Saturday, 24 March 2012
How the Animals Were Made
The original article had a lot of small drawings of animals, perhaps drawn by Beche, the Carib boy, a PDF copy of the article is here.
How the Animals Were Made
By A. Hyatt Verrill
From Everyland magazine, Sept. 1918; researched by Alan Schenker; digitized by Doug Frizzle Mar. 2012.
The following story is one that Carib mothers tell to their boys and girls. The Caribs are Indians who formerly lived in Central America and the West Indies. When the white men came to their country, they killed or captured most of the Caribs, and now a handful of people is all that remains of the ancient race.
WHEN Tuminkar, the creator, had made the earth and waters, the rivers and the land, all the forests and the mountains, the plants, the fruits, and the flowers, he tossed the remaining bits of leaves and blossoms and twigs into the air. As he did so, he gave life to them, and they became insects. The flowers became butterflies; the leaves became grasshoppers and similar things; the twigs and bits of earth became beetles, bugs, scorpions, and other crawling things; while the grains of sand became the ants.
Then, taking a bit of clay, Tuminkar modeled it with a head and body and eyes, but he could not make good legs; so, tossing it into the river, he said, "You are too ugly to be seen; go live out of sight in the mud." Thus the manatee was made.
Again Tuminkar tried to make a creature, but still he was not successful. Each piece of clay that he formed was cast into the river and became a fish.
At last, Tuminkar made the snakes and serpents, and by adding legs, he made the frogs and toads. But they were still ugly things, until Tuminkar tried adding a tail and thus made the lizard. He was pleased at the result and made them larger and larger, first the solenodon, then the iguana, and finally the alligator. Then he said to himself, "There must be some one to rule all these creatures. Why should I not make something in my own form which they will know as the ruler of them all?" And so it came about that Tuminkar made men and women and gave them greater knowledge than all other creatures; but at first they were friendly with all things and ate only the fruits and seeds and roots which Tuminkar had provided.
Having made man and woman, Tuminkar decided to make other creatures to live upon the earth with them, for the man and woman found the toads, the frogs, the lizards, and the serpents, dull and ugly creatures, while the insects flew away or stung them and the fishes could not leave the waters to be with them.
As Tuminkar fashioned the new creatures, he gave them voices and calls and asked each where he preferred to dwell and what he would choose to eat. Then, according to their choice, he gave them teeth, claws, and colors.
The first creature he made was the monkey, for Tuminkar had just finished the man and his fingers unconsciously moulded the clay into a shape like the man. Then, in order that the monkey might be easily distinguished from man, he gave him a tail and a coat of hair.
The monkey was so proud of being like man that he strutted about on the ground and could not make up his mind where to live or what to eat; therefore, while he waited for the answer, Tuminkar went ahead with the next beast, the jaguar.
When the jaguar was asked where he would dwell and what he would eat, he glanced about, and seeing the monkey, exclaimed, "I will live on the ground and eat other creatures." With that, he sprang at the monkey. But the jaguar had not yet been given claws and teeth; so the monkey slipped from him and leaped into the nearest tree, screaming, "I will live in the trees and eat fruit.” Here, feeling safe, he chattered at the jaguar and threw fruit at him, and these, striking the jaguar's yellow coat, left black marks, which you may still see. To this day the monkeys chatter when they see the jaguar, and the jaguars love monkey meat better than any other food.
Next Tuminkar made the deer, while the jaguar and the monkey watched. When the deer was finished, he looked at the trees and seeing the monkey so like a man he feared to live there. Then, glancing upon the ground, he saw the jaguar with his cruel teeth and claws. But the deer was fleet of foot and felt sure that he could outrun the jaguar and would be safer on the ground than in the trees; so he said in a very low voice, "I will live on the ground and eat grass." Then Tuminkar gave him his teeth and his hoofs and turned him loose. Instantly the jaguar sprang at him; but the deer was almost out of reach and the jaguar's teeth closed upon the deer's tail, biting a bit of it off and leaving two white edges where the sharp fangs scraped along.
Next Tuminkar made the wild hogs, or peccaries. The hog, when asked where he would like to live, replied, "Make more of us, that we may consult together where best to live and feed." So Tuminkar made more hogs, and consulting together, they decided they would live in the forest and eat roots. As there were many of them, the jaguar feared to attack them, and grunting they ran unmolested into the forest. Ever since that time wild hogs always have lived together in herds.
Then Tuminkar made the labba, or paca. The labba chose to live on the ground, for his short legs and heavy body would not do for climbing trees. As he waddled off, the jaguar sprang upon him, but the labba rolled into the river and the jaguar let go of his hold, and you may still see the white marks of his claws upon the labba's sides and back.
Tuminkar next made the kinkajou. As he formed him, the monkey cried out that all the beasts were choosing the ground and he would be left alone in the trees; so because Tuminkar's ears were filled with the monkey's words, he absent-mindedly formed the kinkajou partly like a monkey. As soon as the kinkajou was finished, and before Tuminkar could ask him where he would live, the monkey screamed, "Say you will live in the trees and eat fruit." Then, being a very greedy creature and fearing there might not be enough for two, he added "and insects and honey." The kinkajou still lives with the monkeys in the trees and eats fruits and insects and honey.
When Tuminkar began to make the agouti, he was interrupted by the monkey, who wanted another companion. Tuminkar became angry this time, and raising his hand, he threw a bit of clay at the monkey. Now this happened to be the clay for the agouti's tail and so the agouti has always had to do without a tail.
After the agouti, Tuminkar made the tapir, and as the monkey looked on from the trees and saw the great beast taking form, he said to himself, 'Suppose that fellow should decide to live in the trees. He is so big and heavy, he will break the branches, and to fill his big stomach would take all the fruit. Of course, he should live on the ground; but if he sees that hungry jaguar, he never will."
But the monkey was afraid to call down to the tapir, as he had done to the kinkajou, for fear Tuminkar would throw clay at him, and, thought he, "Suppose it should strike me; it would be a great nuisance to have a tail or a leg sticking out of my head or my back."
So seeing Tuminkar was busy, the monkey climbed down from the tree, and getting out of sight behind the tapir's back, he whispered in his ear, "Don't say anything." When Tuminkar asked the tapir his choice, the creature was silent for, thought he, "This fellow whispering in my ear is so like a man he must know more than I." Again Tuminkar asked the question, but once more the monkey whispered, "Don't answer," and again the tapir was silent.
Then Tuminkar became vexed and cried out, "You are a stupid beast. Go live where you please and eat what you can get. Be off with you!" So saying, he grasped a stick and struck the tapir across the rump. The stick, hitting the tapir's new-made tail, broke it off; so today the tapir lives on the ground and is silent, while he eats leaves from the trees as well as grass and weeds, and has but a stump of a tail.
Tuminkar saw the monkey scrambling away and guessed he had been up to mischief. Becoming disgusted with the choices of the creatures, he exclaimed, "None of you know what is best for yourselves; so hereafter I'll leave you no choice, but settle the matter myself." "And as for you," he continued, addressing the monkey, "you're a meddler and a mischievous fellow; but I'll soon settle that."
So he made the ocelot, and giving him sharp teeth and claws, he said to him, "Go after that rascally monkey. If you cannot catch him for your food hunt on the ground." The ocelot sprang after the monkey, but the latter had been listening and leaped off and the ocelot's fresh coat was rubbed and blurred and streaked in spots, as he knocked against the branches while chasing the monkey. So, even to-day the ocelot is the monkey's enemy, but when he cannot catch him, he feeds on other creatures on the ground.
So Tuminkar continued to make the animals. He made the coati and the raccoon, the opossum, and the hacka, the fox and the rat, the otter and the squirrel, and many other creatures. At last nearly all the claws were used, and when he came to the sloths, he could spare but three claws for one and two for the other for fear none would be left for the other animals. Then he found he had used the last of the teeth; so, when he made the anteater, he was obliged to let them go without teeth. But he placed so much hair on the ant-bear that none was left, and as he had no teeth and only a few claws, he made the birds, giving them feathers instead of fur and hair, and beaks in place of teeth, and two legs in order to save claws.
Finally only a lump of dirty clay and a few claws were left. Tuminkar formed these into the armadillo; but it was such a naked, helpless thing that he took pity upon it. Rising, he took the basket which had contained the clay, and clapping it over the armadillo, he exclaimed, "You have no teeth with which to bite and no hair to protect you; so live in holes in the earth and hide yourself beneath the basket when you come forth."
To this day, the armadillo lives in a burrow and never is seen without the basket-like covering on his back.
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.