Central Asian Mythology

Central Asian Creation and Devil-Tricksters

What is an example of a Mongolian creation myth?

The Mongol people, living in parts of what are now China and Russia, have this earth-diver myth. Some of the names of the characters in the myth are similar to or the same as names of different characters in other Central Asian myths.

In the beginning Sky Father looked down on the primordial waters. He had two sons, Ulgen Tenger and Erleg Khan, to whom he assigned aspects of creation. Ulgen sent the loon into the depths to find mud for the making of earth, but the loon failed. The duck was sent next and was more successful. She brought up some mud, on which Ulgen immediately fell asleep. Now Ulgen’s brother, Erleg, approached and tried to pull the earth out from under his brother, but this only caused the earth to spread out. When Ulgen woke up he created more things. Here the myth becomes very similar to the Buryat myth. Ulgen leaves the dog to watch over his work while he returns to the sky, but his evil brother corrupts the dog, and the results are smelly dogs and all the pains we have in life.

The themes of the diving animals, some of whom fail, and that of the two brothers—one good, one evil—will find homes, as we shall see, in the myths of Native North Americans.


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