FUNCTIONS OF MYTHHave you ever wondered to yourself, what is the purpose of telling and living out myths? As we all know, the Chinese zodiac is a form of a myth, and all myths have four main functions associated with them. For starters, I am going to introduce you to these four functions with a short definition to explain each one. These functions come from my intensive readings by the insightful author, Joseph Campbell. Then, as you scroll down the page, I will give specific examples as to why this is true in the lives of the Sohma family, as well as the themes of Fruits Basket.
Metaphysical Function - that which is unknowable, to create a sense of awe, relative to the transcendent mystery (God) that surrounds usThe mystical experience, the core spiritual journey that envisions God, has always been a tough experience to communicate. Some would say it's impossible to communicate. Fruits Basket can relate to the metaphysical function of myth because it gives us a sense of unity with the universe, one where we are all apart of a singular statement that can't be erased or taken back. Akito is the "God," or the mystery in this myth. Kyou is not suppose to be one part of the whole, but a whole piece of the whole (meaning all of the Sohmas and "God" are one). Akito strives to have the metaphysical function of myth exist, where all of the zodiacs have a "blood bond" that allows their experience to be one together. Although Kyou pushes away and doesn't want to be "whole" with the rest of them, he does cry in the end when the bond is broken, because although he tried to avoid it, he was whole. Since these things can't be communicated by direct means, myth speaks in a language of metaphors, of symbols, and symbolic narratives that aren't bound by objective reality. Some believe that the metaphysical experience is what gives birth to metaphoric language and metaphoric thinking.
Cosmological Function - myth puts us in harmony with the universe
Sociological Function - to provide us with moral order (right vs wrong) and provides us an ethical perspective (moral procedures and values) in order to give us a sense of our role in society
Physical Function - myth shows us the way to lead a proper life
The cosmological function of myth explains the beginning of the universe and the origins of the myth. We see the origin of the myth when we learn of the Sohma curse. Although a mythic tale may seem literally false to us today, it was once considered true, therefore still expresses a metaphorical truth. All myths are true in the metaphorical sense, according to Joseph Campbell. Myth gives these types of answers in order to ease your mind of questions. They give you easy answers for why things are the way they are. This can be both good or bad depending on if you take them literal or metaphorical. People who take myth for its literal interpretation can often hurt others, especially when the myth is most likely a metaphor for something else. We see this in Christianity all the time. When we use a myth as a set of rules and guidelines, we can hurt others. For example, Kyou assumes that because he is the year of the cat, he MUST hate Yuki, the year of the rat. However, this assumption on the literal text ends up hurting both of them until they are able to grow past this.
The sociological function of myth is to give a sense of social order that a society wishes to have set. The myth will make it clear who is in charge, what ethical code is appropriate, and what the institutional rituals will be. The problem is that these codes are fixed, like the natural order, for all of time; they are not subject to change. If times change, as they always will, there's no recourse. Our myths, according to Campbell, are seriously outdated. We see this once again with the example of Yuki and Kyou. Both children suffered because of their roles in the society, even though times have changed drastically since the myth has been created. That is why Akito in the end had to free everyone from the curse, because it was doing more bad than it was good.
Finally, the physical function teaches us that there is a purpose, from birth till death, of all of our lives. Myth helps us learn what we should be doing during all of the stages of our lives. This can be both good and bad, once again. The year of the cat is told that after high school it should be locked away for good. This is clearly not fair, and therefore is a bad way to interpret the myth. They also teach us how we should look at the world, at ourselves, and our relationships we should have with others. This is also why Kyou had a really negative outlook on his life. I truly believe that this function of the myth he lived in was the main cause of his self-destructive personality.