Famed J.R.R. Tolkien biographer, Professor Thomas A. Shippey, in his course Heroes and Legends, writes on the “universal human art form” of storytelling:
…Over the millennia of human history, millions of tales, novels, romances and epics have been written, published, and many more must have been told in the far longer millennia of prehistory. The vast majority vanished without a trace once their immediate purpose had been served – forgotten, discarded, out of print.
A small number survive and become classics. Of that small number, an even smaller number does more than survive: They inspire imitations, sequels, remakes and responses. It is the heroes and heroines – and sometimes the villains – of these super-survivors who have created and continue to create our imaginative world. “Don’t the great tales never end?” asks the hobbit Sam Gamgee…Sam has good reason to see that the answer is: No, they don’t.
…Most of all, the “great tales” offer an insight into the human heart, in all its variety and complexity, that nothing else can provide.