Primary Document Analysis Exercise: the Origin of Fire, Brazilian Cayapo Myth
Submitted By aussiebunny
The Origin of Fire story is a Cayapo myth, who are part of the Gê linguistic group. The myth was translated by Alfred Métraux in 1954
The Origin of fire myth tells of how not only fire, but also technology, came to the Cayapo tribe. The tale begins with a story about a man and his brother-in-law hunting for Macaws in the jungle. After foul play, on the part of the brother, the brother-in-law is left abandoned and injured on a rock. A jaguar finds the man and offers to take care of him. The man, who is initially afraid of the jaguar, reluctantly agrees and follows him to his lair. Upon arriving to the jaguar’s lair, the man sees that the jaguar’s wife is spinning. The jaguar’s wife questions her husband as to why he has brought a human to their lair to which her husband replies that the man will now be his companion and their son, and that she is to take care of him. The jaguar goes out to hunt and instructs the man to eat if he is hungry, suggesting eating a piece of tapir, which is cooking on the hearth. However, the jaguar wife says to the man to eat the raw deer instead. This causes tension between the man and the jaguar wife, who bares her claws to the man and he flees into the jungle the jaguar finds the man hiding in the jungle and coaxes him back to their lair and chastises his wife for frightening the man. The next day the jaguar goes out hunting, and again the man and the jaguar’s wife argue over what meat the man should eat. The man runs away again but this time the jaguar offers the man a solution. He makes a bow and arrow for the man telling him that the next time she bares her claws again to him, to shoot her in the heart. The man returns to the lair and unwraps the cooked tapir meat cooking on the hearth. The jaguar’s wife bares her claws at the man and he shoots her in the heart. The man fills a basket with cooked meat and cotton thread, also stealing fire, which he takes back to his tribe. Reunited with his family, the man presented his tribe the gifts, which he had stolen from the jaguars lair. The men of the tribe, wanting more, asked the man to take them to the jaguars lair, disguise themselves as animals. The men, finding that the jaguar had abandoned his lair, take the coals from the fire, meat as well as the cotton thread.
Although there is no clear moral to the story of the Origin of fire, which could be due to its translation into English, it does give the reader a valuable insight into beliefs of the Cayapo tribe. Through its underlying themes such as the importance of family, food and technology (through n creation of fire and also cotton thread), the reader recognizes that without these important elements, a society will not be able to grow or sustain itself. The importance of animals/human is also shown in the myth, which is shown to be a symbiotic relationship, the both need each other to survive.