Chapter 3

This chapter represents the beginning of Part 2, "Myths of Creation and Destruction." Just before this chapter, there are actually two introductions: a general one explaining some issues about myths of creation and destruction and a more specific one introducing myths of creation in particular. These introductions can help orient you with respect to what you can learn from the upcoming series of chapters.

In a way, this chapter represents the real beginning of the book, as it contains the first story you encounter from an oral source. With this excerpt, you can begin the process of appreciating the characteristics of the paratactic style and, especially, of distinguishing the names of the main characters from the "background" of names and other details included by the oral poet to show his virtuosity.

Over several centuries, the ancient Greeks developed a range of versions of how the world was created. This chapter presents the views of one writer, Hesiod, but in his works, the Theogony and the Works and Days, we can still detect traces of different kinds of mythological style.

In the Theogony, Hesiod incorporates scientific and mythological explanations of the creation of the world. You can see the basics of his literary style, as well as the characteristics of the oral performance that preceded the written version. Two excerpts from the Works and Days, "Pandora" and "The Ages of Man," confront such universal themes as the presence of evil in the world and the belief that the present is only a distant, pale remnant of an original "golden age."

In this chapter you meet some amazingly fantastic characters, some physically grotesque and others psychologically depraved. You also make the acquaintance of Prometheus, who returns in the trickster section (Chapter 25). He is seen as a god or a hero, depending on which story you consider: here, the Greeks view him as the cause of the creation of woman, represented by Hesiod as a disruptive source in society. However, later on, it is his son who survives the flood (Chapter 12) to reshape mankind after the gods destroy it. Later, when you read about him as a trickster (Chapter 25), you will see that the disruption represented in myth can have a positive side, as Prometheus is also seen as the cause of civilization.  

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