A to Z: Dzelarhons

Published April 4, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

(If you’re looking for today’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, it’s here.)

We’re finally leaving Europe behind (temporarily), in order to talk about this lady:

Image copyright Atlus, but provided by the MegaTen Wiki. Click for link.

Her name (as written in the game, anyway) is Dzelarhons, and this is what Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker, Shin Megami Tensei IV, and Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse have to say about her:

A frog princess of North American Haida lore.  She is also known as the volcano woman.

She came from the sea with six canoes full of people.  Her consort is the bear god Kaiti.

Not much, is it?

Before we get into who Dzelarhons is, let’s talk about the Haida, ever so briefly.  The Haida people are one of the nations referred to in Canada as “First Nations,” which seems to me a much better term than anything we use here in the US.  (After all, “Native American” makes it sound more like a matter of birth than ancestry…)  Not that the Haida live exclusively in Canada; some of them are in coastal regions of Alaska as well.  The Haida language is one of the rare languages with no confirmed relationships to other known languages, though the Haida people historically also spoke other languages of the region, like the Tlingit language.  (Haida artistic styles, if the photos in the Wikipedia article are accurate, are quite similar to Tlingit art.)

As to Dzelarhons herself, according to every source I’ve found, she started out as a mortal woman who arrived in Haida territory with her uncle and six canoes full of immigrants who want to live in the warmer climate with the Haida.  (Which begs the question of just where they were coming from, if the Pacific Northwest coast was warmer than their former digs.)  Dzelarhons herself fell in long with one of the Haida, and her uncle arranged a marriage.

Her husband may have seemed attractive before the wedding, but he immediately revealed that he was nothing of the sort on the inside, and was, in fact, quite abusive.  In true folkloric fashion, his abuse didn’t take on the standard forms.  Instead, he wanted her to perform a strange (and no doubt symbolic) task for him:  he wanted her to hold a lit torch above his head for their entire first night together.  Being the abused heroine, of course she did so, even as the torch grew smaller and smaller through the night, finally getting so small that it would have burned her arms if she hadn’t protected herself with her garments, letting them burn instead.

The Haida were just as shocked and outraged as Dzelarhons herself, and they warned her new husband not to repeat his cruel request, because her uncle was sure to take vengeance on him.  Of course, the husband didn’t listen to their warnings, and again demanded that Dzelarhons hold the torch over his head.  This time it burned so low that it completely consumed her clothes and left her naked.  Naturally, her uncle came to take his revenge on the abusive husband…

…but he didn’t stop there, and he and his warriors burned down the entire Haida village.  But they didn’t find Dzelarhons anywhere.  All they did find was a statue holding a burning staff atop which sat a copper frog with a stream flowing between its legs.

Dzelarhons the mortal woman was gone, but Dzelarhons the goddess had been born.  She had become a protector of animals (for some reason that does not fully flow from this story, so there’s likely additional material that wasn’t written down) and especially took vengeance on those who displayed inordinate cruelty towards animals.  One particular village took to killing salmon for fun (in a method so horrible I don’t even want to paraphrase it) and as a result Dzelarhons unleashed her full volcanic fury, destroying the entire village.

*ahem*  Okay, so that’s the version I found in Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines by Patricia Monaghan (which does include several citations as to sources), but I don’t see any reference to a bear god named Kaiti being her husband.  The Oxford Reference site does mention that, but I can’t access any more detailed information, because although I’d have access through my university, I’m not taking any classes this semester, so my password is non-functional.  (*sigh*)  Maybe the abusive husband became a bear…?  Or she re-married…?

Ideally, I’d do more research and find out.  (Like, actually consulting a physical book in a library, instead of an ebook accessed through a Google books preview…)  Unfortunately, I really can’t right now.  (It’s like ten o’clock at night, for one thing…)

5 comments on “A to Z: Dzelarhons

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