E is for El-lal

Published April 6, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros


In what we now call Patagonia, back in the mists of time, there lived a couple, Nosjthej and his wife.

Now, Nosjthej was not a terribly nice person.  In fact, as his wife swelled up with child, he began to take a dislike to the whole idea of having a child.  It seemed like a bad thing to him, something to be avoided at all costs.

So, when his wife was about to give birth, he reached into her womb and snatched out the baby, planning to eat it and thus put an end to it.

But the child fell from his grasp and was carried off to safety by a rat.

In the rat’s nest, the child grew to manhood, and he was called El-lal.

The rat was a very wise rat, as well as an oddly kind one, and it had taught El-lal many things that the rest of the human race didn’t know, especially how to bend things to his will.

He used that power to create the first bow and arrow, and using that new weapon, he marched to war against his wicked father, and against a race of giant demons who lived in the area.

Once his home had been freed of these terrible beings, El-lal gave his bow to the other humans, and taught them how to use it, then departed the earth, leaving to live in the sky.

So, once again, I’ve failed to find something with a strong, non-Greek comparison. *sigh*

But the Greek comparison is a pretty strong one!

Like Nosjthej, Kronos snatched up his newborn children to eat them.  But Zeus — like El-lal — was whisked away to safety, so he could grow to manhood and avenge himself (and his siblings).  The race of giants or demons (my sources used both words) aren’t specified as being Nosjthej’s siblings, the way the Titans were the siblings of Kronos, but the fact that a whole race of monstrous beings had to be defeated before the rescued infant’s triumph was complete seems like a pretty solid comparison none the less.

And they both go to live in the sky when it’s over, too.

Of course, Zeus was never human or mortal, and he wasn’t the one to invent the bow and arrow (or any other weapon), but no comparison can be perfect, right?

But really this is one of the strongest — and strangest — parallels I’ve seen.  (Though it’s not helped by the fact that El-lal’s story has only come to me in the most condensed of forms.  There was no reason given as to why his father would want to devour him, none whatsoever.)  And the sources of the myths are quite far apart in space, climate and most likely in time as well.  (My sources were also silent on just how old the Patagonian myth is…but I suspect they don’t actually know, considering writing wouldn’t have arrived there until the 17th century.)  So why do both of them feature a cannibalistic father and a rescued child who grows up to subdue both his father and a whole race of powerful beings?

Without the time to research the Patagonian culture whose hero El-lal is, I obviously can’t give a satisfactory answer to that question, much as it annoys me to say so.  One possibility is that ritual sacrifice and cannibalism (of children?) was at some time part of both cultures.  I know I’ve seen it theorized that all the cannibalism in Greek myths indicate that there was once cannibalism in the area, back in the early pre-history of the culture.  (I’m not sure how well accepted that theory is, of course, but I’ve seen an entire book on the subject in the university library, so it must have at least some acceptance.)  If a theory like that applies to one culture, it might apply to another as well.

Or it could just be proof of how terrible his father is, and how mighty he is to be able to defeat him.  Either works.  (Or it could be both…)

So, I’m sorry about all the question marks in the post-comparison section, but I hope they didn’t detract from the comparison itself!

(Also, I’m sorry not to provide any illustrations.  I couldn’t find any artworks for El-lal, and the Kronos images weren’t ancient Greek.  I was tempted to fudge and use Goya…but just looking at the thumbnails gave me the heebie-jeebies, so I decided against it.  Seriously nightmarish, that…and having essentially seen it in animated form doesn’t help.)

[BTW, if you’re looking for my IWSG post, it’s right here.]

One comment on “E is for El-lal

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