R. C. Smith ó Old Stories in German

Creation

Translation of the German story SchŲpfung

In the one direction stretches the jungle: its ground is swamp, its denizens are the deadly creatures, there are no open glades in it, and no one has ever been able to walk to its end, and come back. In the other direction stretches the mountain: it is made of bare craggy rock, no life can exist on it, it has no valleys, and no one has ever been able to climb to its summit. In the third direction, finally, opposite the mountain and the jungle, lies the sea: from there come the storms, its waves are as high as trees, no one has ever seen another shore, but in the sea live the fish. There, where the jungle, the rocks and the sea meet, is the place of the humans, and aníHa is their god. aníHa, who has created everything, has created the humans, as the crown of his creation.

aníHa has created the jungle, whose swamp engulfs those who step on the spot that had safely supported them the day before, the jungle, whose creatures crawl out of the ground, wriggle down from the trees, dart out of the thicket, rip flesh out of the living body and vanish, and whose poisons paralyse a human, until other creatures come to satisfy their hunger, the jungle whose smothering vines and whose thorn bushes can grow faster than a human can cut through them with his knife, which block the path while the ground underneath the humanís feet turns into swamp, and the deadly creatures encircle their human prey.

aníHa has created the mountain, whose crags often rise up vertically, or even project, several times the height of a tree, the mountain, whose mighty rocks are crisscrossed with cracks so that the stone that promises to offer a secure hold tumbles down, taking the climber with it, the mountain, from which the storms keep dislodging avalanches of stones that not only smash the climber, but often crash down upon the place of the humans, shatter their houses, break their limbs; the mountain, whose rocks can shift, and suddenly open crevices into which the man plunges who had just walked on solid ground, or crush the one who had just been squeezing through a narrow rift, the mountain, on which there exist no plants, no animals and no water, because it is hostile to any form of life.

aníHa has created the sea, whose storms drive any boat towards the shore where it is dashed to pieces against the rocks or swallowed up by the jungle if it does not exactly find the place of the humans, the sea, whose waves will capsize any boat if the rowersí strength or attention ever lapses for even a moment, the sea, whose predators quickly tear apart anyone whom a wave has washed overboard, the sea, over which sudden thunderstorms arise in which boats are smashed by lightning or are lifted out of the water and shattered by whirlwinds, the sea, whose waters during great floods submerge the place of the humans, driving them into the jungle or up the mountain, where death is waiting for them.

aníHa has created the humans. He has created them so that they can penetrate into the jungle, that they can climb the mountain, that they can sail the sea, but can never conquer jungle, mountain or sea, and aníHa has created the humans so that they feel pain when their bodies are destroyed in their attempts, and so that they feel fear of that pain and of that destruction. aníHa has given the humans what they need to survive, and he has given it to them far out in the sea, deep within the jungle, and high up on the mountain.

From the sea the humans gain the fish, which they can catch if they row out from dawn to noon with all their strength, four or six men in a small boat, then throw out their nets, rowing on, not to capsize or be carried off by the current, and then return before dark, not to be smashed against the cliffs in the night; and if the storm that blows towards the coast after noon fails to arrive they will not reach the place of the humans in time, and no boat has ever survived a night out on the sea.

From the jungle the humans gain the wood with which they build their boats, and the trees whose wood can be used grow deep inside the forest. From the jungle they gain the lianas, which they braid into the ropes from which their nets are woven, with which they catch the fish, and these lianas only grow in the wettest areas, where the swamp is most dangerous. From the jungle they also gain the fruits and the roots which they can eat, and of which some contain the deadly poison, without their appearance showing any difference to that of the others. When three men enter the jungle one has to watch the ground, and two have to fight off the deadly creatures, then they can walk for a distance, until a thicket of thorns blocks their way; only the fourth can carry a load, and the more they are, the more treacherous gets the ground, and the more creatures they attract, and whoever sinks into the swamp, the worms that live in the ground devour his flesh, before his companions can pull him out again.

From the mountain the humans gain the ore, from which they gain the hard and the soft metal, and from the hard metal they make the knives and axes which alone makes it possible for them to penetrate the jungle, break through the thicket, fend off the creatures, and fell the timber trees; from that metal they also make nails, hammers, pliers, drills, saws, and other tools they need to build their boats. The stones that contain the ore lie scattered among all the other stones, and a man can climb for several days before he reaches a spot where he finds ore, and then he can take only one chunk with him, and before he can return, a rockslide has buried the ore, or he himself gets hit by rocks that smash his bones, so that he has to lie where he was hit, until he dies of thirst.

aníHa has created everything that can cause pain, and he has created life, so that there is something to suffer that pain, and the humans are the crown of his creation, because they among all his creatures can suffer the most pain. aníHa lets the rocks fall upon the men who search for the ore, he lets the swamps devour the men who fetch the wood, he lets the sea drown the men who row out for the fish, when the pain that he sees does not suffice him. But when there are no ore, no wood and no fish, then the humans will starve to death, and there will be no pain anymore for aníHa; therefore aníHa always has to see enough pain, so that he will spare the men on the mountain, in the jungle, and out at sea, and so between aníHa and the humans there is the sacred pact. The week has seven days, and each day aníHa has named after that from which the chosen one shall suffer pain.

The first day is the day of the thorns: she will be thrown upon a bed of thorns, will be beaten with thorn rods, her body will be wrapped in thorns until her skin can no longer be seen. The second day is the day of the ropes: she will be stretched by her bound wrists and ankles until her joints are torn, coils will be tightened around her breasts until they threaten to burst, and finally she is left lying, tied up with dislocated limbs. The third day is the day of the nails: nails are driven through her body so that they penetrate her bones, those of her limbs, her shoulders, her hips, until they break apart. The fourth day is the day of the stones: she lies on her back on a bed of stones, stones are thrown upon her, upon her limbs, but also between her legs, upon her breasts, and upon her belly, and a heap of stones is piled up over her, under which she will spend the night. The fifth day is the day of the pliers: her nails will be ripped from her toes and fingers, her teeth from her mouth, her nipples from her breasts, and her breasts from her body. The sixth day is the day of the fires: she is laid upon smoldering wood, her wounds are cauterized, and a burning piece of wood is pushed into her vagina. The seventh day finally is the day of the knives, and the day of completion: her body is cut open so that aníHa can see inside of her, then she is carried up to the peak of the large crag, and from there, when aníHa is satisfied, with a final agonizing exertion of her cut, torn and broken body, she can throw herself into the sea, into the jungle, or upon the rocks, to end her pain. Then the soft metal, which glows with a reddish sheen in the light of the sun, is brought to the shore, where in the night the foreigners will come and take it, and when aníHa is content, he makes it that these foreigners do not kill any of the humans, before they leave. But if aníHa is not content, because he has created the bodies and the minds of the humans to be able to suffer more pain than the chosen one had suffered, if her body had been treated negligently so that her life ended before she had suffered all her due agonies, or, worst of all, if she had failed to suffer willingly and gracefully, then aníHa makes the thorn bushes sprawl in the jungle, then he makes the ropes tear, then he makes the nails splinter the wood, then he makes the rocks tumble down, then he makes the pliers break apart, then he makes the fires go out, and then he makes the blades of the humans go blunt, when he sends the foreigners to kill them. aníHa, who has created everything, the jungle, the rocks, the sea and the humans, has created everything according to its nature.

~

This is the holy scripture of the níHar people, which is made available here to the public for the first time in a translation. Its original is in our national museum; with red hot iron styluses the symbols, which still show characteristics of a pictographic script, have been burned into the bark of a tree. It had been the only tree that had grown within the ďPlace of the Humans,Ē and which the níHar had held to be sacred. It had stood at the center of the circular settlement of one-storied houses, assembled from roughly hewn stones, which had been inhabited by about a thousand people.

While some parts of the text are not legible anymore, and the interpretations of some of the symbols are disputed (for instance, as archaeological finds seem to suggest, the symbol that is here translated as ďman,Ē ďmenĒ or ďhe,Ē could also include women who took part in the described activities), and other questions, too, remain unresolved, nonetheless the text that is here presented must be seen as an important authentic testimony of the culture of a people that has produced interesting specific solutions to the specific problems that it had to face. Among the still unanswered questions is, for instance, who the ďforeignersĒ were, to whom the níHar had paid their tribute in gold, but also, how often the described ceremony had taken place ó every week? once every year? at certain dates, or at certain occurrences? Did it actually take place as it was here described, or is this a lore from a mythological prehistoric age? We do not know, and the níHar themselves, who were wiped out in the conflicts that arose from the discovery of their territory, cannot answer our questions anymore. We are confident, though, that further scientific work, which we are pursuing with as much diligence as ingenuity, will add to our understanding of this people and their way of living.

(ca. 1975, minor edits and translation 12/2022)

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