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I am a high school student who has to do a presentation on a myth. I have to explain the details of the myth such as the plot, conflict etc. It is very straightforward. Here is the myth.

There are 2 "Hunters groups". One group of hunters show up at the start of the story(They meet the bear) while the latter, which the myth describes to be four hunters, appear at the other half of it (They fight the bears). I will use first and second group to denote this hunter groups.

I do not understand the protagonist and the antagonist of the myth. At the start, the myth focuses on the first group of hunters. They meet the bear and find out about the sack etc. But when they share the details with their chief, they do not re-appear in the story. After that point, only the chief, second group of hunters and the bears show up. Is this some kind of literary device to confuse the reader. I research and find out that it is called "False Protagonist". But even after that point in the story, I am stuck. Is the chief the protagonist or the four hunters? The bear is out of the question because the bear's desire to not provide the sack to the hunters is not fulfilled. I could be wrong because making the protagonist not have their desire fulfilled could be also a literary device. And even after that, who is the antagonist? The bear seems the closest option but is it the bear that the hunters met at the start or the two black bears in the cave? And if the bears are the antagonist, how? They didn't really "significantly" oppose the chief. They didn't attack the chief like how the four hunters got attacked. The bears only significantly opposed the second hunter group(Because of the fierce fight at the end).

Please, please help! I asked my teacher but she is confused as well! Hope anyone can kindly help!

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    Must every story have a protagonist and an antagonist? Mar 29, 2023 at 22:25

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The hunters at the start are not necessarily an entirely different group from the four at the end. There is no indication in the story that the four are entirely a different set from the hunters at the beginning. One, more, or all those four hunters might have very well been part of the beginning group. That is, the four hunters could be a distinct set of four; they could overlap the group of hunters at the beginning; or they could be a subset of the earlier group. The story doesn't say.

What the story does make clear is that all the hunters, in both groups, are part of "the first people of the earth". That group forms the protagonist. Like all mythic heroes, they are facing adversity and must undertake a heroic mission to overcome it. The myth tells the story of that adversity (eternal winter), the undertaking (getting the sack from the bear), the success of the mission (summer and abundance), and the costs (four dead hunters). This is the classic structure of myth, and here, the entire group of first people of the earth are involved in it. If you must identify a single hero, then the one who releases the abundance from the sack is the clearest candidate.

But the story does not give him very many distinguishing features from the rest of the people, except that he is a skilled hunter and that he was able to release the sack before he died. The story does not say he was the most skilled of the hunters, nor does it say that he was the most courageous of the four in the battle against the bears. Even the four who are chosen for that mission are not identified as the greatest hunters in the group. They are just "four of the village's skilled hunters". So identifying a single protagonist might be missing the point here.

The antagonist is easier: it's the bear. As with the hunters, it's not clear whether he is one of the two bears who are guarding the sack and whom the four hunters battle. But even if he isn't, he is responsible for the sack and we can presume that the other bears are guarding it on his behalf.

If you're going to choose this interpretation for your school project, make sure to provide a citation; not doing so would constitute plagiarism/academic dishonesty. If you're not sure how to cite this, ask your teacher. Good luck with your presentation!

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  • Thanks for the explanation! Your answer is very helpful and detailed. I will definitely credit you! Mar 30, 2023 at 0:15
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I agree with verbose's answer; this is a supplemental take on the question.

Disclaimer: I know nothing about Dene culture beyond what's in the story, so I'm making some assumptions here.

In many non-Western cultures, individuals are less important than the group. If this is true of Dene culture, it would make sense that individuals are de-emphasized in the story. This seems to be the source of your confusion. No one individual is the protagonist; the whole group collectively ("the first people") is the protagonist. Note how some of the actions in the story are attributed to the group as a whole:

One day when the first people were out hunting they came upon a bear...

The chief heard the entire story and called his people together to arrive at a plan... They decided...

Even when actions are taken by specific individuals (the chief) or smaller groups (the different groups of hunters), they act as representatives of the whole people.

Similarly, I would argue that the antagonist of the story is the bears collectively. True, the story mostly concerns itself with one bear; however, in the fight at the end, there are two bears, and it's unclear whether the first bear is one of them or not. But it doesn't matter, because the bears' individual identities are not as important as their group identity.

Seen through this lens, the conflict of the story becomes quite clear: The humans (protagonist) want the sack, but the bears (antagonist) prevent them from getting it. The humans try different strategies (trading, trickery, stealing it from the cave, and fighting); at each turn, they are thwarted by the bears, until at the very end they manage to overcome the opposition and achieve their goal.

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  • Thanks for the additional explanation to verbose! I will definitely cite your answer. Mar 30, 2023 at 0:17

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