Myths and legends often aim to explain the natural world. Aesop tells us that the tortoise got its shell because Zeus was mad at it. Norse mythology describes earthquakes as caused by Loki’s tremors. Legends tried to explain animals, plants, geography, and many more things that they couldn’t fully explain at the time they were written.
We can debate whether these people actually believed their stories or whether they were just fun traditions, but what’s clear now is that we of the scientific era have found the better answers. We can explain the tortoise’s shell from biology and earthquakes from seismology. We no longer have need for such silly stories, right?
Well, then this week’s episode of Steven Universe aired.
This was the first time I paid attention to something I’ve seen my whole life. Even though we understand the true meanings of things, we continue to invent explanations for them. This often happens when fictional universes adopt real world holidays. The story needs a reason for the holiday to be there.
So we have a thanksgiving Steven Universe story, but the history of that world isn’t the same as ours. It could have been, but it isn’t. For all we know, there were no pilgrims or anything of the sort. The holiday spread is what it is because Lapis and Peridot had the vegetables they had and because the others went into Greg’s van and bought what they could. Expressing gratitude just happens because they were all feeling thankful and having a good time. We carve pumpkins because Steven wanted Lapis and Peridot to have a living vegetable friend (wrong holiday, but whatever.)
And I found it strange that the show was trying to explain something that already has a story. Not wrong, just strange in a science-driven world. Evidently we do this for reasons other than just needing an explanation. We have an explanation but we want to make another. We love to reinvent and reinterpret our world.
Apart from being just fascinating, I find this comforting. It means that no matter what we discover or build, there will always be something more that can be done. We’ll never run out of things to do and we’ll never tire of stories.