The Hopi Boy and the Sun
A Hopi boy once lived with his grandmother and everyone treated him poorly. He asked his grandmother who his father was, but she didn’t know. She told him that he should ask the sun. He threw sacred meal into the sky to make a path to the sun. He had to do it twelve times before reaching the sun. He was careful to shade himself. He asked the sun who his father was and the sun told him that all children conceived in the daytime belonged to him, but he didn’t know about the boy.
The boy went back down to the Earth. He made himself a barge out of a cotton-wood tree and got inside of it. He traveled in the river for four days before being stuck where two rivers met. A rattlesnake girl helped to free him. She decided to travel with him in his search for his father. She made a tent out of snake skin and they traveled on the river for another four days. They followed a meteor to the sun’s house.
The sun finally came home and asked the boy what he was doing there. The boy said he wanted to know who his father was. The sun said he thought that the boy was his son. So the sun showed the boy how he rose and made the rays of sunlight. The sun showed him different peoples in a different world. The peoples of that world were all susceptible to something. Each time the sun told his son about what could kill the people, the boy wanted to stop and get rid of that thing. Each time the sun waited.
The boy was dressed like the sun and taken back to his own world. He encountered more peoples fighting various fights, and helped out with those fights. The boy left the sun with the rattlesnake girl and went to her family’s house. There they visited and she told her family that the boy was her husband. Then they went back to the boy’s village. The people there didn’t want him to go to his grandmother’s house because they thought it was too dirty for the likes of him, but the boy told them that it was his house and that they should help clean it up. He said that the people must be taught to act correctly, even if he didn’t like them all.
I don’t know that I would want to marry a rattlesnake.
Remember, there is this idea that people and animals aren’t all that different in many Native American mythologies. The animals could be like people and speak like people.
I have to wonder if it ever was a real belief that a child conceived during the daylight or the night would have different qualities. It very likely could have been. People used to say all sorts of things about pregnancy. If you eat XYZ food while you’re pregnant, your kid will have a hairy mole, blah, blah, blah. If people believed that, why not believe that a child conceived in the daytime was a child of the sun?
This story has been befuddled a bit with Christian teachings. It’s not entirely a bad thing, but this isn’t necessarily the story it was in the beginning. This story is about people being taught to do the things they’re supposed to do. The boy goes from being someone looked down upon to someone people look up to, who dispenses moral teachings. Is it someone else’s job to make sure that you do the things you’re supposed to? Is it someone else’s job to make sure you know how to treat other people? Yes, generally your parents’ job. It’s not the responsibility of someone outside of your family, generally, to teach you how to act, but with the idea of organized religion, that idea gets a little blurry. There are authorities outside of your family, that are supposed to teach you how to act.
The boy in this story became a moral authority, even if he didn’t like everyone. He gave them all the same chances to be good, which is nice. It’s nice to think that no one is excluded from “salvation.”
I don’t think that the boy would have done quite this same thing if the story had not been touched by Christianity. Most of the other stories we’ve discussed thus far are not overly concerned with providing moral figures to the various tribes being discussed. They’re just stories for why certain things are the way they are. The gods and demigods discussed in those stories are neither entirely good nor entirely bad.
Who’s your daddy?
Do you think the sun was really the boy’s father, or was it more symbolic?
Do you imagine that maybe the sun just felt sorry for the boy and offered to act as his father?