The ancient history of the world is presented differently in various cultures. It was created by the tribes and preserved in stories that are known as cosmogonic myths. These stories reveal the theme of the creation of life from different points of view. The current paper compares and contrasts the texts that illustrate how the worldview of some cultures has been shaped. The main idea is that there is a connection between a story and a culture. This link allows understanding the basic principles of modern societies, their structure, and different kinds of relationships.
The subject is studied on the examples of three texts. The materials examined in the paper are:
- The Achomawi creation myth.
- Creation story and the importance of dreaming (An Abenaki Legend)
- The origin of Earth (A Tuskegee Legend)
In order to compare these legends, the major elements should be discussed. Since the texts develop stories about the beginning of the world and people, it is important to contrast how the point where everything started is described. The first legend states that all was founded “in the beginning…” (“An Achomawi Legend”, n.d., n.p.). It is interesting that the Tuskegee tribe believes that the act of the creation was “before the beginning…” (“A Tuskegee Legend”, n.d., n.p.). It should be noted that the Tuskegee legend defines the beginning of the life as the one that includes human beings. We may presume on the basis of this description that anthropocentrism is a characteristic of the Tuskegee tribe. These two cultures (Tuskegee and Achomawi) had a need to mark the time is some way. This feature reflects their rationalism and a tendency to structure the world. On the contrary to these views, the Abenaki legend teaches that the creation happened “in a time not known to us…” (“An Abenaki legend”, n.d., n.p.).
This contrasting perception of time demonstrates that the three tribes see the world differently. The place of origin of these tribes has its influence as well. Anabeki populated areas “across most of northern New England into the southern part of the Canadian Maritimes” (Sultzman, 1997, n.p.). The Tuskegee Indians inhabited the land between Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers (Swanton, 1953, n.p.). Achumawi are the Native Americans of California who “traditionally lived in the northeastern part of the region, from Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak to the Warner Range” (“Achumawi”, n.d., n.p.). The locations of the tribes are very important as they explain a common feature of the three legends that is the role of water.
According to the legend of the Anabeki people, at first there was nothing, and in order to create the world, a creature (a turtle) appeared “from the waters and become a land” (“An Anabeki Legend”, n.d., n.p.). The Tuskegee legend says that there was water everywhere. This tendency is continued on the example of the Achomawi legend: “in the beginning all was water”. Water is the element of creation. This fact identifies water as an important resource even in the present time. Here, the location reveals the link between stories and reality. All the tribes lived in regions near rivers. The Achomawi tribe is even called the “River People”. Thus, the experience with the environment was the instrument of making the stories.
The legends also provide the information regarding the matter of social interaction. For example, it is the Abenaki people who “were noteworthy for their general lack of central authority,” and this is how their relationships with the environment are described (Sultzman, 1997, n.p.). The legend proves it. The one who created the world, the Great Spirit, has chosen a rather passive approach that did not require any special preparations and other characters. There was only the Great Spirit who thought about the world but “he became very tired and fell asleep” (“An Abenaki Legend”, n.d., n.p.). It was from a dream that the world was build. The contemporary Abenaki society requires all adults to be present at a meeting if they need to make a decision. Social roles and responsibilities within the community are not properly divided. Other tribes and their stories show different qualities. There is a theory that the name of the Tuskegee Indians stands for a “warrior”. They are well-organized and have a clear hierarchy. Their legend says that there were the Chief and those who obeyed his orders (dove and crawfish). Everyone had their tasks and obligations. For the third tribe, Achomawi, quests are important. Thus, the creation of the world was also a quest with its tasks, questions, and dangers. Before the world was created, the characters almost sunk, were lost, and had a few challenges while finding the land. In the legends of Achomawi and Abenaki animals cooperate. Nature is integrated into all the stories. This aspect suggests thinking that the tribes respected nature and felt a connection with it. Other relationships are not revealed in these stories.
The paper analyzed the myths that reveal the story of the creation of the world narrated by Achomawi, Abenaki, and Tuskegee people. In their stories, these tribes share the main convictions. Among the distinctive features is the number of participants in the creation of the world that to some extent defines the level of social interaction and organization (for example, the Abenaki tribe lacks central authority). The time is also described differently by the three tribes. The common characteristics are the element of water as a substance of creation. It may be concluded on the basis of the legends that the world is understood differently in the societies that is why these societies are not alike in their organization.