Greek MythsFebruary 18, 1997Dear Rebecca,I am writing to you today to tell you about a few wonderful myths that Ihave read. I feel that they would interest you as much as they did me. Iwill give you a brief summary on each so that they will be a little morefamiliar to you if you decide to read them at some time in the future. The first story I read was the tale of Hermes. Born on Mount Cylleneto his mother Maia, Hermes was an astonishing child.
His growth was equallyastonishing for he grew at a rapid rate. Deciding he wanted an adventure,Hermes set out one day and stole a herd of cows from Apollo, the sun god. When Apollo discovered the missing herd, he set out to find them but tono avail. Hearing of a reward offered by Apollo for the recovery of the herd,Silenus and his satyrs set out as well.
Traveling far and wide their journeysbrought them to a small cave, which echoed with the beautiful muffled sounds ofa melody to which they were drawn. When finding out the music was produced byan instrument made of cow gut and tortoise shell, it was then understood thatyoung Hermes had taken the herd from Apollo. Formal charges were brought to Mt. Olympus. Apollo, while going to get his remaining cows discovered Hermes’musical invention. Intrigued by this astonishing invention he offered hiswhole flock for the musical instrument.
Hermes agreed, after which he inventeda shepherd’s pipe, which also awed Apollo. He offered Hermes his golden staffin exchange for the pipe but to no avail. In addition to the golden staffHermes wanted the knowledge of augury. He felt it was a useful art. Hermesreturned to Mt.
Olympus to tell his father, Zeus, of all goings on. Zeus wasvery amused. Hermes suggested to Zeus that he be made into a herald. Zeuscomplied with this suggestion and showered Hermes with gifts. Sounds like an interesting tale, doesn’t it.
Well it is much better ifyou read it yourself. The next tale I read was of Krishna. This one storywas the most confusing of the four I read. To fully understand it you mustread it and interpret it for yourself.
I will try to do the best I can. Rama and Krsna were two children who loved to play in the village. First they crawled and then they walked causing the village women to laugh andgiving them great pleasure. Then Krsna started to untie the cows atinappropriate times and steal milk and curds. Krsna’s mother was unable toscold him after looking at the child’s’ frightened face.
She could only smile. One day a report came to her that Krsna had eaten dirt. She could not take itanymore and grabbed his hand and began to scold him. Krsna swore he had noteaten dirt and to prove this opened his mouth for his mother to peer inside. While looking into her child’s’ mouth she saw everything that was in the world. She saw all forms of life and time, she saw actions and hopes, her own villageand herself.
In the winter a group of girls celebrating vows to the goddessKatayayani went to the river, took off their clothes and chanted to Krsna. Krsna appeared and told them to take their clothes and go back to the village. When hearing the divine word from him the girls felt they had obtained what theywanted and returned to the village under Krshnas’ command. To fully understandthis story it is necessary to read it yourself and indulge in the vocabulary andtrickster ways, which Krshna had shown.
The next tale that I would like to sharewith you is the tale of Old Man Coyote. I hope this story intrigues you as itdid me. This story told of a poor old coyote that wished he could renew hisyouth and vibrancy. One day he spotted a strong proud buffalo. He knew thatthis animal could help him so he went to ask the buffalo for his assistance. The buffalo said that he could make the old man coyote young and strong butcould not restore his powers.
Thankfully the coyote agreed to the buffalo’sconditions and the process began. Once the coyote was transformed into ayouthful buffalo the old man coyote began his youthful days of fun. One day,four years later another old coyote limped toward the buffalo. This time thebuffalo was the transformed coyote. The old coyote asked for the buffalo tohelp him in his elderly days and transform him into a young buffalo as well.
Forgetting that he had no powers the old transformed coyote offered his servicesand said that he knew how to help him. He led the old coyote to the same hillthat he used four years ago. Following all the steps in which he had beentransformed the buffalo tried to transform the old coyote. The result of thiswas that the buffalo had become his old coyote self once more.
This storyproved that if you start something it is always good to finish or the product isnot as good as the real thing. This story was much simpler to read then thestory of Krsna. The last tale I read concerned Legba, of the Fon tribe. Thistale had four different sections, the first two describe why God lives in heavenand not on Earth. The second two describe the oracle’s connection with God.
The first section involves Legba. The tale explains how Legba and God livedtogether on Earth. God would blame all the mishaps on Legba. Yet wheneversomething good happened God would take the credit. One day Legba slipped intoGods sandals and stole the five yams which were growing in Gods garden. Sincethe rain had left the ground wet, the sandals left clear footprints in theground so the next morning they were still there.
God brought everyone over tosee who fit the footprints. Legba offered the idea that maybe God had taken theyams in his sleep, so God put his foot in the print and saw that it was aperfect fit. All the people could not believe God could do this and even thoughGod blamed his son for this act, he still moved off of the Earth leaving Legbato report the doing of the people on the Earth. The second tale tells how Legba asked an old woman to throw her dirtylaundry water in to the air, as God got tired of getting hit in the face withdirty water he left Legba to see over the Earth.
The other two parts of this tale explain how God watched over the Earth. One idea that has been reported is that Legba is associated with Fa. Fa livedon top of a palm tree and every day Legba would come and open his eyes. SinceFa did not like to convey his wishes out loud he would throw one palm nut downif he wanted two eyes open and two palm nuts if he wanted one eye open. Thiswas done so that Fa could look over the world.
Now that I have explained about these stories I have read, I hope yousee the pattern that they are all connected by. They are all tales having to dowith tricksters. Each story conveys a different characteristic that a tricksterdisplays. In the story of Hermes, the characteristic displayed is cunning. Using his talents, Hermes avoided trouble and received not only respect andpromotion but also gifts from the people that he had stolen from.
In the tale of Krsna, the mother allowed the boy to get away with hisevil deeds because of his divine powers. A perfect example of this divinityoccurred when he opened his mouth and the mother could see the whole universe. This example is the divinity inherent in the trickster. In the tale of the old man coyote the characteristic displayed isunmerited kindness. This is demonstrated by the transformed coyote giving uphis youth to help another. Even though he did this unwittingly he did not haveto try to help the second coyote.
The last tale showed the trickster framing another so that he couldescape Gods’ constant attention, and also so that he would gain the respect thathe felt he deserved. This demonstrates the characteristic of guile. In allthese stories the trickster does show a good heart but also a cunning side whichis primarily what makes him what he is and what he is infamous for. I hope my letter has brought a little insight to the subject oftricksters.
Also, I hope my summaries have made you interested in reading thestories in whole at your leisure.Yours truly,