Native American Tales

The Gnawing

The GnawingThe Gnawing


Somewhere there is a great pole. A beaver gnaws on it. It’s about half-way through right now. The entire universe stands on this great pole. When the beaver is angry, he gnaws faster. It is said that when the beaver gnaws all the way through the pole, the universe will end. So the Cheyenne people do their best not to anger the beaver. They do not eat beaver meat, not hunt him. They want the world to last just a little longer.


There are multiple stories saying that our Earth, or our country is on the back of some great animal. Or it’s held up by someone, Atlas, for example. In an episode of Doctor Who, England is on the back of a large whale, that can inexplicably survive in space. This is another story about how our Earth is held up besides something other than gravity and an orbit around the sun.


How will the world end? Surely, it has to, at some point, whether it’s billions of years from now, the world has to end. The sun will explode, or grow and consume all the planets. Maybe another planet will collide with the Earth. Maybe we’ll mine all the insides out of our Earth and it will just implode. Maybe we’ll accidentally set off powerful nuclear weapons inside the Earth’s core. Who knows? No one can predict how the Earth will end, but most of know that it must. A beaver gnawing at a pole that holds the Earth is as good of a reason as any for the Earth to end. It also serves as a reason for the Cheyenne not to eat beaver meat.

There’s nothing wrong with eating beaver. Other tribes eat beaver. Trappers traps beaver. What’s the big deal? There isn’t a big deal; it’s just a cultural preference. It probably started because someone didn’t like the taste of beaver, or they thought it looked like something else, or who knows, really? This story probably came along as a result of people not eating beaver, whereas, people not eating beaver did not come along because of this story, most likely.

Don’t eat beaver, eat beaver–whatever, but if you think the world is going to end because of your actions, you’re right to curb any actions that may result in the end of the world.


Don’t make him angry.

Weigh In

In your view of things, if the Earth was held up by anything other than what we know to be scientifically accurate, what animal would hold up the Earth?

Is it safer to believe in a superstition just in case the world might end or not?


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