Great Flood and the Repopulation of Man

A research by Dhani Irwanto

The overwhelming consistency among legends and myths of flood and the repopulation of man found in distant parts of the Earth indicates they were derived from a common origin. Oral transcription has changed the details through time, adding local geography and cultural aspects. However, the core of each story is supposedly preserved and shared as a common theme and similar characters.

Many flood stories have overwhelming similarities with the Noah’s Ark in the Book of Genesis flood narrative. They are frequently linked by common elements including the flood hero, warning of the coming flood, the construction of a boat in advance, the storage of seeds and animals, the inclusion of family, and the release of birds or other animals to determine if the water level had subsided. The stories are closely parallel to the story of the creation: a cycle of creation, un-creation and re-creation, in which the flood plays a pivotal role.

Eridu Genesis

In the Sumerian Eridu Genesis, Ziusudra is recorded as the survivor of the god-sent flood. The story survives on a cuneiform tablet from the 17th century BCE, of which only the lower third survives. The Eridu Genesis begins with the creation of man, but continues with the establishment of kingship and a list of cities. Then comes the list of antediluvian rulers, which confirms the pattern again, and the supreme god Enlil’s decision to destroy mankind.

Ziusudra is a king of Suruppak and a seer, who witnesses the gods’ council and decision in a vision, and understands that something terrible is about to happen. When the gods had decided to destroy humanity with a flood, the god Enki (lord of the underworld sea of fresh water, the Akkadian Ea), who did not agree with the decree, revealed it to Ziusudra, a man well known for his humility and obedience. Ziusudra did as Enki commanded and built a huge boat. The story continues with a description of the flood, which lasts seven days and nights. Then Utu (Sun) appears and Ziusudra opens a window, prostrates himself, and sacrifices an ox and a sheep. After the flood is apparently over, Ziusudra leaving the ark and prostrating himself before An (Sky) and Enlil (Lordbreath). The end of the story is a speech by Enki, and the apotheosis of Ziusudra, who is given immortality in the mythological country of Dilmun, in the far east, where the sun rises.

The younger Epic of Atrahasis and the Epic of Gilgamesh, written in Babylonian, change many details. They continue to refer to Suruppak as the city of the hero of the flood story. The Sumerian name of the hero, Ziusudra, has been changed into Atrahasis in the Epic of Atrahasis and Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the late version of The Instructions of Shuruppak and the youngest Babylonian version by Berossus, the origal name of Ziusudra return. In the Sumerian king list recension, Ziusudra, or Zin-Suddu of Shuruppak is recorded as having reigned as both king and gudug priest for 10 years.

Epic of Atrahasis

Atrahasis is the protagonist of an 18th-century BCE Akkadian/Babylonian epic of the great flood sent by the gods to destroy human life recorded in various versions on clay tablets. Only the good man, Atrahasis (translates as “exceedingly wise”) was warned of the impending deluge by the god Ea who instructed him to build an ark to save himself. Atrahasis heeded the words of the god, loaded two of every kind of animal into the ark, and so preserved human and animal life on Earth.

The epic begins by explaining how the lesser gods tired of their labors on the canals and farms and instigated a rebellion. Enlil (the god of the sky and earth), wanted to punish these gods, but Ea (the god of the waters, the Sumerian Enki), argued that humans should be created to do the work instead. The womb goddess, Mami, was appointed to create humankind by mixing clay with the blood of a slain junior god Geshtu. However, human overpopulation soon became a problem. Enlil sent various disasters to diminish humankind, but Ea persistently foiled his plans. Finally, Enlil determined to send a flood to kill all humans, and Ea warned the faithful Atrahasis of the plan. Atrahasis then built a boat and saved his family and animals. Enlil was furious at Ea for ruining his plan, but they agreed to devise a new way to control human population. Mami arranged that one out of every three children born would die, and certain priestesses would be celibate.

Epic of Gilgamesh

The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient Mesopotamian odyssey recorded on clay tablets in the Akkadian language about Gilgamesh, the king of the Mesopotamian city-state Uruk. In the epic, the flood hero is named Utnapishtim, and considered as the closest to the biblical story of Noah.

Overcome with the death of his friend Enkidu, Gilgamesh sets out on a series of journeys to search for his ancestor Utnapishtim (Ziusudra in the Sumerian Eridu Genesis) who lives at the mouth of the rivers and has been given eternal life. Utnapishtim counsels Gilgamesh to abandon his search for immortality but tells him about a plant that can make him young again. Gilgamesh obtains the plant from the bottom of the sea in Nisir (Dilmun in the Sumerian Eridu Genesis) but a serpent steals it, and Gilgamesh returns home to the city of Uruk having abandoned hope of either immortality or renewed youth.

In the epic, Utnapishtim is tasked by Enki (Akkadian Ea) to abandon his worldly possessions and create a giant ship to be called The Preserver of Life. The design of the ship was supposedly drawn on the ground by Enki, and the frame of the ark, which was made in five days, was 60 meters (200 feet) in length, width and height, with a floor-space of one acre. The ark interior had 7 floors, each floor divided into 9 sections, finishing the ark fully on the seventh day. The entrance to the ship was sealed once everyone had boarded the ship.

He was also tasked with bringing his wife, family, and relatives along with the craftsmen of his village, baby animals and grains. The oncoming flood would wipe out all animals and humans that were not on the ship. After twelve days on the water, Utnapishtim opened the hatch of his ship to look around and saw the slopes of Mount Nisir, where he rested his ship for seven days. On the seventh day, he sent a dove out to see if the water had receded, and the dove could find nothing but water, so it returned. Then he sent out a swallow, and just as before, it returned, having found nothing. Finally, Utnapishtim sent out a raven, and the raven saw that the waters had receded, so it circled around, but did not return. Utnapishtim then set all the animals free, and made a sacrifice to the gods.

The gods came, and because he had preserved the seed of man while remaining loyal and trusting of his gods, Utnapishtim and his wife were given immortality, as well as a place among the heavenly gods.

Book of Kolbrin

The Book of Kolbrin is a collection of eleven books, six Egyptian and five Celtic, preserved by the Celtics in Great Britain. A similar story to the epic of Gilgamesh, the Egyptian version, is found in the book. The flood hero is named Sisuda (Ziusudra in the Sumerian Eridu Genesis).

The people of those times spurned all spiritual things and men lived only for pleasure, caring little for the good of mankind or the future of the people. Lewdness and lies were upon the tongues of all men and brother could not deal justly with brother. The princes and governors were corrupt and proper tribute was not paid, the statues were held up to scorn. The lives of men were ruled by their desires and they spent their days in gluttony, drunkedness, fornication, dancing and singing to instruments of music. The land was unattended, for men dissipated their strength in unproductive lusts and pleasures. Women lacked shame, for many would cast their glances after one man. Men fought among themselves and even slew one another because of their lusts for worthless women, while the chaste women were not sought.

In Ardis there were wise men filled with the inner wisdom, who read The Book of Heaven with understanding and knew the signs. They went to Sharepik, then called Sarapesh, and said to Sisuda, the King, that the shadow of doom approaches and the hour of doom is at hand. Because Sisuda has not mingled with the wicked, he is set apart and shall not perish, so his seeds may be preserved. Therefore a great ship was laid down under the leadership of Hanok, son of Hogaretur, for Sisuda, from whose treasury came payment for the building of the vessel. It was built on the Lake of Namos, close by the river of gold, where it divides. The great ship was 300 cubits (160 meters, 500 feet) in length, 50 cubits (26 meters, 86 feet) in width and had three storeys. Each storey was divided in twain, so that there were six floors below and one above, and they were divided across with seven partitions. Great stones were hung from ropes.

They carried the seed of all living things; grain was laid up in baskets and many cattle and sheep were slain for meat. They also took all kinds of beasts of the field and wild beasts, birds and fowls, all things that crawl, and also gold and silver, metals and stones. People of the plains mocked the builders of the great ship.

On the appointed day, they who were to go with the great ship departed, the people entered the great ship and closed the hatch, making it secure. The king had entered and with him those of his blood, in all fourteen. The ship was lifted by the mighty surge of waters and hurled among the debris, but it was not dashed upon the mountainside because of the place where it was built. In the seething waters and howling gales all buildings were destroyed, trees were uprooted and mountains cast down. All the people not saved within the ship were swallowed up in the midst of raging confusion, and their wickedness and corruption was purged away from the face of the Earth. The swelling waters swept up to the mountain tops and filled the valleys. They did not rise like water poured into a bowl, but came in great surging torrents. The great flood remained seven days, diminishing day by day as the waters drained away to their places. After many days the great ship came to rest upon Kardo, in the mountains of Ashtar, against Nishim in The Land of God.

Babyloniaca

The Babyloniaca (hereafter, “History of Babylonia”) is three books written by Berossus intended to correct Greek misconceptions about Babylon, which was probably written some time around 290 – 278 BCE and dedicated to Antiochus I Soter of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. Berossus is a priest of Marduk in Babylon, on whom Alexander relied heavily for information on Mesopotamia.

Known from the second book of Babyloniaca, Xisuthros (Ξισουθρος) is a Hellenization of Sumerian Ziusudra. Among the interesting features of this version of the flood myth, are the identification, through interpretatio graeca (interpretation by means of Greek models), of the Sumerian god Enki with the Greek god Cronus, the father of Zeus; and the assertion that the reed boat constructed by Xisuthros survived, at least until Berossus’ day, in the Corcyrean Mountains of Armenia. Xisuthros was listed as a king, the son of one Ardates, and to have reigned 18 years.

Cronus appeared to Xisuthrus in a dream and revealed that on the fifteenth of the month Daisios mankind would be destroyed by a great flood. He then ordered him to bury together all the tablets, the first, the middle and the last, and hide them in Sippar, the city of the sun. Then he was to build a boat and board it with his family and best friends. He was to provision it with food and drink and also to take on board wild animals and birds an all four-footed animals. Then when all was prepared, he was to make ready to sail. If asked where he was going, he was to reply, “to the gods, to pray that all good things will come to man”. He did not stop working until the ship was built. Its length was 5 stadia (925 meters, 3,000 feet) and its breadth 2 stadia (370 meters, 1,200 feet). He boarded the finished ship, equipped for everything as he had been commanded, with his wife, children and closest friends.

After the waters of the Great Flood had come and quickly left, Xisuthrus freed several birds. They found neither food nor a place to rest, and they returned to the ship. After a few days, he again set free some other birds, and they too came back to the ship, but they returned with claws covered with mud. Then later for a third time he set free some other birds, but they did not return to the ship. Then Xisuthrus knew that the earth had once again appeared.

He broke open a seam on a side of the ship and saw that the ship had come to rest on a mountain. He disembarked, accompanied by his wife and his daughter together with the steersman. He prostrated himself in worship to the earth and set up an altar and sacrificed to the gods. After this, he disappeared together with those who had left the ship with him. Those who remained on the ship and had not gone out with Xisuthrus, when he and those with him had disembarked, searched for him and called out for him by name all about. But Xisuthrus from then on was seen no more, and then the sound of voice that came from the air gave the instruction that it was their duty to honor the gods and that Xisuthrus, because of the great honor he had shown the gods, had gone to the dwelling place of the gods and that his wife and daughter and the steersman had enjoyed the same honor.

The voice then instructed them to return to the city of Sippar, as it was fated for them to do, to dig up the tablets that were buried there and to turn them over to mankind. The place where they had come to rest was the land of Armenia (the Babylonian Urartu, from which the Biblical name Ararat is derived). After they understood all this, they sacrificed to the gods there and went on foot to Babylonia.

Book of Genesis

Noah’s Ark is the vessel in the Book of Genesis flood narrative (Genesis chapters 6 – 9) by which god spares Noah, his family and a remnant of all the world’s animals from the flood. The narrative indicates that god intended to return the Earth to its pre-creation state of watery chaos by flooding the Earth because of humanity’s misdeeds and then remake it using the microcosm of Noah’s Ark.

In the Book of Genesis’ story, the descendants of Adam and Eve had become evil and wicked, and god was sorry he had ever created mankind. He decided the only thing to do was destroy them all and start over. But there was one man, Noah, who was obedient to god and found god’s favor. God told Noah to build a big boat, called an ark, and he told Noah exactly how to do it. The ark was to be 300 cubits (137 meters, 450 feet) in length, 50 cubits (23 meters, 75 feet) in width and 30 cubits (14 meters, 45 feet) in height. It was to have three internal divisions, be divided into rooms, have a door in the side and a sohar, which may be either a roof or a skylight.

Noah was to find one male and one female of every kind of animal and bird and take them into the ark. He also had to take food for all those animals. It took Noah 120 years to build the ark and find all the animals to put in it, but Noah obeyed god and did just as he was told.

God told Noah to go into the ark with his wife, his three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, and their wives. It started to rain, then lasted without stop for 40 days and nights. The water got so deep that even the mountains were covered. Every living creature on earth died in the flood. But the ark floated on top of the flood waters and the people and animals in the ark were safe. The story goes on to describe the ark being afloat for 150 days and then coming to rest on the Mountains of Ararat and the subsequent receding of the waters.

For well over a century scholars have recognized that the biblical story of Noah’s ark is based on older Mesopotamian models. In the oldest story, the hero is Ziusudra and this version was inscribed about 1600 BCE in the Sumerian city of Nippur. In Babylonian versions his name is Atrahasis, but the flood is a river flood, the ark is in the form of a cube and has seven decks with nine compartments on each level. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the flood hero is Utnapishtim, and considered as the closest to the biblical story of Noah. In the early centuries BCE, Syrian had a tradition of the ark landing at Mount Judi, where according to Josephus the remains of the ark were still shown in the 1st century BCE.

Quran

The Noah’s Ark story is repeated, with variations, in the Quran, where the ark appears as Safina Nuh (Arabic: سفينة نوح‎‎). Nuh is recognized in Islam as a prophet and apostle of the god Allah.

God commanded Nuh to construct the ark within Allah’s sight and under his guidance. As commanded, Nuh set upon the task of building the ark with the help of the small group of believers. When the ark was completed, Nuh took with him his family and the believers, and a pair of every creature that was found on the land around him.

The flood waters began to rise. Believers who had so far suffered at the hands of the chiefs and idol worshippers found themselves safe in Nuh’s ark. The unbelievers who had ignored Allah’s guidance were in a grievous state. Amongst the unbelievers was Nuh’s own son, and he too was desperately trying to save himself from the flood waters. Nuh’s ark with all aboard was sailing safely on the waters and rested on Mount Judi.

Metamorphoses

The Metamorphoses (hereafter: “Books of Transformations”) is a Latin narrative poem by the Roman poet Ovid, considered his magnum opus (masterpiece). Ovid begins by addressing the gods and asking them to inspire his work, which opens with the creation of the world and continues on to the present day, and is about the transformation of bodies. After this short prayer, Ovid describes the birth of the world.

He then begins his tale of transformations by describing how the creator separated earth from heaven, sea from land, and lighter air from heavier air. He then made beings to inhabit these new spaces: gods and stars filled the heavens, fish the seas, beasts the land, and birds the air. Man was created to rule the world. Four ages followed. The age of gold was a time of trust, moral goodness, and fruitfulness. In the age of silver, people had to work for a living. The age of bronze saw the first wars, but some semblance of morality persisted. In the age of iron, however, nothing is sacred. Even family ties lead to bloodshed.

This is followed by an attempt by the giants to seize the heavens, at which the wrathful Jove (Jupiter, the Roman equivalent of Zeus) sends a great flood which destroys all living things except one pious couple, Deucalion and Pyrrha, because of their piety. This couple repopulates the earth by obeying the commands of the gods and throwing rocks behind them, which are transformed into a new, hearty breed of people.

Fabulae

The Fabulae (meaning “stories”) is a summary by Gaius Julius Hyginus, a first-century CE author from Roman Spain who collected ancient myths.

When the cataclysm called the Flood or Deluge occurred, all the human race perished except Deucalion and Pyrrha, who fled to Mount Etna, which is said to be the highest mountain in Sicily. When they could not live on account of loneliness, they begged Jupiter either to give men, or to afflict them with a similar disaster. Then Jupiter bade them cast stones behind them; those Deucalion threw he ordered to become men, and those Pyrrha threw, to be women. Because of this they are called laos (“people”), for stone in Greek is called las.

Bibliotheca

The Bibliotheca (hereinafer: “The Library”) was traditionally attributed to Apollodorus of Athens, a 2nd-century BCE Greek author, but it cannot be his because it cites authors who wrote centuries later.

Prometheus had a son Deucalion. He reigning in the regions about Phthia, married Pyrrha, the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora, the first woman fashioned by the gods. When Zeus would destroy the men of the Bronze Age, Deucalion by the advice of Prometheus constructed a chest, and having stored it with provisions he embarked in it with Pyrrha. But Zeus by pouring heavy rain from heaven flooded the greater part of Greece, so that all men were destroyed, except a few who fled to the high mountains in the neighborhood. It was then that the mountains in Thessaly parted, and that all the world outside the Isthmus and Peloponnese was overwhelmed. But Deucalion, floating in the chest over the sea for nine days and as many nights, drifted to Parnassus, and there. When the rain ceased, he landed and sacrificed to Zeus, the god of Escape.

Zeus sent Hermes to him and allowed him to choose what he would, and he chose to get men. At the bidding of Zeus he took up stones and threw them over his head, the stones which Deucalion threw became men, and the stones which Pyrrha threw became women. Hence people were called metaphorically people (laos) from laas (“stone”).

Deucalion had children by Pyrrha, first Hellen, whose father some say was Zeus, and second Amphictyon, who reigned over Attica after Cranaus; and third a daughter Protogenia, who became the mother of Aethlius by Zeus.

The Lithuanian

From his heavenly window, the supreme god Pramzimas saw nothing but war and injustice among mankind. He sent two giants, Wandu and Wejas (water and wind), to destroy earth. After twenty days and nights, little was left. Pramzimas looked to see the progress. He happened to be eating nuts at the time, and he threw down the shells. One happened to land on the peak of the tallest mountain, where some people and animals had sought refuge. Everybody climbed in and survived the flood floating in the nutshell. God’s wrath abated, he ordered the wind and water to abate. The people dispersed, except for Manuu, an elderly couple who stayed where they landed. To comfort them, the god sent the rainbow and advised them to jump over the bones of the earth nine times. They did so, and up sprang nine other couples, from which the nine Lithuanian tribes descended.

Vedas

In the Vedas, the sacred literature of Hinduism in India, Manu in the Indian mythology is the archetypal man, or the first man. He appears as the performer of the first sacrifice. In later texts, he is also known as the first king, and most rulers of medieval India traced their mystical genealogy back to him, that begin with each cyclic kalpa (aeon) when the universe is born anew, either through his son (the solar line) or his daughter (the lunar line). He is also the legendary author of an important Sanskrit law code, the Manusmriti (“Laws of Manu”). In this code, Manu is used as a prefix, but refers to the first Manu – Svayambhuva, the spiritual son of Brahma and the main character of the flood story.

Manu Svayambhuva is described as a virtuous individual. The Satapatha Brahmana recounts him as an ancient holy man who, by penances and prayers, had won the favor of the lord of heaven. The god appears to Manu in the form of a little fish whilst he was performing his ablutions in a pond. Manu kept the fish, which grew so quickly that its body occupied the entire ocean in a matter of days. It was then that the god revealed his identity to Manu, told him about the flood that would destroy the whole of humanity, and the way to save them. The fish instructed Manu to build a boat and fill it with animals and seeds to repopulate the earth.

He therefore built a boat, as the fish advised. When the flood (pralaya) came, he tied this boat to the fish’s horn and was safely steered to a resting place on a mountaintop. When the flood receded, Manu, the sole human survivor, performed a sacrifice, pouring oblations of butter and sour milk into the waters. After a year there was born from the waters a woman who announced herself as “the daughter of Manu”. These two then became the ancestors of a new human race to replenish the Earth.

In the Mahabharata, the fish is identified with the god Brahma, while in the Puranas, including the Bhagavata Purana and the Matsya Purana, it is Matsya, the fish incarnation of the god Vishnu. Manu was said to have three sons before the flood – Charma, Sharma and Yapeti, in close resemblance with Noah who also had three sons – Ham, Shem and Japheth. After the flood he had fifty other sons on Earth. In the story, the destruction of the world is treated as part of the natural order of things, rather than as a divine punishment. However, the deluge is through divine intervention similar to the Near East flood story. The god, in the form of a little fish, saves Manu by warning him that a flood would destroy the whole of humanity and then he build a boat. Manu was perched on a mountaintop (Malaya Mountains as written in the Matsya Purana), performed a sacrifice, pouring oblations, went to the foothills and started to perform tapasya (meditation), almost similar to the Near East flood story.

The name Manu is cognate with the Indo-European “man” and has an etymological connection with the Sanskrit verb man (“to think”). The Sanskrit manava or manush (“human”), means “of Manu” or “children of Manu”.

The Chingpaw

The Chingpaw people is a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group inhabiting upper Burma and the north Burma-Chinese frontier region, especially the Irrawaddy drainage above Myitkyina known as “the Triangle” and the Hukawng valley. The flood hero is named Pawpaw Nan-chaung.

When the deluge came, Pawpaw Nan-chaung and his sister Chang-hko saved themselves in a large boat. They took with them nine cocks and nine needles. When the storm and rain had passed, they each day threw out one cock and one needle to see whether the waters were falling. On the ninth day, they finally heard the cock crow and the needle strike bottom. They left their boat, wandered about, and came to a cave home of two nats or elves. The elves bade them stay and make themselves useful, which they did.

Soon the sister gave birth, and the old elfin woman minded the baby while its parents were away at work. The old woman, who was a witch, disliked the infant’s squalling, and one day took it to a place where nine roads met, cut it to pieces, and scattered its blood and body about. She carried some of the tidbits back to the cave, made it into a curry, and tricked the mother into eating it. When the mother learned this, she fled to the crossroads and cried to the Great Spirit to return her child and avenge its death. The Great Spirit told her he could not restore her baby, but he would make her mother of all nations of men. Then, from each road, people of different nations sprang up from the fragments of the murdered baby.

The Bataks

The Bataks are a number of ethnic groups predominantly found in North Sumatera, Indonesia.

Debata, the Creator, sent a flood to destroy every living thing when the Earth grew old and dirty. The last pair of humans took refuge on the highest mountain, and the flood had already reached their knees, when Debata repented his decision to destroy mankind. He tied a clod of earth to a thread and lowered it. The last pair stepped onto it and were saved. As the couple and their descendants multiplied, the clod increased in size, becoming the Earth we inhabit today.

The Dayaks

The Dayaks are the native people of Kalimantan in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. It is a loose term for over 200 riverine and hill-dwelling ethnic subgroups, located principally in the interior of Kalimantan. The flood hero is named Bunu as told in the Ngaju Dayak folklore.

In the Panaturan, the sacred folklore of the Ngaju Dayak inhabiting the southern Kalimantan region, the first human who descended to this world is named Maharaja (the “Great King”) Bunu. At first he lived in a divine world at Lewu Nindan Tarung with his triplets namely Maharaja Sangiang and Maharaja Sangen. The triplets are the children of Manyamei Tunggul Garing Janjahunan Laut and his wife Kameloh Putak Bulau Janjulen Karangan, the first humans that were created by Ranying Mahatala Langit, the supreme god.

Maharaja Bunu was descended to Pantai Danum Kalunen (this world) using a ship namely Palangka Bulau Lambayung Nyahu or simply Palangka, on Samatuan Hill, from where his descendants were spread out to fill the earth. According to Panaturan, the hill is located between Kahayan Rotot and Kahayan Katining in Central Kalimantan region. The Palangka was loaded with supplies necessaries for life, such as farming and hunting tools, weapon making tools, rice seeds, fruit and plants seedlings, as well as livestock breeds. Palangkaraya (the “Greater Palangka”) is now the name of the capital city of Central Kalimantan Province.

The Hawaiian

The Hawaiian inhabit Hawaii islands, the northernmost island group in Polynesia, in the central Pacific Ocean. The flood hero is named Nuu.

The people had turned to evil, so the gods punished their sin with a flood. The gods commanded Nuu to build an ark, and carry on it his wife, three sons, and males and females of all breathing things. Waters came and covered the earth. They subsided to leave the ark on a mountain overlooking a beautiful valley. The gods entered the ark and told Nuu to go forth with all the life it carried. In gratitude for his deliverance, Nuu offered a sacrifice of pig, coconuts and awa to the moon, which he thought was the god Kane. Kane descended on a rainbow to reproach Nuu for his mistake but left the rainbow as a perpetual sign of his forgiveness. After the flood, these people repopulated the islands.

The Sahtú

The Sahtú are a first people of the Athabaskan-speaking ethnolinguistic group living in the vicinity of Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada. The flood hero is named Kunyan.

Kunyan (“Wise Man”), foreseeing the possibility of a flood, built a great raft, joining the logs with ropes made from roots. He told other people, but they laughed at him and said they would climb trees in the event of a flood. Then came a great flood, with water gushing from all sides, rising higher than the trees and drowning all people but Kunyan and his family on his raft.

As he floated, he gathered pairs of all animals and birds he met with. The earth disappeared under the waters, and for a long time no one thought to look for it. Then the musk-rat dived into the water looking for the bottom, but he could not find it. He dived a second time and smelled the earth but did not reach it. Next beaver dived. He reappeared unconscious but holding a little mud. Kunyan placed the mud on the water and breathed on it, making it grow. He continued breathing on it, making it larger and larger.

He put a fox on the island, but it ran around the island in just a day. Six times the fox ran around the island, by the seventh time, the land was as large as it was before the flood, and the animals disembarked, followed by Kunyan with his wife (who was also his sister) and son. They re-peopled the land. But the flood waters were still too high, and to lower them, the bittern swallowed them all. Now there was too little water. Plover, pretending sympathy at the bittern’s swollen stomach, passed his hand over it, but suddenly scratched it. The waters flowed out into the rivers and lakes.

The Mesoamericans

A large number of Mesoamerican flood myths have been documented in written form or passed down through oral tradition. Some clearly have Christian influences, but others are believed by scholars to represent native flood myths of pre-Columbian origin.

In the Mesoamerican myths, a variety of reasons are given for the occurrence of the flood: either the world was simply very old and needed to be renewed; the humans had neglected their duty to adore the gods; or they were punished for a transgression (cannibalism, for example). The flood was but one of several destructions of the creation – usually the first of three or four cataclysmic events, although there is some evidence that the Aztecs considered the flood to be the fourth. Recorded among the Nahua (Aztec), peoples tell that there were no survivors of the flood and creation had to start from scratch, while other accounts relate that current humans are descended from a small number of survivors. In some accounts the survivors transgress against the gods by lighting a fire and consequently are turned into animals.

In the Mayan mythology as expressed in the Popol Vuh, the creator gods attempted to create creatures who would worship them three times before finally succeeding in creating a race of humans that would pay proper homage to their creators. The three previous creations were destroyed. The third race of humans carved from wood were destroyed by a flood, mauled by wild animals and smashed by their own tools and utensils.

The myths documented among the Tlapanec and the Huaxtecs has a man and his dog as the sole survivors of the deluge, but the man finds out that the dog takes the shape of a woman during the day when he is away. The man and the dogwoman then repopulate the Earth.

The myths found among the Aztec and the Totonac peoples relates how a human couple survive by hiding in a hollow vessel and start to cook a fish when the water subsides. When the smoke reaches the heavens the gods become angry and punish them by turning them into dogs or monkeys, depending on the version.

Names Association

It is highly probable that the biblical Noah and the Indian flood hero Manu  were the same individual. Manu, like Noah, is said to have built an ark in which eight people were saved. Manu and Noah were both the father of all post-flood mankind. The Noah Flood story in the Book of Genesis matches the Epic of Gilgamesh flood myth so closely that few doubt that it derives from a Mesopotamian account.

The word Manu is related to the Germanic Mannus, the founder of the West Germanic peoples, mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus in his book Germania. Mannu is also the name of the Lithuanian Noah. The same name may even be reflected in the Egyptian Menes (founder of the first dynasty of Egypt) and Minos (founder and first king of Crete). Minos was also said in Greek mythology to be the son of Zeus and ruler of the sea. Anu appears in Sumerian as the god of the firmament, and the rainbow was called “the great bow of Anu”, which seems a clear reference to Noah. In Egyptian mythology Nu was the god of waters who sent an inundation to destroy mankind. In southern Kalimantan folklore, Bunu is the first man who inhabited the region. In the Hawaiian myth, Anuu is the flood hero and the first man in the islands.

The Sanskrit form manush, Indonesian manusia, Swedish manniska, Gothic manna and English “man” are closely related, meaning “human being”. The aboriginals of Japan are called Ainu, a word which also means “man”.

In the Sioux language, minne means “water”. In the Assiniboine language, minnetoba means “water prairie”. However, this word may also have been derived from the Cree and Ojibiva-Saulteaux languages, which meant “the place of the Great Spirit”. Manitou (“the Great Spirit”) was the chief god among Algonquins. The name of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, comes from the Nahuatl managuac, which means “surrounded by ponds”. The ancient Javanese banu and the Dayak Barito banyu mean “water”. There is Ino, a sea-goddess in Greek mythology, and the Greek word naiade, meaning “river nymph”. Further, Baruna in the Indonesian archipelago which given the title of the Water God, is the ruler of the seas and oceans.

The original Sanskrit word for “ship” is nau. This root has developed even in English into such words as “navy”, “nautical”, “nausea”, and so on. In Norse mythology, Njord was the god of ships, living at Noatun, the harbor of ships. In this language, the syllable noa is related to the Icelandic nor, meaning “ship”.

Thus, Noah and the waters of the great Flood are not only recalled in the ancient traditions of all nations, but their names have also become incorporated in many and varied ways into the very languages of his descendants. The trails are tenuous and often almost obliterated, so that some of the inferred connections are speculative and possibly mistaken, but the correlations are too numerous to be only coincidental, thus adding yet one more evidence for the historicity of the Great Flood.

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