GUYANA AMERINDIAN LEGENDS

LEGENDS OF GUYANA'S AMERINDIANS


LEGENDS OF THE CARIBS


THE FIRST PEOPLE

In the beginning the Carib people lived in the bright land of the moon. And as they looked down upon the dark earth, they determined to descend and clean it amd make it like unto their moon country. Coming down on the clouds, they toiled mightily, but when they thought to return, behold, the clouds which had borne them, had disappeared from their sight. Vainly they called upon Tamosi Kabo-tano, the Ancient One on high, for there was no answer to their prayers.

As they wandered they became faint with hunger, and taking clay they made it into cakes, and baked them upon a fire of coals; but when this was done they found that clay cakes were not good for food. However, the Ancient one had not forsaken them, for they saw the birds eating of the fruits of the trees, and on eating these, they found them pleasant to the taste and good for food.

And after many days their souls loathed these wild fruits, and they said one to another, "Would that we had not left our homes in the land of the moon." The Ancient One heard their complaint, and created a great tree, such as had not been seen before, nor had come after it unto this day. Each branch bore a different fruit, while on the ground beneath the shadow thereof, grew plantains, bananas, maize, cassava, yam, potato, and all fruits of the earth which men now cultivate.

And it came to pass that Maipuri the tapir passed that way, and seeing the strange fruits, he tasted and beheld that they were very good. And the tapir, who had hitherto been a lean beast, became sleek and fat. Men saw the change, but Maipuri would not tell whence it came. So they sent the woodpecker to spy out his ways, but the foolish woodpecker, as was his wont, still tapped each old tree. And the tapir hearing this, departed another way.

Then men sent the rat who tracked the tapir's steps to the place, and partook of the fruits. Returning, he denied that he knew anything of the tapir's secret, but not many days afterwards he returned from his wanderings with food sticking to his lips, and men knew that he had lied to them. Forthwith they made him show his feeding place. Coming to the place they said, "praise be Tamosi Kabo-tana, who gives us such precious food." Then a voice was heard saying "Cut it down." In wonderment they took their stone axes to hew down the tree.

Ten months they labored, and at the end of the tenth month the great tree crashed to the ground. Then each man took cuttings from the branches, trunk and roots. Setting these in their fields, they sprang up and bore fruit, and so every man had food close to his own dwelling.

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THE ROCK

In those days life was very pleasant. And it came to pass that one passed by the great tree, and he looked, and behold beneath the roots there was a cave, and entering into the cave, he saw a pool wherein the water-Mama was bathing. Even as he looked, the waters began to swell. And he ran to tell his fellows, who barely had time to make their way to a neighboring hill, together with their wives and children, when the waters were upon their dwellings. From their refuge they could see the mouth of the cave. When it seemed that the waters would surely overwhelm them, they saw a large rock appear in the entrance of the cave and the waters ceased to flow.

When the waters decreased they drew near to the rock, which spoke unto them and said, "though I have saved you from this flood, a day will come when yourselves, your sons and your daughters, will surely perish by water unless you hearken unto my voice . Behold, in yonder wood are spirits who will tempt you day by day. If you would save your lives, heed them not, only give heed unto my voice, and behold, there shall not be an old man among you, for a man shall cast the years from him. As a serpent casts the clay from off his skin, and glides clear of the mire through which he passes."

And it came to pass that men forgot the voice of the rock which saved them, and gave heed to the voices of the wood-spirits. And the siprits sent to them Yarrekaru the monkey. Then Yarrekaru sported before them, so that they gave little heed when he made his way towards the rock. But Yarrekaru began to dig around the rock, and as night fell they heard the voice of the rock crying, "Waters cover me," but they gave no heed to the voice, and in their hammocks they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight the noise of the rushing waters was heard near them, and the voice of the rock was once more heard saying, "Waters cover me, soon they will cover you. I can no more succur you, for you have been unfaithful to my words."

Full of terror, they climed trees, but it was of no avail, the waters increased greatly and covered them. But four caribs climed to the top of the komoo palm, and these the flood did not reach.

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THE STORY OF AMALIVACA

And while the waters were returning from off the earth, Amalivaca came from a distant land in his large canoe. And from time to time he stopped to carve figures and mystical signs upon the rocks, which are still to be seen, though no man can interpret them.

Now when dry land was to be seen, it was found to be very rough, so Amalivaca made the sides of many hills smooth, and also the land st the foot thereof. And Amalivaca said, "men must have communication one with another, let each man make a clearing by the bank of the rivers, and the rivers shall bear you one to another." And Amalivaca taught them to make canoes. But certain men said to Amalivaca, "It is too hard a thing to paddle against the current, make the current to flow upwards on one side of the river."

Now Amalivaca toiled mightly, but for all of his skill he could not do this thing. Then Amalivaca thought about the sea, and he caused the tide to flow up the river many miles, as it does to this day. But the rivers said, "Should the tide go higher, all will be covered." So Amalivaca ceased from his labours, and departed from the land of the Caribs.

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