Archive | June 2016

Whose Origins are of Old…

Myths & Legends

Source: Anthology of Children’s Literature 4th Edition, 1970, Houghton Mifflin Company.

We’ll visit mythology once more. May I present two myths for you to discover and share with the children in your life?

The Tahltan Indians in North America created the myth Determination of the Seasons.
The story is written by Stith Thompson. Porcupine and Beaver quarreled about the seasons. Porcupine wanted winter to be a certain number of months and Beaver wanted winter to be another number of months. Finally, Beaver gave in to Porcupine until Raven changed the winter months to vary. And that is why the Indians observed agaxewisa month, that is, the month between winter and spring.

In the Hawaiian myth, How Kana Brought Back the Sun and Moon and Stars by Padraic Colum, the sun, moon, and stars were taken away by Ka-hoa-alii (companion to the king) until Kana (a Maui demigod) and his brother Niheu (the sand crab) brought them back. Niheu made people wait on him. Ka-hoa-alii heard about this and to punish Niheu, he stole the sun, the moon, and the stars. Kana and Niheu’s grandmother, Uli, told them to go to Ka-hoa-alii’s country. There they experienced a series of adventures until they worked magic to get the sun, the moon, and stars back in the sky.

We’ve seen that ancient stories from around the world developed to answer the questions “Why?” and “How?” The next time we visit, we’ll meet two heroes. Happy wandering through ancient tales!

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Ancient Questions and Two Answers

Last time, we talked about some tall tales. Now, we move back in time to ancient stories. Mythology evolved from primitive man’s wonder about the natural world. It grew from his life experience and imagination to shape explanations of how things came to be. Myth’s metaphor is a blend of science, social law, and morals. We humans wonder. And wonder is the beginning of understanding.

Children are filled with wonder as they discover their world. They connect well with myth. By listening to or reading these stories, our spirits can capture the freshness of new thoughts and discoveries. Myth is part of the great oral tradition. Ancient myths can still be relevant in modern times because they give us an historical perspective on how Romans, Greeks, Norse, and Persians thought. Humans will never stop wondering, even with modern technology. Nor will we stop believing—the foundation of the myth. It is the forerunner of religion.

In Greek mythology, gods were very much human, but with extraordinary power and strength. The whole community of Olympus—gods, goddesses and lesser gods—represented the range of human emotion and experience.

Castor and Pollux                                                               Source: earthsky.org

In August, look up at the morning sky, if you live in the northern hemisphere. You will see two equally bright stars. To understand why the heavens contain these stars, we turn to Gemini, the Twins. The twin brothers were Castor and Pollux. Castor’s father was Tyndarus, the King of Sparta and husband of Leda, while Pollux’ father was Zeus, the Greek god, who shared the same mother, Leda. During a storm at sea, they showed courage while saving their shipmates. Afterwards, strange lights were seen above their heads by the sailors. Later, these lights were known as St. Elmo’s fire. Read why Zeus honored them as twin stars, forever together.

The Norse myths explained the universe as Yggdrasill—a huge ash tree that supports all of creation. The giants were older than the gods and the realm of the gods were known as Asgard. The Norse had twelve ranking gods and twenty-four goddesses. Unlike the Greek gods, the Norse were mortal. They, like their human counterparts, believed that a heroic death on the battlefield was a victory.

Odin Goes to Mimir's Well
Source: http://www.mainlesson.com/

In Odin Goes to Mimir’s Well, Odin, the All-father of the Norse gods, goes to her well to exchange his knowledge for wisdom in order to deal well with dark events on earth. He disguises himself and meets the wisest of the giants, Vefthrudner. They exchange questions and Vefthrudner told Odin what price he must pay to be granted Mimir’s wisdom.

You’ll see my next feature in two weeks. Until then, go back in time to myths and rediscover wonder.

A Journey, A Sleeper & A Woodsmen

East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon
Source: Amazon.com
Now here are three more tales for you to discover. The first is from Scandinavia.
A poor man lived in the forest with his wife and daughters. His youngest was a beauty. In the fall, a big White Bear knocked on the window and asked to take the youngest daughter with him, promising riches to the father. A week later, the father convinces the daughter to go with the White Bear. The White Bear took the girl to a castle where she had anything she wanted. The White Bear was very kind yet, the daughter became very lonely and sad because she missed her family. The Bear agreed to take her back to visit, reminding the daughter of her promise to him. Because of the girl’s actions, both she and the bear are changed. Not only is the White Bear not what he appears to be, but he is in jeopardy of never seeing the daughter again, whom he loves. By then, the daughter realizes she loves the bear too, even if he were a wild animal. A curse is cast on the Bear by his stepmother who lives east o’ the sun and west o’ the moon.

The daughter makes a long journey to find the White Bear. First she asks three old hags, then she asks the East Wind, then she asks the West Wind, then she asks the South Wind who takes her to the strongest of them all, the North Wind. It is he who knows where to find the White Bear. You’ll discover when reading this folk tale, how complex it is to mend a broken promise.

Shen_of_the_Sea
Source: Wikipedia
The next folk tale is the Chinese story, “Ah Tcha the Sleeper” from Shen of the Sea. Ah Tcha was an orphan boy, but he was no ordinary orphan because he was wealthy. He owned many fields and mills. He had an old woman who worked in his field. Nu Wu was her name who, along with her husband, Hu Shu, worked in the orphan’s field. Ah Tcha soon found out that Nu Wu was no ordinary woman. Ah Tcha was in trouble. Ah Tcha the worker became Ah Tcha the sleeper. He slept half the day and because of this, he lost his wealth. Nearby, lived a black dragon or loong in Chinese. Sometimes, he was called OO Loong (neither white nor pink.)

The dragon met Nu Wu in a field and what happened next woke up Ah Tcha! And this was his fortune for Nu Wu gave him a gift in gratitude for being saved from the dragon. You can find out what this gift given to the world is when you read this tale.

Paul Bunyan

Source: www.jessyeomans.com
Finally, there is Paul Bunyan, an all American folk tale. These stories of a giant lumberjack who cut down trees in the American Northwest are told in a cowboy dialect. Paul is originally from Ottawa and travels where needed to mill lumber. Everything Paul does is as big as he is. It takes a big man to be a lumberjack. Even Babe, his ox, is big.
One tall tale after the next is told of how he made a road for his ox to a calf who ate himself out of an Iowa barn to logging wood around the shores of a lake. Paul even dug out a river. Tales that became bigger and more fantastic then the last are what Paul Bunyan was all about. Fun reading about a way of life long gone.

Folk tales can take us many places, explain how things come to be, and sing the praises of people—stories that became classic. May you enjoy reading each one.