Manu was the first man on earth

Myths: When the gods are angry

Almost everyone in the developed world knows someone who died or just got away with the flood masses. In addition to the sheer size of the tsunami catastrophe, this is certainly one reason why we are particularly shaken these days. The strength of our emotions may have another reason: The tragic events meet archaic images of one of the central myths of humanity.

The biblical story of the Flood and the salvation of Noah, his family and the animals that were carried away in the ark, which dates from about 700 BC BC, is one of the late testimonies to this myth.

The Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh is older. The gods are not so angry as in the Noah story, the depravity of the people, but the overpopulation. Attempts are made again and again to put a stop to the growth of humanity. Through the plague, through a drought, and other plagues. Finally heaven sent the great water: "To make a deluge burned the heart of the great gods," it says in the epic. Here, too, a righteous man, Utnapishtim, is saved, who is ordered to build a boat and take animals and craftsmen with him to ensure the survival of mankind.

The ancient Greeks grew up with the story of Deucalion and Pyhrra, who landed safely on the summit of Parnassus with their children and a number of animals in a ship. With Noah it was Ararat.

The topos of the all-devouring divine flood is not just a moral-religious admonition. At least in the fertile crescent between the Tigris and the Nile, a huge catastrophe should really have taken place. According to the latest research by US geologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman, the seas swelled when the ice age ended about 12,000 years ago. 7000 years ago, masses of water from the Mediterranean are said to have poured into the Black Sea with unimaginable force, which until then was a freshwater lake surrounded by agriculture.

The flood myth is of course universal. It appears in legends of the American Indians as well as in African and Asian stories. Also in the areas directly affected by the disaster.

India and Sri Lanka: Manu, the first person, finds a small fish while washing himself. He's asking for his life. Manu teases him. When the fish is big, he brings it to the sea. The fish warns Manu of a great flood and tells him to build a ship. As the water rises, Manu ties a rope around the fish's horn, which pulls the boat towards the northern mountains. Manu is the only one to survive the flood. Thailand: A brother and sister hear about an impending tidal wave from a mouse. They lock themselves in a drum. So, as the only two people saved, they hear a cuckoo singing: "Brother and sister, hug each other." They sleep together. After seven years, a child is born in the shape of a pumpkin. When they hear noises inside the pumpkin, they drill a hole in the shell: all the peoples of the earth come out in droves. Sumatra (Indonesia): Naga-Padoha, the giant serpent on which the earth rests, was once tired of carrying this heavy burden and shook it off - into the sea. God Batara-Guru wants to save his daughter from destruction and drops a mountain into the water. The divine daughter is the primordial mother of humanity. Later the earth is heaved back onto the head of the serpent.

In myth, the raging of the waters usually becomes a parable of guilt and atonement. And has inspired philosophy and literature from Plato (Atlantis) to Theodor Storm ("Schimmelreiter").

Tolkien's “Lord of the Rings”, the most successful fantasy story of the present, tells of the rise and fall of the island of Numenor. When their king becomes uncomfortable for the gods, the ocean devours the island. And in Roland Emmerich's film “The Day after Tomorrow” man brings the Gulf Stream to a standstill as climate criminals. New York is drowning in the floods.

In almost all versions of the flood myths, the murderous masses of water are the punishment for having challenged the gods. At the same time, however, the tide has an ambivalent effect. It cleanses and creates something new: after the fall of man and the subsequent punishment, a new, better human race almost always grows. That is hardly consoling for those affected today. For them it remains God's punishment, cruel fate.