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King Manu and the Flood

One day King Manu was washing his hands in a bowl of water when he saw a tiny fish there. The fish said, "Rear me, and I will save you. First keep me in a jar. Then in a pit. When I grow too big for the pit you must take me down to the sea, for then I shall be beyond destruction."

Manu put the fish in a bigger bowl. The fish kept growing bigger and bigger, and then he moved it to a large hole in the ground and filled it with water. The fish kept on growing. Then Manu put it into the sea. The fish now told Manu to build a great ship to save himself from a flood that was to come. "Take into the ship two of each animal on the earth as well as seeds from every kind of plant," said the fish.

Manu built a huge boat as the fish advised. The boat housed his family, seeds, and animals. The flood came. Manu tied his boat to a large horn that had grown out of the fish. The horned fish pulled the ship through the rough waters until they came to the Himalayas. There the fish told Manu to tie the ship to a tree on one of the mountains and wait until the waters receded.

When the flood withdrew, Manu felt lonely because only he and the animals aboard the ship had survived. Then he poured clarified butter, sour milk, whey and curds into the waters. After a year a woman was born from the waters. Clarified butter gathered in her footprints.

Manu asked her, "Who are you?"

"Your daughter," she answered.

These two then became the ancestors of a new human race that filled the earth as time went by.

(A blend of several versions. Section 1.8.1 of the ancient Shatapatha Brahmana (see Eggeling 1882, 216-19) is the earliest existing text to mention the fish and a flood myth. The text identifies the fish with Creator-God.)

The Serious Nix

Once a nix in the guise of a deer carried away the firestone of a pious anchorite. The man began to lament, "How shall I now light a fire?"

He approached five bold warriors for help. They pursued the deer but could not catch it, so it was not an ordinary deer - Exhausted and miserable, they sat under an oak tree and bewailed their fate: "So helpless and weak have we become that we cannot even render a small service to a devout man in the forest."

One of them said: "Yes, it's true."

And the great archer among them nodded too and added: "Have you thought that maybe we deserved this fate?"

Now the warrior called Serious felt a great thirst, and asked his brother Big Guy to climb a tree to see whether a river or a pond was close by. Big Guy saw cranes and water plants in a not too great distance, so he went to fetch water. When he reached the pond, he at once lay down to drink. No sooner had he dipped his hand into the water than he heard a voice:

"Don't hurry! This pond is mine. First answer my questions, then you may drink!"

Big Guy's thirst was too strong, he drank at once, but soon he dropped down lifeless.

When Big Guy didn't return for a long time, Serious sent Good Water to fetch water. He met with the same fate as Big Guy. Great Archer and Drummer, sent after Good Water, also didn't return.

Finally, Serious had to go by himself. Seeing his four brothers dead beside the water, he began to lament: "Is this the end of the story? Truly forsaken? How sad I feel, all of a sudden!"

While grieving, he stepped into the pond to drink. The voice was heard again: "Your brothers died because they wouldn't listen to me. First give an answer to my questions, then drink, for this pond is mine!"

Serious asked for the questions, and the hidden nix said: "What makes the sun shine each day?"

Serious replied: "It's the full power of wisdom."

"What saves a man from every danger?"

"Courage hardly saves a man from all dangers!"

"What science makes a man wise?"

"Not any science but living in the company of sages makes one wise!"

"Who is a more noble protector than the earth?"

"The mother who brings up her children well can be that."

"Who is higher than heaven?"

"They say the father."

"Who is swifter than wind?"

"Well, the mind!"

"More miserable than a straw blown about the wind?"

"It could be a little cat taken through the air by a very violent hurricane."

"Not thinking of the hurricane-riding cat, who is the traveller's friend?"

"Astute wisdom and perhaps willingness to learn!"

"Who is the husband's friend?"

"It could be a good wife, as few things amount to that."

"Who is man's companion in death?"

"Sins and recognised, righteous deals could accompany a man on his soul journey after death!"

"What's happiness?"

"It's what you feel inside after years of fine and decent conduct, hopefully."

"What makes a man popular by abandoning it?"

"Pride and a good gun."

"Which loss brings joy and not mourning?"

"Ouch! Loss of contact with bad guys is a must here."

"What makes a person rich if he loses it?"

"Wisdom - Through some confusion not a few get celebrated and rich to their later ruin!"

"What makes a man a knower of Gnosis? Is it birth, good conduct, or learning? Answer rightly!"

"Birth and solid learning don't make a man a knower of Gnosis, only the right conduct for it does, somehow. And if he has bad habits they should speak of his level as well."

"Which is the most surprising thing in this world?"

"This world. Every day people that remain behind in it behave as if they were going to live forever. This is also a lot surprising to noble men."

In this way the nix asked many questions and Serious replied to them. In the end, the nix addressed him thus: "Yes, you know much, and there is much to heed on the other side as well. But now, one of your brothers will return to life. Which one do you want?"

Serious thought for a while and then said:

"May Big Guy, with good eyes, broad shoulders and long arms return to life. He lies right here like a felled oak tree."

The nix asked: "Why prefer Big Guy to Drummer, who has the strength of 18 000 weasels? I've heard that Drummer is your favourite! And why not Great Archer, whose skill with weapons forms great protection for you too?"

Serious replied: "Strict conduct is fit protection of man, not drumming, clubbing and shooting at all times. In many cases, if strict, good and decent conduct is violated, man will be killed. The mother of Big Guy has none else to care for her in old age and give her grandchildren, but the mothers of the rest of us do - these things count a lot to me. So let that one be returned to life!"

The nix liked Serious's sense of justice and returned all his brothers to life. He had taken on the form of a deer to test his namesake Serious. Now he embraced and blessed him fervently: "You may be terse. Yes, it will be brought to a happy end!"

(Adapted from the Mahabharata. Cf. Klostermaier 2007, 64-66)


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