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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Part II:  Flood Traditions

Chapter 2

A Selection of Illustrations

     MY PURPOSE in this chapter is not to write a cursive discourse, but to take the above main points and give some indication regarding the way in which specific illustrations are to be found in traditions from different areas.

1. Moral cause.
     In one of the Indian traditions, the seventh king of the Hindus is Satyavrata, a man who reigned in Dravira, a "country washed by the waves of the sea". During his reign, an evil demon named Hayagriva furtively appropriated to himself the Holy Books (i.e., the Vedas) which the first Manu had received from Brahman; the consequence was that the whole human race sank into a fearful degeneracy with the exception of seven "saints" and the virtuous king himself.
     The story tells how the divine spirit Vishnu appeared to him in the shape of a fish and said, "In seven days all the creatures which have offended against me shall be destroyed by a deluge. Thou alone shalt be saved in a capacious vessel. . . ." After seven days, incessant torrents of rain descended and ocean waves climbed beyond their wonted shores.
     The idea essential to the moral cause in this story is that in the absence of the "Word of God" the human race sank into fearful degeneracy. Kalisch, who gives these details, says that the descendants of the first man of the new race, Manu, were collectively referred to as Manudsha (i.e., "born of Manu"), a form which he equates

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with Mensch. (35) I think it is worth noting that Manu is said to have had three sons, their names being given as Sharma, C'harma, and Jyapeti: rather clearly being corruptions of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (36) According to Urquhart, Manu was the Indian "Noah's" name, where Satyavrata was a title, the component Satya meaning "the righteous one."
     In the Greek story, Noah is called Deukalion.
(37) In this account, according to Apollodorus, Zeus was provoked into sending the deluge either because of the "enormous iniquity with which the earth was contaminated by the then existing brazen race of men" or due to the existence of "the fifty monstrous sons of Sykoron."
     I think it is safe to say that the nearer a people is geographically to the site of the landing of the ark, the more truly do they speak of the cause of the Flood as being man's moral corruption. As one gets further away into more distant parts of the world, the cause of the Flood becomes less and less a question of morals but more and more a question of bad behaviour -- i.e., social misconduct, like the fisherman whose hook caught in the hair of the god -- or simply arbitrary annoyance on the part of the gods with behaviour which the condemned were not even aware was improper. It is curious that in many of the accounts the cause is partly attributed to the misconduct of giants, which seems to be a recollection of Genesis 6:4.

2. One man warned.
     This does not need specific illustration. Either a god or an animal simply gives one man advanced notice. On this they all agree.

3. The survivors as progenitors of the present world population.
     There are no exceptions among the 150 or so traditions currently known. The Flood is always considered to have wiped out all mankind except those specially warned. Where only one man survived, as we have seen, special steps were taken to generate a new race
     In the Greek story, Deukalion and his wife Pyrrha re-peopled the earth, not by natural procreation, but by casting stones behind them as instructed by Zeus, these stones then becoming people. This feature of the story is generally taken to have originated as a consequence of the similarity between the Greek word for "stone" and

35. Kalisch, M. M., ref.26, p.203.
36. Titcomb, J. H., ref.4, p.251.
37. Wardour, Lord Arundell, ref.7, p.225.

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for "people." It is as though the original story said that peoples sprang up behind them, whereas in time it began to be reported that pebbles sprang up behind them. Someone later on tried to reconcile the two stories by saying that pebbles became people.
     Lenormant reports that the Tamanakis, a Carib tribe on the banks of the Orinoco, are credited with a Flood legend which says that a man and a woman alone escaped by climbing to the summit of Mount Tapanacu.
(38) There they are said to have thrown behind them, over their heads, some coconuts from which issued a new race of men. The parallelism is curious. It is not found in any other stories to my knowledge. Perhaps it is a case of borrowing.

4. The part played by animals
     As we have seen, a fish warned Manu in the Indian story and an eagle gave warning in the Ancasmarca story.
(39) In another Peruvian story, it is a llama that gives the warning. (40) The Cherokees say the warning was given by a dog. (41)
     Soviet seismologists have undertaken a program of research to improve present earthquake prediction methods by studying the natural warning systems that many animals appear to possess.
(42) It is interesting to note that fish in particular are believed to have a mechanism ten times more sensitive to seismic changes than the best man-made equipment. Dr. Protasov, head of the Hydrobionics Group at the Institute of Evolutionary Morphology and Animal Ecology, in collaboration with the Geophysical Institute, has already improved seismic receivers on the basis of fish studies. But other animals may prove equally informative. For example, in Tashkent there was a mass migration of ants carrying their eggs about an hour before the first tremors of the 1966 earthquake. The Soviet scientists are hoping to discover the actual mechanism by which animals are able to forecast natural disasters.
     After the Flood had destroyed mankind and "Noah" alone was left, he attempted to find out the state of things by determining the depth of water. Various animals were called into service. The Crees of Manitoba say

38. Lenormant, Francois, ref.27, p.478.
39. Frazer, J. G., ref.2, p.270.
40. Genesis in the Light of Modern Knowledge (author, publisher, date unknown), p.436.
41. Lenormant, Francois, ref.27, p.477.
42. News item in New Scientist, 27 March, 1969, p.672.  

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that several waterfowl were sent to dive to the bottom but they all drowned. Then a muskrat, having been dispatched on the same errand, succeeded in bringing up a mouthful of mud. (43) The Ojibway seem to have the same idea except that they specified a loon made the first attempt. "Noah," given the name Menaboshu, is reported to have said to the loon which was swimming on the water, "Brother loon, do me a favor, and dive down deep and see if you can find the earth, without which I cannot live." The loon was not successful. Later on, Menaboshu found a muskrat stiff with cold and almost dead. This he fished out of the water, warmed with his breath, and brought back to life. He then said, "Little brother rat, neither of us can live without the earth. Dive into the water and, if you can find it, bring me some earth. If it is only three grains of sand I shall be able to make something out of them." The obliging animal dived immediately and after a long time reappeared. But it was dead and floated on the water. Menaboshu took it up and discovered in one of its little paws a couple of grains of sand. He blew these into the water and each became at first a little island which afterward united and grew into land.
     It seems to me difficult to suppose that such details so graphically telling the great depth of the Flood could possibly have been borrowed from a missionary's account of the biblical story. I do not know of one native tradition which reflects the matter-of-fact way in which the depth of water is indicated in Scripture. These accounts remember the event but enjoy none of the factual sobriety which is to be found in Noah's logbook account.

5. The "ark" grounds locally.
     With the exception of the biblical account, this is virtually universal. The Andaman Islanders say that Noah landed near a place called Wotaemi;
(44) the people of Sumatra say the ark landed on Mount Marapi; (45) the Fijians on Mount Mbenga; (46) the Greeks either on Mount Parnassus or Mount Othrys; (47) the Tamanakis (a Carib tribe on the banks of the Orinoco) on Mount Tapanacu; (48) the Mexicans on Mount Colhuacan; (49) the

43. Nelson, Byron, ref.4, p.184.
44. Genesis in the Light of Modern Knowledge, ref.40, p.428.
45. Nelson, Byron, ref.4, p.190.
46. Urquhart, John, ref.13, p.270.
47. Wardour, Lord Arundell, ref.7, p.25.
48. Lenormant, Francois, ref.27, p.478.
49. Genesis in the Light of Modern Knowledge, ref.40, p.131.

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Yuin (Australian aborigines) on Mount Dromedary; (50) the northern Maidu (southwestern United States) on Keddie Peak in the Sacramento Valley; (51) and so it goes.

6. Eight souls were saved.
      There is considerable doubt whether the recurrence of the number eight has much significance, with the possible exception of the story of Manu and the seven "saints." According to both Paterson
(52) and Cook, (53) the Chinese so-called Flood story speaks of eight souls surviving. The Druids also mention eight survivors, though their "Flood" story bears the least resemblance to the biblical account of all the stories I have come across. (54) The Fijian story implies more than eight survivors, since it speaks of two canoes passing by just at the right time and picking up the only eight people still alive in the water. (55) But presumably someone was paddling each of the canoes, one of the pilots being the "god of carpenters." This might be a memorial of the fact that Noah must have been no mean carpenter himself. There is also a Peruvian account, supposed to have been related to the first Spanish settlers, in which seven persons are mentioned. (56) It seems to me a little unlikely that the exact number of survivors would be recalled so accurately. However, it is not impossible, and Urquhart mentions a story also from Malay in which there were eight survivors, a story which he thinks has not been borrowed.

7. Graphic detail.
      I think it inevitable that any good storyteller who has witnessed any great flood would be apt to embellish the account in the telling of it. Such details as those mentioned in chapter 1 are, after all, what one would really expect in a catastrophe of these proportions. They are not unique aspects of the event and therefore probably have no particular significance.

50. Goldenweiser, Alexander, Anthropology, Crofts, New York, 1945, p.227.
51. Coon, C. S., ref.11, p.281.
52. Paterson, H. Sinclair, ref.12, p.296; and E. McCrady, ref.12, p.68.
53. Cook, F. C, ref.6, p.75.
54. McCrady, E., ref.12, p.68.
55. Eells, M., "The Worship and Traditions of the Aborigines of the Islands of the Pacific Ocean" in Transactions of the Victorian Institute, vol. 32, 1898, p.68.
56. Titcomb, J. H., ref.4, p.236. 

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8. The question of borrowing.
      The really crucial point here is not whether native tradition borrowed (via missionaries) from the biblical account, but rather whether the biblical record is itself only a copy of one of the Cuneiform accounts. As noted in chapter 1, there are good reasons for giving the biblical account priority because of the very simplicity of it. It is a well-established fact that oft-repeated stories always grow in length, each recorder adding something of his own invention. The Cuneiform accounts are consistently much more elaborate than the terms of the biblical account. Brown, Driver, and Briggs note that the word for ark is    which signifies "a chest" rather than a vessel. Moreover, there is no mention of a launching, nor of "sea," nor of navigation, nor of a pilot. In the Cuneiform accounts everything seems to indicate a maritime people, a people dwelling on the shores of the Persian Gulf -- not a highland people living in Armenia.

9. The element of fantasy.
     As in all other traditions of antiquity, the element of fantasy is so common to Flood stories that were it not for the four basic elements which are almost universally to be found incorporated in them, the great majority of them would immediately be dismissed as local creations without any basis in historical fact. It is part of their charm that the utterly impossible is treated as though it were quite in accord with common experience. Animals speak, mountains rise with the water, the gods are as frightened as people, miracles abound, and the world is re-peopled by entirely supernatural methods.
     Against this world-wide background of confused record, the account in Genesis stands in marked contrast as a sane, sensible, and entirely credible event, the only exceptional aspect being the uncertainty as to the meaning of its hyperbole.

Some Collections of Flood Stories

     The following list of sources provides a means whereby the reader particularly interested in some area of the world can find what stories are known among the people in that locality.
     The most readily accessible, and probably the most complete listing, will be found in Sir James G. Frazer's Folklore in the Old Testament (Macmillan, London, 1919, vol.1, pp.146-330). The following tabulation shows the range of these accounts. 

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Pindar Hellenic                  
Megarius story                        
Athenian legend                        
Phyrgian legend                 


Transylvania Gypsies    
Vogul story                   
Savoy story                   


Satapatha Brahmana      
Sanskrit: Puranas          
Matsyu Purana             
Bhagavata Purana         
Agni Purana                  
Bilo (C. India)              
Kamars (C. India)         
Hos (Bengal)                
Mundas (Bengal           
Santah (Bengal)            
Lepcha and Tibetan       
Singphos, Lushais, Assam
Anals, Assam                 
Ahoms, Assam              
Cashmere (or Kashmir)
Karems (Burma)            
Singphos (Burma)
(or Chingpaws)  
Bahnars (Cochin China)
Bannavs (Cochin China)
Benna Jakim ( Malay)    
Kelantan (Malay)           
Lolos (S. China)             
Yao story
(Yellow River flooding)







Bataks (Sumatra)         
Natives of Nias (Sumatra)
Natives of Engano (Sumattra)
Dyaks of Borneo           
Ot-Danoms (Dutch Borneo)              
Alfoors of Ceram                                 Natives of Roth (Timor)                      
Natives of East India Island                
Natives of Flores Island                      
Philippine Islanders                            
Wild tribe of Formosa                        
Ami (Formosa), 3 stories                    
Bunun (Formosa)
Andaman Islanders                             
Kurnai, Victoria, Australia                   
Lake Tyers, Victoria, Australia          
Natives of Queensland                        
Natives of New Guinea                     
Natives of Namberano 
   (Dutch New Guinea)
Natives of Melanesia
Polynesia and Micronesia
Leeward Islands (Tahiti)
Hervey Islands (Mangaia)
Nanumangan (Hudson's Island)
South Pacific
Pelew Islanders

Indians of Brazil
Cape Frio Indians
Coroados (S. Brazil)
Caragas (S. Brazil)
Ipurina Tribe (Upper Amazon)
River Purus Indians
Ivaros (Ecuador)
Muratos (Ecuador)
Araucas (Chile)
Ackwois (British Guiana)
Arawaks (British Guiana)
Macusis (British Guiana)
Orinoco Indians
Chibohas (Bogota)
Cararis (Ecuador)
Peruvian Indians

219 220 



Chiriguanos of Bolivia
Terra del Fuegians
Panama and Nicaragua
Mexican (Codex Chimalpopoca)
Popol Nuh story
Huichol indians (Mexico)
Cora Indians (Mexico)
Tarahumares (Mexico)         
Caribs (Antilles)                  
Papagos (Arizona)                
Pimas (Arizona)                      
Zuni (New Mexieo)                
Luiseno (California)               
South River Indians (California)
Ashochimi Indians (California) Maidu Indians (California)
Natchez (Lower Mississippi)     
Mandan Indians                         
Delaware Indians                       
Maitaquais (Canada)                  
Ojibway (Ontario)                       
Blackfeet Indians                        
Ottawa Indians                            
Cree Indians                               
Dogrib and Slave Indians            
Hareskin Indians                     
Tinneh Indians (many stories)     
Tlingit (NW Coast)                   
Haida (NW Canada)                 
Tsimshian (NW Canada)    
Bella Coola (Canada)              
Kwakiutl (NW Canada)
Lilluet (NW Canada)                
Thompson (NW Canada)            
Kootenay (NW Canada)           
Indians of Washington State    
Cascade Mountain Indians     
Nez Perces and Cayuses Indians
Kathlamet Indians (Lower        Columbia River)             
Alaska Eskimos
Tchiglit Eskimos                        
Central Eskimos    

Congo area
Basuto tribes (borrowed)             
Masai (borrowed)                 






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Annotated Bibliography

      A list of some eighty-eight Flood stories will be found in Richard Andree, Die Flutsagen Ethnographisch Hetrachtet, published in 1891. Of these, the author considers that sixty-two or more show no evidence of borrowing. His list includes the Greek traditions according to Strabo, Pausanias, Apollodorus, Pindar, and Ovid. Stories are also included from Locris, Agros, Cicily, Delphi, Megara, Thessaly, Dodona, Cos, Rhodes, Crete, Samothrace, and Arcadia. Stories are also given from among the Goths and other Indo-Germanic peoples, from Lithuania, from Hungary, from the Ural Mountains, from Central Asia (Mongol tribes), from Turkestan, Afghanistan, Bokhara, East India, Kashmir, Tibet, Burma, Cambodia, the Malay Peninsula, Kamchatka, from North and South America in general, from Mexico, from Guatemala, Peru, Chile, Haiti, British Guiana, Brazil, Borneo, the Sandwich Islands, the Marquesas, the Society Islands, Fiji, New Guinea, the New Hebrides, and the Andaman Islands.
     In his well-known work, The Beginnings of History (Scribner, New York, 1891, translated from the French with an introduction by Francis Brown), Francois Lenormant has a long section dealing with Flood traditions, pages 328-488. He opens his survey by discussing the Chinese so-called Flood traditions which he believes are fundamentally a record of an entirely local event. He then considers in some detail the Babylonian accounts which were known at that time, giving his reasons for viewing the biblical account as borrowed. From page 420 on, he deals with the Indian, Persian, Greek, Phrygian, Celtic, Scandinavian, Egyptian, Mongol, Mexican, Guatemalan, Micuragan, Cherokee, Carib, Aleutian, Chippewan, Mandan, and Tahitian accounts. Lenormant's work is likely to be even more accessible than the two already mentioned, Frazer's and Andree's.
      In his book, In Defence of the Earlier Scriptures, H. Sinclair Paterson has a useful appendix (pp. 283-313)
in which will be found further details of Flood traditions from the following: the Welsh, Scandinavian, Dog-Rib, Caddoque and Cherokee Indians, the Chinese, Mexican, and Fijian traditions. The Assyrian account is treated more fully, and the Hindu story is given in full (pp. 288-96).
     John Urquhart has a useful treatment of the subject in his New Biblical Guide (vol.1, pp. 256-97), including references to many traditions mentioned in the previous lists, to which he has added the text in full of a tradition from the Lenni Lenape Indians (p. 264). He records also a tradition of the Malays, the Voguls, and the Persian

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account in some detail. Part of the text of Hesiod's account is given and also Ovid's. The Flood story which was discovered by George Smith is translated in full and compared in some detail with the biblical account (Marshall Bros., London, n.d., in 8 vols., long out of print). 
     Byron C. Nelson, The Deluge Story in Stone (Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1931), has a useful section on pages 170-90 dealing with the Assyrio-Babylonian legends, a Persian legend from the Zend Avesta, a Greek account from Syria (that of Lucian), the Apamaean Phrygian story, a Greek account from the Odes of Pindar, an Egyptian account referred to by Maspero, Ovid's account in full, the Lithuanian account, the Welsh, Lapp, and Vogul accounts, a possible Norwegian tradition known as "The Vala's Prophecy," a reference to a Chinese account that may be borrowed, the Indian legend from the Rig-Veda. He gives also a number of North American stories which include those usually referred to, but in addition an Eskimo story and a story from the Tlingit of the northwest coast of Canada. Several stories are given from Central and South America and from the Pacific Islands.
      J. H. Titcomb, in a paper entitled "Ethnic Testimonies to the Pentateuch" (Transactions of the Victoria Institute, London, vol. VI, 1872, pp. 234-71), has a very useful treatment of the subject including a Chinese account (p. 238) which I have not seen elsewhere, and some details of the Hindu account, a Greek account from Thessaly, an Icelandic account, and full details of the rather uncertain Druid account. 

     Alfred M. Rehwinkel has a most useful section on Flood traditions on pages 127-152 in his book, The Flood (Concordia, St. Louis, 1951). Here will be found sections quoted in full from the traditions of a number of American Indian tribes (Tamanacs, Athapascans, Pepago, Arapaho, Algonquins), some details from the Mexican Flood tradition, and a story from the Sudan. The Dyaks of Borneo and the Battaks of Sumatra are referred to, as well as some other Polynesian and Micronesian accounts. Page 144 has a reference by Manetho to an Egyptian tradition; the next page, Plato's account with reference to the Island of Atlantis. A substantial portion of Ovid's account of Creation and the Deluge is given on pages 147-51. This is followed in chapter 10 by the Babylonian Flood account which is translated on pages 155-61.

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      James Hastings, in the five-volume Dictionary of the Bible which bears his name, includes an article by F. H. Woods under the heading "Flood." It is unfortunate that this dictionary (the 1904 edition) tends to be marred by unquestioning acceptance of the Higher Criticism. Nevertheless, the article, though irritating to an evangelical, contains much interesting information, particularly those sections which deal with alternative judgments apart from drowning that accompanied the Flood in some accounts, with the numbers of people or types of creatures which alone survived in other accounts, the methods by which escape was effected, and how the world was re-peopled. Most of the stories to which reference is made appear to be derived from Andree's work. The article is useful but has to be read with a critical eye.
     The fullest summary in readily accessible form of all the Cuneiform Flood stories from Mesopotamia will be found in almost any edition of George Barton's Archaeology and the Bible, published by the American Sunday School Union (Philadelphia). Abbreviated details will be found, of course, in Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, such as International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopedia, and Imperial Bible Encyclopedia. Many commentaries on Genesis, especially those published in decades near the turn of the century, have useful though brief collections of Flood traditions.


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 Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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