USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘creation’
Legends
Narrative

Zirahuen Lake Legend

Main Piece: Zirahuen Lake Legend

 

Full Piece – Transliteration (told in English by a Spanish Speaker)

 

“The Legend say that when the fall of Tecnochtitlan. Spaniards come and was a handsome captain who fell in love with Princess Erendira. She was the daughter of King Tangazoan, the captain wanted to have her for himself so he kidnapped the princess and hid her in the valley surrounded by mountains. The Princess Erendira cry day and night, and pray to her gods to save her from her natural prison. The gods of day and night Juriata and Jaratanga decide to help her; they turn her into a mermaid and her tears were so powerful that a lake was formed in the middle of the valley.

 

Villagers say that the mermaid is still living under the deep of the lake and sometimes she emerges to punish me of evil hearts.”

 

Translation

 

“The Legend says that when Tecnochtitlan fell, Spaniards came with a handsome captain who fell in love with Princess Erendira. She was the daughter of King Tangazoan, and the handsome captain wanted to have her all to himself, so he kidnapped the princess and hid her in a valley surrounded by mountains. Princess Erendira cried day and night, praying to the gods to save her from her natural prison. The gods of day and night, Juriata and Jaratanga, decided to help her. They transformed her into a mermaid and gave her tears so powerful that when she would cry she created a lake in the middle of the valley where she was held.

 

Villagers say that the mermaid is still living in the depths of the lake and will surface sometimes to punish mean of evil hearts.”

 

Background:

 

This story was told by my Mexican nanny, Mirna, of 18 years, and it is one of her favorite stories growing up as a kid. Her mother would tell it to her brothers and sisters as a sort of bedtime story, and to teach her sons what would happen if you were mean to a woman you loved. She likes this story because it gives her a feeling of empowerment as a woman, and likes to think that it gives her a voice in her head that she won’t take crap from anyone. Her grandmother passed on the story to her mother, who then passed it on to my nanny and her siblings.

 

Context:

 

My nanny is a native Spanish speaker, but she told me in English as to help me understand, and I did not get the chance to get the full Spanish telling. The origin of the story is from the Michoacán region of Mexico, where my nanny grew up and where her family still lives to this day. It tells of the formation of the lake nearby where they live, and is more of a creation story from the region.

I think of this as more of the kind of story that would be told around a campfire or to a child as they are being put to bed, because it has both a mythological part in the story of the gods helping out the princess, and also tells of why certain things came to be near their home and gives a reason that almost dictates their way of life.

 

My thoughts:

 

When I first heard the story, I thought it was a variation of the “La Llorona” story, where a similar event occurs in that a woman is distraught by her man and ends up living in a body of water. When I asked if this was a version of La Llorona, she began to explain that this was a local legend from where she grew up, and was a story explaining the creation of the lake near where she lived.

I don’t think this was the entire story, as it seems very short and not very detailed, but it still gets the point across as being a creation story.

 

 

 

For another version of this story, see:  The Leyend of Zirahuen’s Lake (http://ourcommunityblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/leyend-of-zirahuens-lake.html)

Myths
Narrative

How the Islands were fished out of the ocean

Main Piece: Hawaiian Legend

 

“So the legend goes, Maui was out fishing with his brothers in a canoe one day, when he cast out a line. He had something big on the line, and told his brothers to row, and not look back, as it was a bad omen when fishing from a canoe to look behind you while rowing.

The brothers did not look back, and Maui continued reeling in his catch. Once he got it up, it became known that Maui had fished the Hawaiian Islands out of the sea.”

 

Background:

 

Danny told this story as a creation story of the Hawaiian Islands. Maui is a demigod in Hawaiian mythology, being the son of the two major deities in Hawaiian mythology. Danny likes this story because it is a creation story, and although untrue, gives the natives a good mythological explanation of how the Hawaiian Islands came to be that they can pass on as a part of their beliefs.

Danny likes this story because even though it is obviously not true, it is something almost every Hawaiian believes in, and all other people in the world will just disprove with science. He likes that it is a story dating back to the original inhabitants of the island, and gives him a sense of pride in his culture and where he comes from.

 

Context:

 

Danny told me this is a legend that would be told as a bedtime story. He does not remember the exact details but remembers the main story of it, but he does remember it as a prominent story from his childhood. He says his grandmother used to tell it to him and his siblings, and his mother would occasionally tell it as a bedtime story.

There aren’t many other contexts this story would be told in, other than possibly in a children’s book explaining how the islands came to be, or as a tour guides introduction to the history of the islands.

 

My Thoughts:

 

This story reminded me a lot of stories such as the Grand Canyon story where Paul Bunyun dragged his axe behind him as he was walking, and carved out the Grand Canyon, or a Native American story where the Kiowa’s came to earth through a log. Creation stories are generally too far-fetched to be true, but the general consensus of the people who live there is a small sliver of belief in the myth, but more so they serve as something to hold on to as a piece of their cultural heritage.

 

 

 

For another version of this story, see here: Maui (http://kms.kapalama.ksbe.edu/projects/ahupuaa/waianae/wan/wan12maui/index.html)

Folk Beliefs
general
Myths
Narrative

The Turtle and the Great Spirit

It goes something like this…

The Great Spirit wanted to create a world with animals and people, so he asked the Turtle to come up to the surface so he could build on the turtle’s back. But he wasn’t able to finish, so he just had the mountains and the valleys and the land created. So he went to sleep, and he dreamed of the animals and people crawling and walking and flying on and above the earth and he didn’t like what he saw in his dream… but when he woke up and discovered that his dream had populated the earth, it had turned out to be good…

 

How did you come across this folklore: “This is something I researched for a school project a while ago.”

Other information: “It’s a message to young children of the tribe—I don’t remember which tribe it is, maybe Abenaki? to pay attention to their dreams, because that is what created them.”

This is another example illustrating how the story within the constructed-truth of a myth doesn’t matter as much as the lessons embedded in, setting up some moral value for people, in this case, listening to dreams because a dream is how they originated.

Myths
Narrative

Raweno and the Owl – Mohawk/Iroquois

As a Child growing up in a small prairie community, we were constantly reminded of the “special ” relationship that the “Indian,” now native Americas , now aboriginal people’s, now First Nations, had with nature as manifest by the great spirit. As a child in a rural Canadian environment I  had developed my own personal relationship with nature and was always curious of how or what the native/Indian/aboriginal folklore and experience was different than my own.  I made it a point to educate myself on their heritage, and was fortunate enough to hear a folk creation story from a man of Mohawk/Iroquois descent.  The Mohawks used to occupy parts of Ontario, where I am from, so I was very exposed to their culture growing up.

The story of Raweno is a Mohawk creation story that a native of my small prairie community told me.  Raweno was the Great Spirit who created everything: all of the plants, all of the animals.  While molding the animals, Raweno would take requests from the animals so that he could create them as they desired.  The molding and decision process was supposed to be a private interaction between Raweno and the animal being molded, but the owl insisted on watching and giving his input.  Raweno told him to stop interfering, and to leave Raweno to his work.  But the owl continued to give Raweno suggestions, as well as making constant requests for Raweno to change his physical appearance as he saw a wider variety of creatures being created.  Raweno became very angry at the owl’s constant interferences, so he took the owl and shook him until his eyes went wide in fear. He then gave the owl a short neck so that the owl could not stretch his neck to watch things he shouldn’t watch.  He continued by giving the owl big ears to ensure that he can listen to what he is told, and gave him dull colored feathers solely because the owl wanted to be an extravagant bird. And finally, because Raweno worked primarily in the day, he made the owl nocturnal so that he could no longer disrupt Raweno’s work.

It wasn’t until I had you and your brother that I found the book Owl Eyes by Frieda Gates.  She made the story more kid friendly, although there wasn’t anything necessarily kid un-friendly in the original story, and I wanted to share this story I was fortunate enough to hear with you two.  I never told you or your brother that the story I read to you was a native American myth, but now that you are older, I am confident that you can appreciate the heritage of a culture I was surrounded with as a child.

It’s funny how different native creation stories vary from those of the more modern religions.  In Christianity, for example, creation stories are very human-oriented, while the creation stories for native cultures are very animal-oriented.  My father used to tell my brother and I this story from Frieda Gates Owl Eyes, but he would re-phrase it to make my brother and I to make us laugh, like saying Raweno like “Raweenie,” and giving the owl a very high pitched, annoying voice.  He used to tell us this story every night before we went to bed, and I didn’t realize until later that he changed the words, I was always so focused on the pictures (and I couldn’t read).  I actually miss hearing the story every night, as it was a really good bonding experience for me, my father, and my brother.  One of my fondest memories is sharing that moment with them every night.

Gates, Frieda. Owl Eyes. New York City: Harper Collins, 1994. Print.

Myths
Narrative

The Rainbow Serpent – Australia

So I’m from Australia, and the Aboriginals have stories about how Australia was formed. And these creation myths are called the Dreamtime stories.  One of the most recognized Dreamtime stories is that of the rainbow serpent.

He was all that existed before people and animals, as in the Dreamtime the whole earth was asleep, and all living creatures were sleeping under the earth’s surface.  But one day the Rainbow Serpent woke up and made her way onto the earth’s surface.  The serpent essentially traveled across Australia and formed the creeks and rivers, he formed Ayers Rock, the bends and twists in our land, all of which resulted from the path his body took.  Now he’s dead, and the only place you see him is in the sky as a rainbow, as he is the Rainbow Serpernt.

There’s a lot of different versions of this story I think, but I learned this one when I was 8 from an Aboriginal man.  I just think it’s an interesting part of Australia’s culture and heritage.  The Aboriginal people are really rarely recognized and they’re the ones that inhabited this land before us so I think all of their culture should be recognized.

Although Jaime is not an Aboriginal, she has a great respect for the Aboriginal people and their culture.  This is the second creation story I’ve collected for this project, and I’ve noticed that both of the creation stories, both from indigenous people, are animal-centered.  We discussed how this is very common in native cultures, as much of their religions and beliefs stem from animals and their spirits.

general
Myths
Narrative

Myth – Chinese

Pangu and the Beginning of the Earth

At the beginning of time, only darkness existed and everything was very chaotic. In the darkness, however, there was a large egg in which lived a giant named Pangu. When he became very big, he broke the egg shell, and these shell bits became the heaven and the earth. Pangu was very happy with what he had done, but he was hesitant that the heaven and the earth might fall together. He placed himself between the heaven and the earth, and held up the sky with his hands. After the sky finally became secure, Pangu died. His body decomposed and slowly became all the elements of the world—wind, clouds, thunder, lightning, the sun, the moon, etc.

Many stories about the beginning of the Earth exist. It was actually my roommate who told me this story about the beginning of the universe. I asked her if she knew of any folk stories in Chinese literature, and this was the one she remembered with the most detail. She heard the story from her great aunt. Her great aunt told her and her siblings this story when she was ten because she wanted to pass on her heritage. My roommate and her family like to go camping many times during the year. The whole family goes together, and cousins, aunts, and uncles will often accompany them to Carlsbad, where they usually go to camp. This story was told while they were sitting around a campfire, cooking dinner together. To pass time, each family member told a story that they felt was of great importance to them. My roommate told me that while she does not believe that this story is actually the beginning of the Earth, she does believe is reiterates her heritage. She is a third generation Chinese, so she has been very influenced by Western culture, even more so than others whose parents might still be Chinese native speakers.

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