A Look At Ancient Human Folktales

When Halo: Primordium came out in 2012 there was a lot of promise with this novel. We’d get a book from the perspective of the ancient human Chakas as he and his companion Riser explored a Halo ring unlike one we had ever seen. Along the way, he was joined by a young woman named Vinerva and her grandfather Gamelpar. Along they way they would encounter numerous strange things from the Gigantothipcus named Mara, to an abandoned human village with ten proto-Graveminds residing within it, to the tortuous Palace of Pain. While it was criticized by some as being just characters walking around, it was fun to have a Halo novel not focused on warfare and just be about individuals living in the universe and encountering what it has to hold. To this day I hold Halo: Primordium in high regard and consider it either my second or third favorite Halo book right behind First Strike and fighting for that second place spot with Silentium.

A bit about my background, I am interested in ancient religions, cults, folktales, or whatever you wish to call a belief system. Edith Hamilton’s Mythology was my first major education on ancient Greek and Roman religions during my high school years and I sought to learn more. In college, I was opened up to further avenues with a course on ancient civilizations. I delighted in learning about the parallels of the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Old testament, particular the Flood myth of Noah. I found myself guided through the Ramayana where Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, fought demons and won the heart of his beloved Sita. This course supplemented with courses on the Book of Revelation, medieval European literature of the pagan and Christian varieties, and made me aware of many forms of worship and veneration we as a species have been able to craft over the millennia. All of this culminated in my senior project that granted me my Bachelor of Arts in History, an examination and classification of Christian gnosticism from the 1st century AD to the 2nd century AD. I apologize for being so personal here, but it ties into why I became so interested in what I feel to be an often forgotten part of Primordium: the folklore of ancient humanity.

Now, there is no grand narrative told with these bits of lore and we get what amount to names and occupations for characters and deities. Still, it should be fun to derive some meaning from what is there and what is there should be remembered.

Abada the Rhinoceros

According to Chakas, Abada serves a judgemental role within the ancient human afterlife. Chakas notes that one must be humble before Abada so that he may curry favor with the rhinoceros. In turn, Abada watches over the bones of the deceased from predators who would disturb them until the Great Elephant comes to nudge the bones from the dirt. This act revives the dead and they are allowed to pass on to the Far Shore before the end of time. However, fear can disuade Abada from watching over the bones of the dead and doom the dead to an afterline of misery. This ranges from abuse by predators to endless wandering.

 

Great Elephant

The Great Elephant is a friend to Abada the Rhinoceros and a helper in the ancient human conception of the afterlife. As mentioned in Abada’s entry, nudges the bones of the dead in order to raise the dead back to life. However, fear can prevent the Great Elephant from finding the bones of the dead and doom the dead to a horrible afterlife.

 

Hyena, Sabertooths, Eagles, Buzzards

These animals take on the form of tormentors in the ancient human afterlife. The hyenas are given the most focus in particular. Hyenas cackle at humans who carry lingering fear into the afterlife and grind the soul.

 

Jaguars, Crocodiles

These animals take the form of protective beings in the ancient human afterlife. Chakas relates how the jaguar acts as the counter to the sabertooth by snarling at it while the crocodile slithers through the mud to force buzzards to flee.

 

Far Shore

The far shore appears to be the ideal destination for the deceased to venture to in the ancient human afterlife. One’s ancestors await the deceased at the far shore. Beyond the far shore is a rich, green prairie where ancestors can also be found floating and awaiting the dead. All manner pain and hatred have no place in this paradise and the dead cease to have any trouble. The jaguar snarls at the sabertooth and crocodile patrols the mud for buzzards in this corner of the afterlife.

 

Mongoose

This animal is a trickster who is responsible for the creation of humanity. Mongoose is said to have convinced Sun and Mud to mate with each other to produce offspring. The offspring created from this union were worms that Mongoose proceeded to mock until the worms became angry enough to sprout legs in order to chase Mongoose. Mongoose was also known to annoy the humourless gods of Tree, River, Rock, and Cloud with jokes.

 

Sun, Mud, Tree, River, Rock, and Cloud

These six beings are recognized as divine in some form with the latter four being called gods with Sun and Mud likely being gods themselves. What their precise occupations or roles in the ancient human pantheon remain a mystery, but it can be assumed they are nature spirits who embody the aspects of their names.

 

The First Human

A being told of by Gamelpar to Chakas before the former’s death. The First Human does not appear to be related to the ancient human system Chakas knows due to a conflict with worms being the first humans. However, the First Human is still tied to humanity due to his giant forefinger containing the souls of all humans for all generations to come.

 

Sacred Caves

Constantly referenced by Chakas during the story, the sacred caves are where Chakas was told about all the beings and locations associated with life and death in ancient human mythology. Where these caves are located exactly is not said, but they obviously contain pictures of some kind that de-evolved ancient humans find meaning in. It is also never stated whether ancient humans drew these pictures or if they were discovered. Perhaps these caves shelter a record of some sort before humanity was de-evolved by the Forerunners that the humans of Chakas’ time make the best sense they can from.

And that is what I have managed to find regarding ancient human folktales, religion, whatever you wish to call it. I was able to contact Greg Bear, the author of the Forerunner Saga, years ago about his influences for ancient human tales and this is what he wrote back to me:

A lot of it is instinct, some is from wide reading–Abada, for example, you will find in Yule’s dictionary of Anglo-Indian words, HOBSON JOBSON, available as a PDF from Google Books Scans, or through antiquarian booksellers, or as a paperback published about ten years ago. For the rest, I’d investigate books on mythology, and a good place to begin is Joseph Campbell’s THE MASKS OF GOD and his multi-volume sets on mythology. From there–go forth and discover! And recreate your own past.

Greg Bear Discussion Archive for January to June 2014

It may not be much to go on, but it certainly shows that Mr. Bear put a lot of thought into crafting these tales despite how brief they are in the narrative. With how cyclical things seem to be in the Halo Universe, I have to wonder if the ancient human tales from Primordium are memories from the pre-de-evolved ancient human days wrapped up in religious symbolism. If the sacred caves are such a record then what those stories contain may represent beings, events, and more from the human-Forerunner war, investigations on the Precursors, you name it. Interesting things to think about.

“When the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.”

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3 thoughts on “A Look At Ancient Human Folktales

  1. Awesome post, Cobra!

    Note the parallels between Abada the Rhinoceros and Far Shore with the Domain, with the whole Forerunner afterlife belief that souls will be held in the Domain to await judgement and the end of Living Time.

    The notion of worms being the first humans is so funny to me. In the H2A prologue bookend when Thel says “you are a hunter, yes?”, I just expect Locke to remove his helmet to reveal a bunch of Lekgolo worms underneath 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That notion about the Domain had crossed my mind when writing this. Can you imagine if Warden is supposed to be Abada as the guardian of the Domain (Far Shore)? Something got lost in translation given how much of a jerk Warden is. But yeah, the worm-human thing made me chuckle when I first read it too.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I found the little tidbits throughout the Forerunner trilogy, especially Primordium, about Ancient Human mythology/folklore really interesting, especially being someone who a) likes learning about real world myths and b) likes to create mythologies and such for my own original stories. I sometimes feel like the odd one out in the fact that I find Primordium to be my favorite of the trilogy. It felt so fresh and sometimes I forgot it was a Halo novel because of how original it was.

    Like

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