Myth Monday: How Mosquitoes Were Created (Tlingit Myth)
By Kara Newcastle
The first week of the month always seems to throw me off track, and with me beginning a new job soon, I’m not 100% what my blog schedule is going to be like. So, with that being said, I decided to do my best and churn out something for you tonight. I generally post Native American legends and myths during November, so here’s one from the Tlingit tribe about the one thing everybody on the planet absolutely hates: MOSQUITOES.
Hundreds of years ago, back when humans were still new to the earth, a cannibalistic giant strode through the forests of what we now call the Pacific Northwest. The giant loved to hunt humans, grabbing up any wayward hunter he came across or raiding villages for his dinner, carrying his wretched victims back to his house to eat them and drink their blood. The giant was so menacing and had decimated so many villages that the chiefs of the area called all the survivors together for a meeting so they could decide how to rid themselves of the giant once and for all. Otherwise, it would not belong before all the humans were wiped out.
The council had hardly begun when one man stood up before everyone and gestured for silence. Seeing everyone’s eyes on him, he said, “I’ve been thinking on this for a long time, and I have a plan. I can kill this monster.”
Since no one else had been able to come up with any better ideas—or were brave enough to even consider going up against the giant—the council agreed to let the man try his plan. Drawing in a deep breath, the man promptly left the lodge and walked into the woods, heading to the place the giant was known to lurk. There, the man laid face down on the ground and went limp, pretending to be dead.
The man didn’t have to wait long before the giant came swinging through the woods, hungry. Seeing the human man slumped there on the ground, the giant stopped, looked at him, then laughed. “Hah! The humans are so scared of me now, they’re dropping dead from fright.”
Bending down, the giant poked the man with one long, nasty finger. “Oh, still warm too. Nice and fresh. Good, now I don’t have to hunt.”
Scooping the man up, the giant slung him over one wide shoulder and turned around, loping back the way he came. The human man kept quiet and still, never stirring, not making a sound, even when the giant carried him into his lodge and dumped him on the ground.
Dusting his hands off, the giant walked over to his hearth, but stopped short, seeing that his firewood had been used completely up. Muttering under his breath, the giant stomped back out into the forest to collect wood to roast his dinner.
Waiting until he heard the giant’s footsteps fade away, the human man jumped up and rushed around the giant’s huge lodge. The man knew that many brave warriors had tried to fight back against the giant, and that they had sunk their arrows and spears into his chest without earning so much as a wince from the giant. This told the man that the giant’s heart was not in his chest. He must have hidden it somewhere else.
The man turned every basket and jar and box upside down but could not find the giant’s heart. As he rummaged, the man pulled back an animal skin and recoiled at the sight of the giant’s skinning knife laying there on the floor. How many poor people had been killed by that thing?
The thought of it enraged the man and he hefted it up, thought it was nearly the length of a boat oar. He hurried over to the lodge’s entrance and pressed himself up against the wall and waited.
He didn’t have to wait very long; the giant’s son arrived home a moment later. The lodge was built much the same way as the humans’ lodges were built, so the young beast had to bow low to enter the dwelling. He was considerably smaller than his evil father, so the human man wasted no time pouncing on the young giant, knocking the yelping monster to the floor and holding the skinning knife to his throat.
“Your father’s heart!” the man shouted, pressing the knife harder against the younger giant’s throat, making his eyes bulge with terror. “Where is it? Where did he hide it? Tell me or I’ll kill you!”
In fear for his life, the younger giant cried, “He keeps his heart in his left heel! I swear!”
Growling, the man lifted the knife away from the monster’s throat and jerked his head towards the door. Nodding wildly in understanding, the boy giant scrambled to his hands and knees and crawled out the door, fleeing deep into the woods.
Resuming his post beside the door, the human man waited only a little longer before the giant returned, his arms laden with saplings he had uprooted for firewood. Stooping through the door, the giant chuckled again to himself. “I’ll start with his heart … that’s always the best part.”
“Good idea!” Not giving the giant a second to register what he said, the man lunged out of the shadows and buried the skinning knife deep into the giant’s left heel, piercing his heart. Horrified, the giant screamed and collapsed to the floor, his dark blood gouting everywhere. Weakening rapidly, the giant strained to reach the knife, his hand grabbing at nothing but air.
Gasping for breath, the giant sagged down, his hate-filled eyes locked on the human man as he stood before him, watching him die. The giant bared his teeth at the man, each one as wide and black as a rotting tree stump.
“You didn’t win!” the monster wheezed. “You think you’ve killed me, but I won’t be gone. I’ll come back, and I’ll eat every last one of you humans!”
“I doubt it,” the man sneered as the last vile light faded from the giant’s eyes. “I’m going to make sure you’ll never hurt anybody ever again.”
With those words the human man set to work, chopping up the giant’s body and burning every piece so thoroughly that nothing but fine ash remained. Once the ash had cooled, the man scooped it all up and threw it into the winds, scattering the ash all across the world.
Relieved that the horror was finally over, the man turned to head back to his village. As he walked away from where he had burned the monstrous giant’s body, a mote of soot fluttered down and landed on the back of his hand. Instantly, the ash transformed, turning into a tiny black, winged creature with a needle for its mouth, which it then stabbed through the man’s skin and began to drink his blood.
Startled, the man slapped the creature, killing it. As he walked on, more and more of the black insects swarmed around him, biting him, whining into his ears. It didn’t take long for the man to realize that the giant had fulfilled his vow: he came back to hunt humans again, the ashes of his cremated body turning into flying, blood-sucking insects.
And that is how mosquitoes were created.