A Comparison of Legends About the Creation of Fire from Around the World
There are numerous legends about fire all around the globe, from the Mediterranean to South America, Africa, the Middle East, and North America. There is a general feel to each of these legends that the coming of fire to mankind is the moment when the real evolution of man begins. That is, man moves from simply being a thinking animal to being a creature with dominion over all others on earth. No matter where these legends originate, there are several key similarities to all of them that indicate a real knowingness of the part of the tale-tellers that one success or triumph does not necessarily make everything all better.
Fire is always being stolen for the sake of mankind. In the Greek story, it is Prometheus who steals fire. In the Native American legends from North America, it is Raven or Coyote who steals fire. In the legend from Mexico, it is Possum. Wherever a story of fire is told, it is always told with someone stealing it for mankind and bringing it down, and in almost all cases, out of pity for man who is suffering from the cold. A particular legend from the North American Native Americans has Coyote so moved by the lamentations of women who are singing over the deaths during the winter of the old and young members of the tribe that he cries and determines to help mankind, who is without a way to keep his tents warm during winter.
The Theft Leads to Creation, Both Good and Bad
The theft of fire is never an isolated incident. This is generally because those who have been guarding fire do so very jealously and never let the theft go without chase or punishment. For most, the punishment is part of a creation myth. In the tales from South America and North America, the animals that help in the theft of fire are touched by fire and so altered in some way. It might be permanent marks down their backs (chipmunks), hairless tails (possums), curled tails (squirrels), or some other identifying mark, but it is there now and is a hallmark of this creature that helped bring fire to mankind. Of course, it’s not all butterflies and rainbows. On the other end of the spectrum is the legend of Prometheus. After Prometheus gives mankind fire, Zeus creates Pandora who comes to earth with her mysterious box. Her curiosity eventually gets the better of her and the box is opened, releasing