Researching good sources of myths online is like researching anything. It takes time and dedication, but I can give some tips. Look for:
- Authority: Look for sites by people who have qualifications. If you can’t find an author or the credentials, that’s a big sign to look elsewhere.
- Schools: University websites, even private pages put out by professors, are usually very good. Professors will make their own translations, link to good sources, or put up material for student use.
- University databases: These are probably the best sources on the web. The school I work for subscribes to a dedicated world folklore and mythology database full of not just the original myths in translation, but scholarly articles. Unfortunately, most places want you to be a student or alumni to have access to these resources from your home (you might be able to sneak inside, though).
- Internal References: This generally falls in line with the academics as they will put in references to sources, either specific books that they like or to other professors’ articles. Documenting sources is a big step into knowing if what you’re reading is authentic.
- Corroboration: Look at other sites with the same myths. Do they (roughly) match up? If you’ve got a few sources that all have the same basic wording and ideas, you’ve probably got some good sites.
- Style: This one is tough. The best way to get a sense of the style and voice of a myth’s culture is to look at books, first. Once you’ve got an idea of how the Greeks, Norse, or Hindus tell their stories, you’ll have a sense of when you’ve run into another authentic story.
- Blogs and personal sites: I know, this sounds hypocritical since this is a personal site, but I do have my credentials on here. By all means, read the offerings, but always take them with a grain of salt until you can verify it’s a good source.
- Simplified Stories: A lot of what’s on the web has been simplified and summarized instead of translated. These are people that want to give their version of events. The goal is noble, to spread the stories, but most of the time, something is missing, usually something significant. As I like to say, myths are complex. A simplified explanation diminishes the stories and the cultures. When you read a myth, there should be a certain amount of confusion. It’s not supposed to make instant sense because we’re not of that culture. We have to work at it. So if you read a myth on a site, and you’re not left scratching your head, re-think the site.
Those are some pretty good guidelines. I plan on compiling a list of my favorite web sources, grouped by specific cultures. If you’ve got some sites of your own, let me know and I’ll take a look, possibly adding them to the list.