T is for Tāne

Published April 23, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros


Because I totally suck (also because I had to work today, by which I mean yesterday by the time you’re reading this), it’s already really late and I don’t have much time to get this post written, so I’m afraid you get the abbreviated version.

By which I mean I’m only repeating the part of Tāne’s myth that I planned to compare to something else.  I apologize, therefore, for all the omissions.

Tāne’s parents, Rangi and Papa, were very much in love.  So much, in fact, that they never parted in their passionate embrace for any reason.  Consequently, though their perpetual love-making created child after child, not a single one could be born, because the exit from Papa’s womb was blocked.

It was starting to get pretty cramped in Papa’s womb — even though she was the whole world! — and…well, certain other aspects of it were also very unpleasant, let’s say.

So unpleasant, in fact, that all the children trapped in the womb agreed that something had to be done so they could be born at last.

Tū was the first to suggest a solution:  he suggested that they should kill their parents.  Once their father was dead, he would stop blocking their birth, and they could finally get out of those cramped quarters.  (Really, he could have suggested just killing Rangi, but Tū was a warlike sort, the type who never thought it was a good idea to only kill one when he could kill two.)

None of the others were entirely sure that was a good idea, but only Tāne had a counter-suggestion.  His idea was to push their parents apart, forcing Rangi up into the sky, where he wouldn’t be able to get at Papa any longer.  Everyone (except maybe Tū) agreed that was the better plan, and so each one of them tried to push Rangi away.  Each one of Tāne’s brothers pushed against Rangi with his hands, but they accomplished nothing.  Tāne tried something different.  He laid down on his back, placed his feet against Rangi, and began to shove with his legs.  Eventually, he succeeded, and Rangi flew up into the distant sky, where he remained ever after.

Tāne and his brothers were finally able to emerge from their mother’s womb and be born, but for Tāne it still felt as though something was missing in life.

He decided that he, too, wanted a wife to father children on.

But he couldn’t find one.

After some rather unfortunate failed attempts — which led to plants and birds and insects, and even a rock — Tāne decided that the only thing for it was to make a wife.

And so he did.  He got together some soil, moistened with a bit of his saliva, and molded it into a wife.

That went much better than the other attempts had.  Still not perfect, but…better.

So, yes, obviously that’s where I’m omitting most of the material.  As Tāne is a very important Polynesian god, there’s a lot more to be said about him, if only I had managed to get everything pre-written weeks in advance like I had wanted to.

Um, anyway, moving on.

So, obviously, the tale of Tāne parting his parents — I apologize (particularly to myself as well as to everyone else) for having imagined what he and his siblings were going through a bit too closely; I really hadn’t meant to do so — is reminiscent of Kronos parting Ouranos and Gaia…though without the emasculation that Kronos inflicted on his over-amorous sky-god father.  Being trapped in the womb is more like what happened to the Cyclopes and Hundred-Handed Giants than what happened to the Titans, though.

Now, the second part I shared, about him making his wife.  She’s not the first human, but their children are.  (Or her grandchildren and his children/grandchildren.)  However, that seems close enough to compare to various other stories of the creation of humans.  It’s a bit different from Qat carving them from wood, but humans made out of dirt, soil or mud are very common indeed!

While I’m sure many — maybe most — people immediately thought of the book of Genesis, it was Prometheus who came to my mind, and the fact that it was a wife that Tāne was creating gave it an off-beat hint of a non-misogynistic version of Pandora.

Others include Chinigchinich, the first man in the beliefs of a Californian tribe (whose name I didn’t write down, I’m ashamed to admit), who created the rest of humanity from mud; Nu Gua, a Chinese goddess who created human beings out of mud; and I know I came across others, but I seem to have neglected to write them down.


I hereby nominate this as my worst post of the month.


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