it was a Master Namer, not a boy, and the "box" was actually Another Dimension where The Fair Folk live).
- Oracle of Tao has inverted just-so storytelling. That is to say, such stories are usually set from long ago, to explain why something currently is. This is set in the future to explain why things in the present exist. One such example is that apparently, hero sandwiches are called this because Lilith gained a sword after slaying a dragon, which she later used to cut the pork to make the sandwich. It kinda Makes Just as Much Sense in Context.
- On a macro scale, the entire book explains why the Earth is no longer flat, and why reality is now real also as an inverted just-so story, since this is five millennia in the future. Think carefully about what this says about our current existence.
- The Red Mars Trilogy has Big Man, a two-magnitudes-larger Expy of Paul Bunyan, where many of Mars' features are due to Big Man's actions (and with him getting into a competition, and later a fight, with Paul Bunyan himself).
- Although this is not its main purpose, a large portion of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion makes efforts to explain a number of things, such as why the stars were made, why there are seasons, where the Sun and Moon came from, as well as why the Moon is marred and why it deviates from its course to occasionally eclipse the Sun, why the center of the Earth is molten, and why the Earth is round and not flat. The beginning of the book features a proper Creation Myth, which is more spiritual and predates all of these celestial advents.
- The Tad Williams novel Tailchaser's Song depicts our world through the eyes of a cat society with its own mythology, including creation myths and Just-So Stories:
- Tailchaser's Song has a creation myth about how humans came to be. A cocky prince named Ninebirds wished to become king of all cats. He got into a fight with an old cat which turned out to be Tangaloor Firefoot, one of the children of the first two cats. Tangaloor tore out Ninebirds' fur, tore off his tail, and stretched him out. He cursed Ninebirds and his descendants to forever be forced to serve cats. Tangaloor named this new species "M'an", which means "out of the sunshine".
- Cats have a legend on how cats and dogs became enemies. A long time ago, a prince named Redlegs visited Barbarbar, the City of the Dogs, and met their king Rauro Bite-then-Bark. Back then dogs and cats were on neutral terms, although cats found dogs amusing. The dogs were creating a huge gate made out of bones, but they couldn't get the final bone on top in place. Redlegs offered to help in exchange for a bone of his picking. After Redlegs finished the gate, he picked a bone from the bottom and the whole thing came crashing down. He ran away afterwards, and since then dogs have chased cats. They won't forgive cats for the embarrassment that they caused their king all those generations ago.
- There's a story about how the universe, the planet, and the sun came to be. Cats refer to the moon as Meerclar's Eye. When Meerclar Allmother, their creator goddess, first opened her eyes everything was black and cold. She rubbed her paws together until she created a spark, which she layed on the earth. Overtime the spark grew but it would often try to get away from Meerclar. Meerclar would always roll it back, and where she rolled the land would flatten. The spark grew so large that all the animals wanted nothing more than to just bask in its warmth. Meerclar grew angered at the animals' laziness and threw the spark into the sky, where it became the sun. When the sun tires, Meerclar Allmother holds it like a kitten until it strengthens, thus why it's cold in winter.
- There is a story about why Cats Hate Water. One day, Lord Firefoot wanted to go across the ocean so he asked the prince of the birds for his help. Prince Pfefirrit, a large heron, owed Firefoot and so he got a group of birds to beat their wings into a wind that would temporarily freeze the water. Firefoot walked across but several days later he wanted to return home. He tried walking back but the ice began to melt beneath him. He swam until he came across a shark. Firefoot convinced the shark that, in exchange for his life, he would take it to a place where many cats swim. Firefoot climbed on its back and instead land-locked the shark. Firefoot then got several of his friends and they all ate the shark. Since then, cats have been unwilling to get into water and they only eat fish they can catch without getting wet.
- Florence Page Jacques's story "Why Holly Berries are Red" has the berries — then white — going sledding on the leaves of the bush. The berries became red from the cold and the leaves became bent and curled from the frequent crashes.
- The first chapter of Star Wars: Kenobi opens with the Tusken Raider story of how the younger of Tatooine's Binary Suns committed a transgression, "showing his true face"—anathema to a people that always goes masked. The older star tried to kill the younger, but failed, and now the younger sun continuously pursues the older across the sky, and in their anger the suns scorched the planet into a desert forevermore. The actions of the two suns inform the Sand People's philosophies.
- "Les Mémoires de Zeus" by Maurice Druon naturally has this in spades. Especially clever is the overly long love night of Zeus and Mnemosyne: Each Muse character comes out due to the mood the pair just was in. The author needs epic handwaving to get everything in an unforced order, but he succeeds in letting everything look perfectly logical.
- Invoked in Dream Park, when an important in-Game info dump about the Haiavaha is conveyed to the South Seas Treasure players in the form of a folktale which incorporates a "why dogs can't talk" example.
- The Cold Moons: Logos cursed the earth for human's disobedience. Originally, there were only pleasant-smelling plants and edible plants, but after the curse came thorns, thistles, and other dangerous plants. The curse is also why malicious individuals exist.
- There are several Ozian creation myths on the sapient Animals. One involved the traditional Oz goddess Lurline causing Oz to spring up when she beckoned water from a desert. She was so thirsty that she peed a large river, which became the Gilikin River. Animals thought it was a flood and those who faced their fears and crossed the river became sapient. A similar, less pagan and more Unionist, origin story says that the Unnamed God was crying one day and ended up causing a flood. Animals who drank enough of His tears became sapient.
- Several characters discuss pour quoi tales about the origin of evil. According to the Origin Story of the Oziad, there was a great battle sometime after the flood that created Animals which led to evil spilling into the world. Others argue that this "The world was originally pure" viewpoint is wrong and that older tales that are only known from word-of-mouth show that evil existed before goodness.
- Frost Dancers:
- Hare myth is that humans came out of holes in the ground specifically to hunt hares.
- Hares believe that rabbits are a poor man's copy of hares created by humans. Rabbits are a failed copy, thus why they're slower and easier to catch than hares.
- Hunter's Moon (1989): In the days of Firstdark, when the universe was dark, Groff came and created the sun for humans to hunt. He plunged his hand into the dirt and came up with a ball of fire. When he threw the sun into the sky, its soul detached into the moon.
- Anansi Boys: the story of how Anansi won all stories from Nyami the sky god is treated as a "Just So" story, explaining how his winning the stories led to humanity's evolution. Anansi told this story to Maeve's ghost, and he observed that before his bargain with Nyami, all stories were "Tiger" stories ("Tiger" in this case meaning any big predatory cat), in which the protagonist won by pure strength, and the stories were always dark and violent, relaying the message that only the strong prevailed. Once Anansi won the stories, they became "Spider" stories, in which the protagonist prevailed by his wits and trickery instead of brute strength. Thus by making all stories "Spider" stories, Anansi caused people to become more intelligent.
- The Doctor Who episode "The Eaters of Light" turns out to be, among other things, a just-so story about why crows say "Kar! Kar!". They're remembering the sacrifice of an ancient army, led by a Pictish chieftan named Kar, who saved the world by engaging an extra-dimensional monstrosity in a Sealed Evil in a Duel.
- African Mythology:
- A number of stories about Anansi the spider are said to explain the behavior of spiders. To name one example, spiders like to make their webs in dark corners because when Anansi was caught stealing crops from his neighbor, he was so ashamed he hid in the rafters of his house for a week.
- According to the San peoples of the Kalahari, animals are wary of humans because they were scared off when the first men on Earth disobeyed the creator Cagn and made fire.
- Classical Mythology
- Winter occurs when Persephone, daughter of the harvest goddess Demeter, is forced to stay in the Underworld with her husband Hades for six months (due to eating six seeds). Demeter gets so depressed that she refuses to let anything grow.
- Phaeton, Helios' son, is responsible for deserts and cold places on the earth. Never let your teenager drive the sun-chariot around without a license. (This is also supposedly why Africans are dark-skinned.)
- Most of the Greek myths that go "Zeus shagged/raped a hot human chick and she gave birth to a son" are origin myths explaining one of three things: (1) Where each of the Greek tribes/peoples came from (e.g. the tale of Zeus and Eurymedusa, producing the Myrmidons); (2) How the Greek cities came to be built (e.g. the tale of Zeus and Antiope, producing one of the twins who built Thebes); or (3) Why a particular family got to be king of a city and others didn't (e.g. the tale of Zeus and Europa, producing Minos, who legendarily founded the royal dynasty of Crete).
- Other gods could step in if it made sense for the city. For instance, the Kings of Athensnote claimed descent from Poseidon instead, which supposedly explained Athens' domination of the sea.
- Certain demigods could also stand in if they were enough of a big deal—and by "certain demigods," we mostly mean Heracles. The two royal houses of Spartanote are perhaps most famous for this, legitimizing their claims to their thrones by their descent from two of Heracles's sons.
- One founding tale about Athens holds that when the founders of the city were deciding what to name the city (and to whom they would dedicate their primary cult), Athena and Poseidon competed against each other. Athena offered an olive tree; Poseidon gave a saltwater spring. The city fathers chose Athena and named the city Athens (well, Athēnai). This tale "explains" several traits of Athens: an old olive tree (and Attica's general reputation for olives) and a saltwater spring (which both existed at that time). It also supposedly explains Athens' wit and wisdom and skill at defensive warfare (traits associated with Athena) and orientation to the sea (Poseidon's domain).
- The river Pactolus (in what is now western Turkey) had a lot of electrum (a naturally-occurring alloy of gold and silver) in it during ancient times, supposedly because King Midas washed his hands in the river to remove his golden touch.
- Older Than Dirt: The Sumero-Babylonian culture had a story about the origin of seasons: Inanna (Ishtar) Descends to the Underworld. The goddess in question goes to visit her sister Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld, and is killed there. Her priestess friend (and another deity) bring her Back from the Dead, but she is not allowed to go back home unless she brings back a suitable substitute... her own beloved husband, Dumuzi, because he wasn't visibly in mourning while she was gone. His sister pleads to be taken instead. Ultimately, the sister spends six months down there (summer, because Ishtar is with her true love) and Dumuzi spends winter down there (everything goes dormant because Ishtar misses him so much). The form where the seasons are flipped has also been told (scorching summer when she is separated from her love, mild, pleasant, rainy winter — crops still grow in the wintertime in southern Mesopotamia — when they are together). It's possible that both versions were known in Ancient Mesopotamia, as lower/southern Mesopotamia is a flat lowland with a much warmer climate than mountainous upper/northern Mesopotamia (to this day there are strong cultural differences between these regions, which the ethnic and religious divisions of modern Iraq only exacerbate).
- Norse Mythology credits earthquakes to the god Loki, who is chained to the earth for ridiculing the gods at a wake held for the god Balder, which considering all the much worse things Loki has done in the past (like being largely responsible for Balder's death, and Balder having to stay dead in some versions of the story), was apparently the last straw. A giant serpent lies above him, dripping caustic poison, but fortunately Loki's wife tirelessly sits between them, holding a cup to catch the poison. However, sometimes she has to empty the cup, and then...
- Norse myth also have a story detailing why some things don't exist. Namely, the beards of women, the roots of the mountain and the breath of fish were used to forge the chains that bind Fenris.
- Pacific Mythology:
- The volcano goddess Pele raised the Hawaiian archipelago out of the ocean one island at a time, in an attempt to outrun her sister, Nāmaka the sea-goddess, who kept flooding the islands. One of Pele's brothers helped her escape, so in gratitude she never lets volcanic steam touch his particular cliffs. Another legend says that Maui pulled the islands up from the ocean floor on a very eventful fishing trip.
- Maori history has the demigod Maui to explain almost everything. He raised the north island of New Zealand when he caught it while fishing. (It was a stingray. The South island is his canoe.) His greedy brothers chopped it up, creating all the mountains. He stole fire from his grandmother and hid it in a tea tree for later use (Tea tree is very flammable.) When the sun went around too fast, making the days short, he trapped it and beat it half to death with his grandmother's jawbone.
- The Bible:
- According to Genesis, snakes lost their legs as punishment from God for tempting Eve. Women endure painful childbirth, humanity in general works for a living, and everybody eventually dies because Adam and Eve ate fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but God evicted them from the Garden of Eden before they could eat fruit from the Tree of Life so that they would not have to live in that state forever.
- Also, why are there multiple nations in the world with different languages? Because God wanted to stop us cooperating with each other so we could never again build something like the Tower of Babel.
- Rainbows are a promise from God to never flood the entire world again. The occasional small country, perhaps, but only one at a time...
- According to a highly heterodox interpretation (i.e. followed by a few conspiracy theorists and cultists) the word "Elohim" in the original text of the Tanakh is not a majestic plural of the word "god" (Eloh= "god"; "-im"= Hebrew pluralization suffix), as accepted by virtually all Jews and Christians (and, for what it's worth, Muslims and other random Abrahamic faiths like the Baha'i and Rastafari). Instead, they put forward that "Elohim" is a literal plural referring to a whole species of gods of varying appearance. Genesis 1 thus "accounts" for the racial differences between groups of humans by stating that the Elohim made men each in their own image and likeness. This, according to the followers of this theory, "explains" why each nation's gods look remarkably like their people. Never mind that majestic plurals are almost embarrassingly characteristic of Semitic languages, or that only part of the Bible uses "Elohim" to refer to God...
- Native American Mythology:
- There is a remarkable story of the First Nations trickster god Coyote that explains why dogs sniff each other's butts.
- Another one from one of the cultures that occupied the Four Corner states tells the story of why the vulture/condor has no feathers on its head. Besides the obvious lesson, a secondary heading for the tale might be something like "why you should never go spelunking in the rear end of Mr. Bear".
- Existing somewhere in the space between this trope and a Creation Myth, various stories told by different peoples in the Western parts of North America credit Coyote (or his more Northern Expy Raven) for the existence of fire (a la Prometheus), sunlightnote , the starsnote , death, or humans, among other things, with the impetus ranging from underhanded heroics to malicious intent to incompetence.
- One Indigenous American story tells that the coyote has yellow eyes because he was tricked by some birds into losing his eyes (he saw them juggling their eyes and wanted to join in, despite their warnings), and he needed to make new ones from tar. Substitute crabs for the birds and Jaguar for Coyote, and the same story is told further south as well.
- A tale states that the first people were made out of cornmeal dough and baked in an oven. The Baker took the first batch out too early, and they were all pasty and pale, so he threw them away across the sea. The second batch he left in too long, and they came out all black and burnt, so he threw them away across the sea. The third batch came out all reddish brown, just right, so he kept them. (This tale almost certainly postdates contact with Europeans, which just goes to show that not all myths are ancient.)
- Chinese Mythology:
- The Sun (a decent but kind of ugly dude) is relentlessly pursuing the Moon (a beautiful but haughty lady).
- Conversely, to the Inuit, it's the other way around: the Sun is a woman who was raped by her brother, the Moon, and is running away from him. The Moon's motives may vary, either begging for forgiveness or being abusive again.
- To southeastern Aboriginal Australians, the sun is a woman who is pursuing the male moon, who rejects her advances. But don't feel too sorry for him, since he also instilled humanity's enmity with snakes for petty reasons.
- The order of the animals of the Eastern Zodiac is determined by a race among said animals including the Cat. The Rat and the Cat, good friends previous to the race, decided to work together to complete it. On the last segment, where the animals had to cross a river, they rode on the back of the Ox, but Rat pushed Cat overboard at the last minute, then used Ox's head as a springboard to launch himself into first place. The Cat was therefore left out of the Zodiac and swore revenge on the Rat ever since, which is why cats chase and kill rats nowadays.
- More commonly, the Rat told the Cat the feast/race had been moved to the next day, and occasionally the Cat just slept in an extra 24 hours and fought with the Rat for unrelated reasons.
- In another, the animals in the Chinese zodiac appear in this order because of the order in which they attempted to wake Buddha up from his sleep under the fig tree. Also, it should be noted that the Cat comes in place of the Rabbit in Vietnam.
- The Sun (a decent but kind of ugly dude) is relentlessly pursuing the Moon (a beautiful but haughty lady).
- According to Aztec Mythology, the Aztec god of the Sun, Huizilpochtli, dies at the end of every day, and must be brought back to life via human sacrifice to prevent the world from falling into eternal night.
- In the Nart Saga "Why the Sun Pauses on the Horizon at Sunset", Setenay enters a friendly competition with a youth, in which each demonstrates craftsmanship: he will make a saddle, while she will sew a dress. At the end of the day, Setenay has not completed her work, and bewails, "if only the Sun could halt awhile!" Because in these days wishes had power, the sun halts its descent a little while longer, allowing Setenay to complete her project.
- Magic: The Gathering: The Seer's Parables is an epic poem describing the Demigods of Shadowmoor. The poem is supposedly being told by a seer to a kithkin who is curious about the nature of the world.
- The Overbeing of Myth created the world, with each of its races of beings coming from one aspect of her (the boggarts came from her hunger, for example). She did this because she was dissatisfied with the empty void that predated the world, and now she watches over her creations and learns from them.
- The Deus of Calamity spends most of his time asleep, but causes earthquakes whenever he wakes up and starts moving.
- The Demigod of Revenge is responsible for Shadowmoor's endless night. He hated the light, so when he found a tiny hole in the sky he expanded it until all the sky was consumed in darkness.
- The Oversoul of Dusk gives the elves of Shadowmoor hope despite the gloom around them. She may have hidden the sun to prevent its extinction, she may be seeking the sun, or she may be lying about the sun's existence to prevent the elves despairing — nobody knows for sure.
- The Nobilis of War incites people to constant war, being a Blood Knight who feeds on war and would cease to exist without it.
- The Dominus of Fealty is the reason why the races other than the kithkin don't have a Hive Mind. The Dominus' ability to steal others' possessions causes people to be suspicious of others and hence unable to unite.
- The Deity of Scars drives people to continue living no matter what. He was once an old wolf, who howled to the skies that he didn't want to die yet. His wish was granted and he became incredibly powerful. However, he still feared that someone would eventually be mighty enough to kill him, and his urge to survive infects everyone else.
- The Godhead of Awe is the reason the moon has phases. The moon is actually her eye, which has an extremely oppressive effect on the people of Shadowmoor when it's open. The people begged her to stop looking at them and she agreed. However, she cannot resist the urge to open her eye again for long.
- The Ghastlord of Fugue is effectively the Grim Reaper. He seeks the souls of the dying, with mist acting as his eyes and fingers, and eventually takes their souls.
- The Divinity of Pride is the seer telling the story. She claims to know how the world will end and imparts this knowledge to the kithkin, causing her to Go Mad from the Revelation.
- Civilization: Beyond Earth has a whole slate of what might be called "new folk tales" in its setting, told among the colonists of whatever planet you arrived on. The most prominent, the Uncle Nevercloned Stories, contain no small number of these, usually involving Coyote, Anansi, and John Henry (he of the race against the steam engine).
"Floatstone beat Coyote and Anansi in poker, and won the right to leave the ground. But Floatstone forgot to ask for wings to fly around with, so it just kind of hangs around feeling sorry for itself."
- In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a Stable worker says that the Dueling Peaks used to be a single mountain before Farosh carved a path through it.
- Penny Arcade makes one up: The tooth fairy turns teeth into clouds. This is a story about the creation of clouds, but also explains why the tooth fairy takes teeth. Which may make this a culturally-extended Digging Yourself Deeper.
- It has a number of strips involving made-up mythological origins for the characters, sometimes written by themselves. For instance, in Lyle's story, he came into being as a three-year-old, from the wreckage of an exploding pickup truck being worked on in the driveway by God and the Devil. They asked his name, and he defiantly chanted "Ace of spades! Ace of spades!"
- That's nothing compared to "The Todd Creation Myth". A stork drops a burrito into a volcano, and Todd crawls out of it 100 minutes later muttering "frick". After the stork calls him an asshole for eating his burrito, Todd strangles it to death and it morphs into a squirrel-sized van. It's... it's something.
- Keychain of Creation: In one strip, Marena tells a story about how shadows were created when a hero tore out the dark steel that lined a dragon's belly, preventing it from being able to eat the sun. The metal melted on the ground and its substance hid behind anything it could find to avoid the gaze of the sun. Over time, people forgot where these pools of darkness came from and took to calling them their shadows.
Secret: Is that story true, Misho?
Misho: It's... inaccurate.
- VG Cats: In one comic, Leo claims that a long time ago a faraway land was ruled by a tyrannical rabbit lord, who enslaved the native fairy people to dig for the mineral eggs he craved. The fairies eventually overthrew him, but as they had no weapons to do so with they tore out their own teeth and pelted the tyrant to death with them. When the rabbit lord died, his chocolate blood ran into the land's rivers of milk, creating the world's first chocolate milk. This is apparently also behind the origin of tooth fairies, as modern fairies still collect teeth in case the bunny should ever come back.
Krug: You mean all this time Krug been eating bunny blood?
- According to Oglaf, telling such stories can be dangerous to your health, as one guy who keeps telling trite and unimaginative just-so stories finds when his audience loses his patience with endless variations on the theme of "this thing has this characteristic because some guy changed it to have it". (This particular strip is safe for work, unusually.)
- One Popeye short has him spinning a fanciful tale on why the sea is salty (involving a magic device which punishes its owner for being greedy by creating endless salt instead of gold). After the story is told, Swee'Pea lampshades it by given the actual explanation, including detailed scientific terms; Olive Oyl chimes in with, "Anybody knows that, Popeye."
- Rabbit Ears Productions adapted three of Kipling's Just So Stories into animated short films, namely "How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin", "How the Camel Got His Hump" and "The Elephant's Child". They're narrated by Jack Nicholson and illustrated by Tim Raglin, with music by Bobby McFerrin.
- A Pinky and the Brain episode subverts this: in Brain's tall tale in the making, Big Johnny Brain Jones Peachpit Bill Boone Crockett is tossed away and lands in a canyon that is, to this day, known as... the Grand Canyon.
- The Paul Bunyan myths were parodied on The Simpsons. Bunyan smoking a bunch of cigars is the origin of The Great Smoky Mountains, trampling a forest resulted in Death Valley, and him dancing around while getting drunk is what created the Big Holes With Beer National Park.
- Family Guy parodied this twice.
- First by explaining where fat people come from: three groupies hug too closely when trying to make a selfie and merge into one really fat chick. Followed by a narrator explaining "And that's where fat girls come from."
- Second by explaining what the term "Croc" means in slang: When a Crocodile ruins an Alligator-themed pep rally by suggesting they do Crocodile things, only for one of the Gators to call him a "Croc" . Followed by the same narrator explaining "And that's where we get the term."
- Similar to Family Guy, an episode of Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy did a story which told of how the term "beaver" became a nickname for a vagina when some forest animals used the word "vagina" to refer to a jerkass beaver that had been desecrating their homes.
Narrator: Join me next week, when I'll tell you how the bear became synonymous with the chubby homosexual.
- A really cute animation in Die Sendung mit der Maus explains many nature phenomenons by anthropomorphing the sun. (For example, she thought that everybody hates her, but it was just too hot so everybody took cover... and when she goes down in the evening, all people applaud her and her face gets red with abashment.)