Category: ovid

The Flood Myth

The next part of my book that I have to write is Deucalion and Pyrrha, the end of the flood.

All mythologies have a flood myth in their beginning. Noah, obviously. Deucalion and Pyrrha for the Greeks and Romans. Utnapishtim for the Sumers, from the Epic of Gilgamesh. Nata for the Aztecs. Manu for the Hindus. Cessair in Irish myth. Korean. Aboriginal American. Egyptian. Chinese.

“Many cultures have myths relating to one or more inundations, referred to as the Flood or Deluge, sent to eliminate the human race, usually with an advanced warning to enable a few to survive to repopulate the world.” - J. A. Coleman, The Dictionary of Mythology.

The flood is always to punish the “sins” of man. Man, once made in the image of the Gods - a creature above all other creatures on Earth, has transgressed, has fallen to chaos and discord. And so, water - the great equalizer - falls from the sky to wipe away Man and press the reset button on mankind. Always, there is a man chosen to survive. Deucalion.

So what does this man - the chosen man (or in some cases the chosen woman) feel? Think? Want? Remember? Do?

The earth is of utmost importance in Ovid’s version of the myth. Imagine what Deucalion feels the moment his feet touch dry land. Imagine the first taste of food. Deucalion is a sailor returning from months at sea. But what is he returning to? Nothing. The end. No, the beginning. A new beginning. Just him and Pyrrha. His wife, whose name means fire. I imagine that legs itch to run against the simple solidity of rock and dirt. I imagine that he bends to pick up a handful of dry sand and watch it slip through his fingers. These fingers, there are only twenty of them left in total. The toes that bury in the earth - there are only twenty of those as well. And the eyes that survey what’s left of the world - the swept clean, silt lined, downtrodden world - there are only those eyes and two others. What a mighty task that awaits them. One man, one woman. To repopulate the world and rebuild the cities. And all the time, to tell the stories that will prevent this from happening again. His story. The story of his father, Prometheus, who gave fire to Man. The story of Zeus and the Titans and the beginning of the world. The story of the downfall of the ages of man. What stories he must have in his head to tell his children and their children. To tell the race of men that spring from the rocks they cast behind them, the bones of the earth. The children of the Earth. Mankind are born from Gaia, from Mother Earth.

My musings on the flood myth, and on Deucalion, as I prepare to write about his first steps.