The Great Flood, Mapuche style

Many cultures have a myth of a great flood to purge the world of wickedness, rejuvenate the lands and give man a fresh start. Here is a retelling in English of a Mapuche variant, collected from a reservation in Neuquén.

According to the earth-people, some sixty thousand years ago there lived two enormous serpents. One of these was called Treng-Treng and the other Kai-Kai. Treng-Treng was truly huge, big as a mountain, but he was good and he loved people. Kai-Kai was equally big but he was not very fond of people at all.

One day, for no other reason than plain wickedness, Kai-Kai took it into his head to destroy everything and everybody. He began to shake his enormous body and as he did so he caused all the waters of the seas, rivers and lakes to grow, and the world started to flood.

But Treng-Treng loved the earth-people and quickly came to their help, engaging with Kai-Kai in fierce combat. As the water level grew higher and higher, Treng-Treng arched his back more and more, whistling loudly as he did so. Hearing his whistle, the people quickly ran towards him and climbed on to his back to escape the rising waters.

The two serpents battled for days on end, one lashing the waters with his tail, causing the water to grow higher and higher, while the other thrust his back further and further out of the water so the people could escape drowning.

Not all the earth-people survived. The more timid ones were petrified through shock, and their remains can be seen today in the human shaped rocks that still lie around the earth-people’s lands. Others were so angry that the water wouldn’t stop rising that their fury turned them into savage beasts, wild cats and boar. Yet others were too slow to climb out of the reach of the rising tide and were turned into fish and reptiles.

So high did Treng-Treng raise his back to save the earth-people from the water that he almost touched the sun. The few earth-people who were perched right on the crest of his back had their hair burned off and that’s why there are bald people today.

Finally Kai-Kai tired of writhing and fighting and slunk away. The waters began to go down and slowly Treng-Treng lowered his arched back. The few earth-people who had survived were able to return to their land.

They saw straight away that it was now a much better and cleaner place. The grass was green and fresh, the trees were in flower and the air was pure. In short, the earth had been rejuvenated. There were no more timid and fearful people; these had all been turned into rocks. There were no more quick tempered people; these had been turned into wild animals. Everything was better than before.

In time the surviving earth-people had children and grandchildren, and these in turn had more children, and soon the land was once again full of people. In fact all the earth-people today come from the few survivors who were saved by Treng-Treng. And there is a story that every so many thousand years, when the earth is old and tired, Kai-Kai will be back to cause trouble. But Treng-Treng will always be around to help (even though he is at present fast asleep and often mistaken for a mountain covered with trees and shrubs) and will once again save all the patient and stronghearted.

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