Nationality: Pakistani, American
Occupation: Computer Programmer
Residence: 11048 Washington Blvd Apt 306
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Urdu, Punjabi
Context: The following is an account from the informant, my father, that was told to him in a casual setting during his childhood in a Pakistani village.
Background: The informant was recounting some sayings and stories that his eldest aunt used to tell him and other children during the day, sometimes while she was working. This particular piece was collected soon after an earthquake occurred. As a child, he recalls being captivated by such fantastical stories, although he is not sure whether the adults actually believed them or merely told them to children to entertain them.
Informant: (After an earthquake) How can an earthquake happen? The whole ground was shaking!
Aunt: You should know that the earth is held up by a huge bull. He supports the whole world by balancing it on one of his horns. When he gets tired of holding it up, the bull switches the earth to his other horn, causing an earthquake to occur.
Analysis: This story is fascinating to me because it isn’t immediately apparent how such a myth was introduced to the area my father was growing up in. After some digging, it appears there may be a basis for this story in medieval Islamic cosmography, the unorthodox ideas relating to the structure of the universe held by some scholars of the time period. It has also been claimed that this could be derived from the biblical Leviathan. There is also a very similar Bosnian-Slavic myth, Tur, which tells of a giant bull that lives underground, causing earthquakes when he moves his horn, and even similarities to the Greek myth of Atlas holding up the world on his shoulders.
For a very similar relation of this myth, see chapter 5 in the book Developments in Earth Surface Processes volume 17, Earthquakes and Coseismic Surface Faulting on the Iranian Plateau: A Historical, Social and Physical Approach.