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The Tupi Legend for the Origin of the Night
by Alexandra Pereira
2008-02-23 09:31:01
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This is the original legend by the Tupi tribes of the Amazon for the Creation of the Night.

The natives believe that in the beginning of everything there was a permanent daylight. The sun wouldn’t rest, while the night was sleeping serene beneath the waters, there were no animals, all the things used to talk, and Big Snake was the most powerful of all known beings.

The only daughter of Big Snake was married to a beautiful young man who had three loyal servants. One day he called his three servants and told them: “Go and have a walk, because my wife doesn’t want to sleep with me”. They went away, and then he called his wife to sleep with him, but she answered: “It is not night yet”. Patient, her husband explained that the night didn’t exist, only daylight existed; however she replied: “My father has the night”. “If you want to sleep with me, send someone through the river to get it” – ordered the heiress of Big Snake.

The husband attended to her request. He called the three servants and his wife sent them to get a tucumã seed [small coconut of the Amazon region] in the house of Big Snake, rowing through the river. When they got there, Big Snake delivered them the magical fruit, nevertheless before doing so he warned the servants of his son in law: “Here it is. Take it, but please don’t open it because, if you do so, all things will be lost”.

The three servants took the small fruit seed. Still, on their way back home, they could notice a strange little noise inside the tucumã, like this: Ten, ten, len… xi… It was the sound of crickets and small frogs which sing at night. When they were already distant, one of the servants suggested to his companions: “Let’s see what kind of thing produces this sound!” The steersman answered: “No, or we will be lost. Let’s go away, keep oaring!” They rowed and kept hearing that sound inside the tucumã seed, and ignoring what it was.

When they were very, very far from Big Snake’s house, the servants couldn’t stand their curiosity anymore. They assembled in the middle of the canoe, lighted some fire, melted the resin sealing the seed and broke the husk of the tucumã. Suddenly everything went dark. The steersman then said: “We are lost; and the lady at home, she already knows we opened the tucumã!” The young lady, home, was getting hold of her husband and saying: “Your servants released the night; let’s wait for the morning to come”. They released love as well. Man and woman fell asleep in a hammock looking at the moon, big, white and round, smiling for them in the sky.

Then, just as Big Snake had warned, all things which were spread through the woods were transformed into animals and birds. The things which were spread in the river were transformed into ducks and fishes. The rattan basket with hangers, called paneiro, became a jaguar; the fisherman and his canoe were transformed into a duck; the head and beak of the duck were born out of his head. When she saw the morning star, the daughter of Big Snake said to her husband: “The dawn is coming; I’m going to split day and night”. Then she rolled up a string and said: “You will be cujubim [a type of bird]." Thus she made cujubim, painted its head in white, with clay, and its feathers in red, with urucum [a kind of red fruit], and then she said: “You will sing forever, when dawn comes”. She rolled up another string, jerked ashes on top of it and said: “You will be inambu [another type of bird], to sing during the diverse periods of night, and at daybreak as well”.

Since then all birds sang in their respective periods, and at sunrise as well, to cheer the start of every new day.

When the three servants arrived, the young husband told them: “You were not loyal, you opened the tucumã seed, you released the night and all the things were lost, including yourselves, who were transformed into monkeys, so you will forever jump on twigs and branches”. They say the black mouth and the yellow stripe they still have on their arms is a remote sign of the resin which was sealing the tucumã seed, and flowed over them when they melted it.

The Maués explain it in another, nonetheless interesting, way…

Maué Legend for the Origin of the Night

After the world was created, there was no night for the Maué native to be able to sleep.

Uánham, knowing that Surucucu [kind of snake] was Night’s Owner, decided to go and get it. He took a bow and arrows in order to buy the night. Surucucu, however, rejected that, because she had no hands.

Uánham later came back to her with a belt for feathers. Surucucu told him to tie it to her tail because she could not rise (that’s why when the snake is angry she shakes her tail, producing a sound, ché, ché, ché to warn who’s going by…). But she didn’t deliver him the night.

Uánham later came back with poisons. Surucucu needed poisons then, so she stowed the First Night inside a basket and gave it to Uánham.

As soon as he left Surucucu’s house, his companions ran to meet him, eager to know the results of the negotiation. Surucucu had advised Uánham to open the basket at home only. But his companions insisted so much, they ended up opening it.

The First Night came out.

Uánham’s companions were so afraid that they begun to shout and run away. Uánham screamed: “Bring the moon!”, because he was left alone in dark.

Then Surucucu’s relatives, jararaca [another kind of snake], lacrau [kind of scorpion], centipedes, who had already divided the poison among themselves, went to try it on Uánham, except for Cutimbóia [kind of snake] who, being very fierce, didn’t get poison, so she wouldn't be able to bite all the Maués.

Uánham died due to Jararaca’s bite, but then he resuscitated when a friend (with whom he had a pact) bathed his dead body with magical leaves. He then decided to take more poison to Surucucu in exchange for the Big Night, because the First Night had been too short.

So she could form the Big Night, Surucucu mixed jenipapo [type of eatable yellow berry, of which the indigenous have also been extracting a black ink for hundreds of years, which they use in ceramics, drawings, tattoos, body paintings, etc.] with all the dirtiness she could find. That’s why at night we feel so many pains in our body, our mouth tastes bitter and it gets stinky.

And that was the night Uánham got for the Maués...

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Emanuel Paparella2008-02-23 12:41:43
Thank you for familiarizing us with these myths of the primitive mind poor in reasoning power but rich in imagination. The modern rationalists wishes to suppress them because they don't tell "the truth" (whatever that might be in our relativistic times) but they are misguided. Without myths and legends we'd all be the poorer.

Sand2008-02-23 17:27:38
Again idiotic bait for response. The so-called rationalist (if I am one) has no motivation whatsoever for suppression of a charming myth as long as it is regarded as a charming myth, as is much of Christianity. But when people lose control and become brutal over it my "rationality" indicates that it becomes unacceptable behavior.

Emanuel Paparella2008-02-24 05:30:34
The idiotic bait here is the desperate attempt to make myth simple-minded, something to tell children as one puts them to bed, charming but basically sinonymous with falsehood. We'll accept the charm but not the possibility that it has a truth content which will outlast the changing laws and revolutions of science. (See Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962).

Sand2008-02-24 05:51:21
I would like to sympathize with the concept that life can be lived with naive concepts as the basis for reality but as entertaining and charming as that might be nature is not so kind as to tolerate stupidity and what you don't know not only can hurt you, it's damned sure to do so. Naivety is a sure prescription for extinction and for a man with all the current knowledge at his disposal to cling to childish beliefs is not mere stupidity, it is malevolent idiocy.

Emanuel Paparella2008-02-24 14:03:20
Thomas Kuhn to the bonfire you go. So much for the nature's intolerance for stupidity.

Sand2008-02-24 19:05:14
It seems evident you think you have said something worthwhile. It seem unlikely.

Emanuel Paparella2008-02-24 19:38:33
Indeed as pointed out by thinkers such as Einstein, Kuhn, Kripke and Tarski, whenever the rationalist reduced reason to mere logic and rationality devoid of imagination, intuition and emotions a paradox obtains: he dehumanizes himself by making man an object of observation and reason itself becomes clever by half and ends up destroying itself as a snake eating its own tail.

Sand2008-02-24 20:34:39
The empty mention of a few authorities with no information and odd references to snakes says, as usual, nothing.

Emanuel Paparella2008-02-24 23:32:00
Einstein, Kuhn, Kripke and Tarski, to the bonfire of the FSM's church you go, you have nothing to teach us. Irony intented, for those too simple-minded.

Sand2008-02-25 06:40:02
Merely pronouncing the name of someone you respect without indicating what that name implies is not an argument. It is merely a futile attempt at magical invocation, a typical ploy of the superstitious mind awed by authority with no comprehension of the nature of an exchange of information.

Emanuel Paparella2008-02-25 11:24:36
A typical ploy of the biased mind is to attack egregiously. In point of fact, most of the people I mention, those I concur and those I don't have have explored and written about in decades of contribution I have submitted. But somehow that has escaped you. See today's lead article.

Sand2008-02-25 13:04:27
What these people did or did not think and how their thoughts might or might not apply to the discussion is still not exposed or explained in Paparella's post .
The mere mention of their names is totally insufficient.

Emanuel Paparella2008-02-25 19:50:45
Again, see today's lead article. Indeed, there is an obsessive hidden agenda and an ax to grind in practically all your comments and contributions and only the blind or those of a similar mind-set miss them.

Sand2008-02-25 20:58:42
I read the article which purported to describe the nature of truth and which I found to be, unfortunate as are most of your articles, since it was not only not revealing about the nature of truth but confused about the nature of mathematics which is concerned with internal consistency and not with truth.

Your paranoia is becoming very apparent.

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