Oral Literature. Mayan myth. On nights of the full moon

Legends narrate that there was a time when the gods were so angry with men that they decided to exterminate them. “We will make so much rainfall on the earth that the world and all its inhabitants will drown – they said angrily -. We will save only the animals, revealing only to them the secret to saving themselves.”

Among the beasts who attended the gods’ speech was the cunning rabbit named Albar. Impressed by what he had just heard, Albar took great leaps towards the mountain, hoping to save himself from the waters.

Towards sunset, he came to a large meadow where the grass had just been cut. It was so tasty that he ate it until he almost burst. Then he fell asleep happily, his belly full.

In the morning, when the sun’s rays were already high, he woke up. Then he heard a strange rustling sound and to his amazement saw a man armed with a scythe cutting the grass with mighty blows. Fearful of being discovered, the rabbit silently curled up in his burrow. Only in the evening, when the man had gone away, did Albar come out into the open and pounce, ravenous, on the freshly cut grass.

The next day, when the farmer reached the meadow, he was astonished to see that the grass he had cut the day before had grown tall and thick again. For three days, the same scene repeated itself: the farmer cut the grass during the day and in the evening the rabbit had his fill, and the next morning a carpet of grass covered the ground. A great mystery indeed, so much so that the farmer decided to get to the bottom of it and discover the truth.

Having finished his work, the man pretended to go home. Instead, he hid in the bushes, and what was his wonder when he saw a rabbit emerge from its burrow and hop merrily across the meadow. With each leap of the animal, under its paws, the trampled grass grew tall and green again, until it covered the whole field.

All engrossed in his dinner, Albar did not notice the farmer approaching. He grabbed the rabbit by the ears and threateningly exclaimed: “You ugly animal, I finally caught you! Now I’m going to kill you and so I’ll be done working for nothing”.

The rabbit, petrified with fear, whispered “please don’t hurt me. I promise if you let me go free. I will tell you a very important secret for you and your family”. The peasant did not seem to trust him: ” what secret are you talking about?” asked the farmer: “You must know,” replied the rabbit, “that the gods have decided to eliminate all human beings on earth by making so much water fall on it that it will submerge it all.”

“I am not the one to tell you what to do,” continued Albar, “but I would advise you to build a strong wooden box and put your family, some pets and plenty of food in it. When the waters flood the land, you will float and thus escape the punishment of the gods.”

The farmer set the beast free and ran home to warn his wife. Both husband and wife decided it would be wise to heed the rabbit’s advice: perhaps the gods had really decided to exterminate all human beings on earth.

One night, the floodgates of heaven suddenly opened, and a pouring rain began to fall on the land. The farmer hurriedly gathered his family and the animals he had managed to summon; they all found shelter in the sturdy caisson he had just finished building.  For many days the water continued to fall from the sky until it submerged every place inhabited by man.

When the gods were certain that no one could have survived the deluge, they ordered the rains and winds to cease their fury.

Clinging to the rocks or hidden in the mountains, the animals waited for the storm to subside to return to their normal lives. The gods, however, did not miss the wooden caisson floating on the now calm waters. Inside, mingled with the animals could be seen men, women and children. How was it possible that a remnant of humanity had escaped the flood?

The god Gucumatz sent the little Hummingbird to earth to inquire about what had happened. When he returned to heaven, he reported that it was the rabbit who had informed the farmer of the punishment of the flood.

It was now dusk. After the waters had receded, Albar was eating in his usual meadow. Suddenly a ball of light descended upon him and enveloped him. As soon as the rabbit found himself imprisoned in a web of light rays, the ball began to whirl and broke away from the ground and ascended towards the sky. Finally, it stopped and hung up there, white, motionless, luminous. Albar had been transformed into the moon. The gods sentenced: ‘You wanted to save man. Now, your destiny will be to illuminate his nights’. (A legend from the Maya people, Yucatan, Mexico) – (Ancient Mayan stone reliefs at Chichen Itza ruins in Yucatan, Mexico. 123rf)

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