The sun still rises in the same sky Write about what you think this phrase means
NATIVE AMERICAN LITERATURE Oral Literature: Myths and legends
Functions of the Myths The purpose was to show: • Beliefs about the nature of physical world • Beliefs about social order and appropriate behavior • Beliefs about human nature and the problem of good and evil • Preservation and communication spiritual beliefs
Characteristics of N.A. Myths • Major role in the stories is often played by animals • Ordinary people, animals and places were divinities • Often include spiritual outlook based on the Four Directions • The early myths led into native legends • All were originally oral stories passed down for many generations
Features of Native Literature • Stories teach lessons, often spiritual, and are part of their histories • They stories reflect an inclusive view of the natural world • They generally use powerful metaphors • Use archetypes– a pattern of story of a type of character that is used often in different stories over the ages
Features (cont.) • The stories and legends often have ritual beginnings and endings • Progress and change are shown as cyclical, not linear as many western thinking normally follows • Many of the stories have a “trickster” character (often a raven or spider) • Often uses repetition of elements
Common themes • Movement from a sky world to a water world • Fortunate fall –creation story • Earth-diver myth usually involving an earth made from mud or a flood after the universe is created • Theft of fire • Emergence myth– movement of beings from under the surface to the surface of the earth
Native American Poems • More properly called "songs" • Created for tribal occasions such as initiation rites, healings ceremonies, and planting or hunting rituals • used to pass on tribal history, standards of ethical conduct, and religious beliefs • Economy of language was also common • Commonly-used parallelisms and repetitions of similar or contrasting phrases often create the effect of "rhyming thoughts
N.A. Poems (cont.) The songs may be grouped as • 1) songs of healing • 2) songs of growth or germination • 3) songs of vision and dream • 4) songs of death.
A Papago song about an eagle The eagle sings: The sun's rays Lie along my wings and stretch beyond their tips. A grey little whirlwind Is trying to catch me. Across my path It keeps whirling.
The poem has excellent images and suggests the eagle's lofty and majestic presence, but is that all the poem means? • According to Dr. Ruth Underhill, the translator, a Papago would explain the poem in the following manner: "[He would] visualize the eagle with all his peculiarities. Thus his power is asserted, and being what he is, the superior of man, he will cleanse man from impurities, free him from disease, and ward off death"
In-Class Writing Assignment Write a creation style myth about how something in nature was created. You can select any topic you wish. Examples: • why the sun turns colors as it sets • how some places turned cold and snowy and others not