How the world began

28th January 2000 at 00:00
Gerald Haigh re-tells the creation stories of three very different cultures.

Illustrations: Jamel Akib


God made the world. He made the land and sea. He made dark nights and sunlit days. He made the plants and trees that grow on the land. He made the animals that walk and run on the land. He made the birds that fly in the air. He made the fish that swim in the sea.

God made clouds that rose into the air, and from the clouds there came rain. The rain came down on the land. The sun shone on the land, and the rain and the sun made all the plants grow strongly.

Then God said that there should be a man to work on the land. The man should look after the growing things. He should take care of the Earth and all the living things in it. So God took some of the dust from the ground. He shaped it into a man. Then he breathed his own breath into the nostrils of the man and the man became a living person. God called this first man Adam.

Adam could not be alone on the Earth, thought God. So he decided to create a woman to be with Adam. So as Adam slept, God took a rib from him and formed it into a woman. God called this first woman Eve. God made a beautiful garden, a home for Adam and Eve to live in together.

This is the story of how the first man and woman came on to the Earth, to look after the Earth and all the living things in it. From the beginning of time, men and women have had the duty of caring for God's created world. This is still our duty today, and will be so long as there are men and women on the Earth.


Long before there were people, there were two lands. One was Niflheim, the land of frost and snow.

It was a cold and dark land. There were great mountains of ice. There were great drifts of snow. An icy wind blew and there was driving snow in the cold air.

The other land was Muspell, the land of fire and heat. It was a hot and fiery land. There were rivers of white hot lava. There were volcanoes of flame. A hot wind blew, and there were sparks and red hot ashes in the air.

Between these two terrible lands was a huge empty place called Ginnungagap. It was frosty and cold, but not as cold as Niflheim. The heat from Muspell kept it from being too cold. Because Ginnungagap was a little warmer than Niflheim, this was where the first living things came into being.

One of the first living things was Audumla, a cow. Audumla licked the frosty ground. She licked it in search of water to drink and food to eat. She licked and licked.

As she did so the warmth of her tongue and the heat of her breath melted the frosty ground. As the frosty ground became soft, something appeared in it. It was the hair of a man. She licked more and the man's head appeared.

She licked and licked even more and the man's body appeared. Then his arms came into view and then his legs.

Soon the whole man lay there upon the frosty ground. He leaped to his feet and stretched and shivered to drive the cold from his body. The warmth of life came into him and the frost and ice on his body melted away. Boldly, he strode away to begin his life.

This man was Buri, the first person upon the Earth.


Once there was chaos. The Earth, the sea, the stars, the Sun and the Moon were all mixed together. We cannot know what this was really like.

Then the gods decided to make the world. The stars were put in their places. The lnd and the sea were separated. Everything was put in order.

There were no ordinary people on the Earth at first. But there were great giants called Titans. The gods gave two of the Titans the job of making human beings and animals. The Titan Epimetheus did the work. His brother Prometheus was in charge.

Epimetheus really liked his job. He made many different animals and birds and fishes and insects. He gave out claws, and wings and fins and legs and fur and feathers and shells and beaks. He also gave out courage and fierceness and speed and cunning and agility.

Then Epimetheus started to make a person. He made the first man. He made him standing up, looking down on everything else.

But there was not much that he could give him. Epimetheus had given everything out. The first human would be slower than the fastest animal. He could not climb as well as a monkey. He was not as strong as a lion.

He could not fly like a bird. He had no shell. He had no claws. He had no wings. How would he survive?

Prometheus had the answer. He went high into Heaven and took fire from the Sun. He brought fire back to the Earth and gave it to the first man. Now that man had the gift of fire he could make weapons. He could cook food. He could warm his house. He would not die of the cold in winter. And in time fire would give him great power that would make him the ruler of the Earth. One day, fire would make him faster than the fastest animal.


Use each spread with the class or a group in "big book" style. Then, you can photocopy the text alone for further work.


In each text

At word level

* Look for adjectives - there are not many. Children could edit the text, putting in some describing words.

* Look for conjunctions - linking words. Again there are not many, and children could edit the text and recast sentences adding conjunctions.

At text level

* These are all well-known stories and there are plenty of other good versions around. Compare the text with that in another re-telling, looking for differences in details, emphasis and style.

What makes a myth different from other forms of writing? Ask children to make up a definition and then compare it with that of a friend.

Give children a list of familiar stories including myths, fairy stories, favourite picture books and mainstream fiction. Ask them to sort out which are myths and which are not.

* Identify what sort of text this is. These are creation myths. Why were creation myths written?

* Discuss our continuing need to explain where we came from and why we are here.

* Look for other myths. Does climate and culture influence the myths?

Speaking and listening. All these myths originate within the oral tradition and lend themselves well to story-telling. Encourage children to develop their story-telling skills by working in pairs. One partner retells the story while the other listens.

You could prepare for the task by identifying key points in the story and writing them on the chalkboard as a framework to help the story-tellers. The listener has the task of evaluating the re-telling.

Is it accurate? Did the story-teller manage to sequence events correctly? Were any bits left out? Did the teller use interesting words to make the story exciting? This kind of listening helps children to understand how stories work and lays the foundations for work on written language.

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