Comparing the myth of Cherokee “How the World Was Made”, and the legend of Pima “The Story of Creation”

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Thesis statement: The paper will illustrate through the use of imagery, archetype, metaphors, hyperbole, and personification, how Cherokee myth “How the World was Made” and Legend of Pima “The Story of Creation”, had many similarities than the difference in describing how creation was meant to bring balance and harmony between man, animal, and god.

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Introduction

Recollection

  1. Theses discussion and analysis

Cherokee myth “How the World was Made” and Legend of Pima “The Story of Creation”,

Similarities

  • Both uses imagery to describe the role of creator as a being assisted by another created being
  • Both uses water as a symbol of sustenance of life.
  • Both employ archetype in describing a culture that was common in the era
  • Both use metaphor to describe the end of the world when things will not be in harmony once more.
  • Both applied a metaphor of four (4) points of the earth to mean stability.
  • Both used hyperbole in their account of creation in describing God in a manner that maintains the balance.

Differences

  • Numbers in describing the creation process is used differently in the Cherokee myth and legend of Pisa
  • Water as a symbol is used differently in the myth and the legend.

World Literature Beginnings to 1650: The Renaissance, “Myths of the Cherokee”

Different cultures and civilizations around the world have different ways of explaining their belief about the existence of the world and how it came into existence. Looking at the culture of the Native American civilization, rich explanations in form of myth reveals much about their explanation of creation (Taylor 3). Most of these myths have been handed down orally from one generation to the next, they reveal much about the oral tradition of Native Americans (Kroeber 4). The creation history in Native America has been told through myths and legends. Most creation myths and legends in Native America have many differences in showing how to balance in the world was achieved through creation. This paper will illustrate through the use of imagery, archetype, metaphors, hyperbole and personification, how Cherokee myth “How the World was Made” and Legend of Pima “The Story of Creation”, had many similarities than the difference in describing how creation was meant to bring balance and harmony between man, animal, and god.

To begin with, both “How the World Was Made” and “The Story of Creation” use imagery to describe the role of creator as a being assisted by another created being with supernatural powers of creation. The Cherokee myth describes the little water-beetle which is the Beaver’s Grandchild as having done much in creating land, mountains, animals and even man by going deep under the water to bring mud that was used to create the earth where all other creations could reside. This when compared, showed that creation was not directly commissioned by the hands of god but rather through a proxy all things were created.

“The little Water-beetle offered to go and see…. Then it dived to the bottom and came up with some soft mud, which began to grow and spread on every side until it became the island which we call the earth” (Getty et al. 332).

This shows that the earth was created as a result of the efforts by the little Water-beetle because even after the creation of the earth, no one could remember who fastened its four cords to the sky (Getty et al. 332). This is similar to the legend of Pima where the Doctor of the earth (Juh-wert-a-Mah-kai), created a person who was given power and authority so as to help the creator to create the remaining creation.

“Then he created a Person. He made him out of his eye, out of the shadow of his eyes, to assist him, to be like him, and to help him in creating trees and human beings and everything that was to be on the earth” (Getty et al. 351).

Again, the white ants in the legend of Pima were very critical in working to enlarge the earth which then becomes big enough for the Doctor of the earth. Secondly, the Cherokee and legend of Pima use water as a symbol of life. Both these creation stories describe the importance that water played in creation. Water is one of the most important natural resources that symbolizes life. Water nourishes the earth and ensures that man has enough food to survive on. In Cherokee, the earth is described as “great island floating in a sea of water” (332). It also shows that the beginning of life is water and its end will be water. This means that water is very important part of creation that world could not do without.

In the legend of Pima, the importance of water is described where it was created first before creating the sun, mountains, seeds and even human beings by Juh-wert-a-Mah-kai. This was so because human beings were meant to feed on seeds which had to be created in the presence of water. Therefore, both the myth of Cherokee and the Legend of Pima uses water as a symbol of life that should be conserved and used in nourishing the earth as without it no life would be possible on earth. The harmony that is created between natural resource and the human being needs to be preserved that way if human beings have to survive because in a world that water is abundant, there is an abundance of food for a human being that signifies that the world was created to bring abundance to human beings.

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Thirdly, both the myth of Cherokee and the legend of Pima employs archetype in describing a culture that was common in the era and in Cherokee and Pima and signified the harmony and balance that existed between man and animals. The archetype that both the myth and the legend apply is a bird known as Buzzard. Being the most common bird in the desert, Buzzard was used in both the myth and the legend to act as an aid in creation. For instance, in the myth, the buzzard was sent on earth to prepare the way for other animals. “At last, it seemed to be time, and they sent out the Buzzard and told him to go and make ready for them” (332). This compares exactly top the use of buzzard in the legend who was named Noo-ee and acted as the aide to the creator even though it did not perform the duties it was meant to perform. This bird is found in a wider range in the Native America, therefore, using of such archetype was important in bringing into focus the common culture that was shared among the Cherokee and the Pima cultures. It also points out to the importance of living in harmony with birds as well as conserving them because they played an important part during the creation period.

Fourthly, both the myth of Cherokee and the legend of Pima uses metaphor to describe the end of the world when things will not be in harmony once more. The myth of Cherokee posits that the world grows old thing will get out of harmony. It gives the consequences of such event where people will die as a result of the worlds growing old and worn out. “When the world grows old and worn out, the people will die and the cords will break and let the earth sink down into the ocean” (332). The harmony is an important aspect of Indians survival because the author says that Indians dread when the harmony will be disturbed and death will visit the world. In the legend of Pisa, the metaphor that is used is that the sky fell. The falling of the sky just like in the myth led to the death of human beings. These two accounts denote that when the balance is disturbed and when the harmony is broken, human beings will suffer so much that their survival will be jeopardized. This explains to Indians why it is important to let the harmony between the world and the creation to prevail. Through using this example, they are both reminded that should they destroy the world, they will all die as a consequence. This encourages both the Cherokee and the Pima to maintain the harmony and balance that exists in the world because doing contrary would lead to their extinction.

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Fifthly, the myth and the legend also applied a metaphor of four (4) points of the earth. The number four, according to Bercovitch and Cyrus (23), denotes stability, strength, mother earth and four directions. It shows how the earth was created under stability. In this myth, the earth was suspended using four cardinal points by a cord (332). In the legend of Pima, the

“First, he placed it in the North, but it did not work; then he placed it in the West, but it did not work; then he placed it in the South, but it did not work; then he placed it in the East and there it worked as he wanted it to” (351).

The four points mentioned both by the myth of Cherokee and the Legend of Pima is a metaphor that represents four points in the compass. They show that the earth was created with great stability and balance that should be maintained. It is God who suspended the earth in these four points and man was created and placed on this suspended earth and it is the only god that could change this balance. Also, in addition to the four points, the myth and the legend mentions other dimensions of the earth. For instance, in the myth, there is a mention of lower, center and upper worlds (Getty et al. 333). In the legend, there is a mention of “second sky, again made a new heaven and a new earth” (Getty et al. 352). These descriptions differentiate the earth and show level of purity existing in each level. For instance, in the myth, “Gûlkwâ’gine Di’gälûñ’lätiyûñ’, “the seventh height,” (Getty et al. 352) is called so “because it is seven hand-breadths above the earth” (Getty et al. 352), and is considered the highest place because of its spiritual nature

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Lastly, both the myth of Cherokee and the legend of Pisa used hyperbole in their account of creation. In the myth of Cherokee, the continuous use of the language that suggests that the “When the animals and plants were first made—we do not know by whom— (Getty et al. 333), means that the identity of the creator or god is a mystery. This is intentional because god is not supposed to be some being that man could easily identify and access. When the narrators do not know who first created animals and plants it is meant to keep the god out of reach from the creation. This makes the harmony between man and his/her creator in check. The balance that ensures that man and god do not share common sphere is a necessity that makes living in the world balanced (Berger 31). This was used in this myth to prevent human beings from questioning the presence of God.

They were to accept that both animals and plants were created by someone but it was past human knowledge to understand activities and character of God. In the legend of Pisa, the name that the narrator uses, “Doctor of the earth” (Getty et al. 351) shows that the creator is not only a creator but he is responsible for the wellbeing of the earth. The author describes the creator in the first paragraph as the only person that was there before creation and his place of origin could not be properly described by the narrator when he admits that, “He wandered around in the nowhere till he thought he had wandered enough” (Getty et al. 350). This is in agreement with the myth of Cherokee where the origin, the beginning, the end, the nature of God is obscure. This helps both the Cherokee and Pima to believe in god and to never question why he created everything and who he is. This harmony is required if the world has to be believers in god as well as prosperity.

However, there are also differences between the myth of Cherokee and the legend of Pisa through the use of metaphor. The use of numbers in describing the creation process is different in the Cherokee myth and legend of Pisa. In the myth, the number seven is used to describe the level of purity that should be attained in order to be given some power by the creator. The myth describes that when the plants and animals were first made, “they were told to watch and keep awake for seven nights” (Getty et al. 333). According to Ollhoff (12), the number seven represents purity and therefore, plants and animals were created and told to strive in attaining the highest purity.

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All of the plants and animals, except “the owl, the panther, and one or two more were still awake”, on the seventh night. And the narrator says that because they were able to attain this highest purity, they were given “power to see and to go about in the dark and to make a prey of the birds and animals which must sleep at night” (Getty et al. 333). Going through seven spiritual purifications is what gives a creation the highest spiritual power. On the other hand, the legend of Pima uses the number four differently. Almost everything that was created was completed after the fourth attempt. “It tipped over three times, but the fourth, the time it staid straight in the middle of the air and there it remains now as the world” (Getty et al. 350). Placing the sun in the sky was also tempted three times and success was achieved the fourth time (351). The earth creation was also done four times before it remained what it is today (Getty et al. 351). This legend shows that stability could be achieved four times unlike in the myth were spiritual stability have to go through a cycle of seven times. Therefore, both the myth and the legend use the numbers to depict spiritual stability differently.

Again, the use of water as a symbol is used differently in the myth as in the legend. In the myth, water is both used to depict life and sustenance as well as that which will be used to end life and sustenance. “And the cords will break and let the earth sink down into the ocean, and all will be water again” (Getty et al. 332). In legend, the water is depicted as that which provides stability and sustenance to plants and animals. It was used in providing the light of the stars. “Took the pieces and threw them into the sky to mix with the water in the stars, and then there was light enough” (Getty et al. 351).

Did you like this sample?
  1. Bercovitch, Sacvan, and Cyrus R. K. Patell. The Cambridge History of American Literature. Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  2. Berger, Arthur A. Media, Myth, and Society. Palgrave Pivot, 2012.
  3. Getty, Laura, Kyounghye Kwon, Rhonda Kelley, and Douglass Thomson. World Literature I, Part Three: The Renaissance. University of North Georgia Press, n.d.
  4. Kroeber, Karl. Artistry in Native American Myths. University of Nebraska Press, 1998.
  5. Ollhoff, Jim. Native American Mythology E-book (downloadable Pdf). ABDO Digital, 2012.
  6. Taylor, Jennifer. An Introduction to Comparative Mythology. Kendall Hunt Publication, 2011.
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