Poetry Porch: Prose


Maneater: the creation myth 
of a people long extinct

transcribed by Carl Pfluger

             First of all you should know that Man was the last being to be created. The days of creation were almost over, and all the other gods had made each their own special creature to serve them and nourish them, all except Yahui the Feeble, whom in our tongue we call Maneater, the meanest and most contemptible among the gods.
             Now, all the gods crave meateverybody knows that!but they want it young, healthy, and freshly killed. Yahui Maneater walked hungry over the face of the earth, because he was too weak to kill any animal. In fact that’s exactly why, before his greatest accomplishment, he created so many of the nastier small animals, too. He made centipedes and worms, and moles and voles, and mice and lice and rats and suchbecause he hoped that if he made them small enough, he would be able to kill them and eat them. But even these little creatures were too strong for Maneater, and he never had much luck hunting them. Yet weak as he is, Maneater can create anything he wants, just as well as any other god, for he is very patient, and has great skill in working with the elements.
             Maneater suffered great hunger and endured the gibes of the other gods for a long time before he realized what he had to do. It came to him suddenly, during one of his long and fruitless walks through the world. He stopped short, overwhelmed by his own cleverness, and he said: “I shall make a creature who destroys himself, so that I need not take the trouble of killing him. But he shall not eat his brother when he has killed him, for then I should be deprived of my meal. He must kill his brothers without knowing why, and leave their bodies lying on the field. Then I shall consume them when I go forth by night over the green earth.” Maneater was alone when he spoke these words, and no other god heard him, or surely they would have stopped him. But Maneater went to work right away, and with his slow, skillful fingers he created Man, his chosen food. First he made us as tasty a treat for his palate as he could, and then he planted in us the desire to kill without reason, so that we would do his hunting for him. Now at last Maneater was equal to the other gods.
             Thus did we come into the worldor our ancestors, anyway. Maneater wrought us very cunningly. He knew exactly what he wanted, for, just as it often happens among us, the weak among the gods often surpass their stronger fellows in cleverness. Have you never noticed, for instance, that we alone of all animals have such large, fleshy buttocks? That is because Maneater is especially fond of those hams: he gave them to us so we’d please him better. That is also why Man is so much more sex-driven than the others, and why we mate in all seasonsbecause Maneater knew that his creatures, with the habits he gave them, would soon exterminate themselves unless he made them especially zealous for procreation.
             And so, as the numbers of men increased despite their unceasing slaughter of each other, Maneater gorged himself as never before. And he grew immensely fat and gross, until at last, it is said, he was able to crush all the other gods, his old tormentors, beneath his sheer weight. So that now he is the only god left in the world, and we continue to serve him unstintingly.
             Whenever we kill, in private murder, or public execution, or in general war, we give another morsel to Yahui Maneater, our Father and Maker. Therefore does Maneater abhor all men who refuse to kill other menand he doesn’t care a straw for any of your reasons or excuses, whether you’re a pacifist, or a coward, or just plain too weak. But even more Maneater abhors cannibalism among men, and he has of course planted the horror of it in our souls. For he knows that if men would only kill their fellows to eat them, Maneater would go hungry again, and he would waste away and shrivel up to a wretched, feeble little wisp, as he was in the beginning; and at last he would die, and we would be free of him.

Copyright © 2001 by Carl Pfluger.