Creation Stories and Epics
By William Jones
Mount San Antonio College
Creation stories and epics have performed enormous and essential tasks for human societies. They have explained the universe and defined the meaning of existence. They have entertained us and introduced us to extraordinary events and individuals. Some of these narratives have done their work with such grace and power that they have long outlived the civilizations that first gave them voice. They may also have travelled thousands of miles from their homes. Some of us share the values and beliefs taught in the creation stories and epics of people who died centuries before we were born, who spoke languages we shall never understand, and who lived in places we shall never visit.
Viewed from the perspective of modern historical studies, creation stories offer evidence about religious and cultural belief systems and cosmologies. Epics also deserve our attention, for they relate the adventures and achievements of heroic figures in a culture. Both kinds of narratives can also be important clues for historians and students of history who want to understand and explain the formation of group identity, social relationships, definitions of ethical behavior, and the construction of gender roles and class hierarchies. Some tales may contain elements of both creation stories and epics, offering explanations of the cosmos as well as narratives of the deeds of key individuals.
This portion of the site offers pathways into three texts: the Epic of Gilgamesh, the book of Genesis, and the Popol Vuh. It also includes questions about each of these narratives along with links to other stories and suggestions for further study. You may begin with the Introduction and then proceed to one of the texts, or you may go directly to one of the texts, if you prefer.
I wish to thank Nancy Fitch for her help in setting up this part of the website.
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