The Scabby One Lights The Sky
Five worlds and five suns were created one after the
other. There were the suns of earth, fire, air, water, and
rock. The first world was destroyed because its people
acted wrongfully: they were devoured by ocelots, and
their sun also died. The second sun, the pure orb, saw
his human beings changed into monkeys for their lack
of wisdom. Next came the sun of fire, whose world was
destroyed by flames, earthquakes, and volcanic
eruptions because the people living in it were impious
and did not sacrifice to the gods. The fourth world perished in a great flood which also drowned
its sun. Before the dawn of the fifth, our present world, all the gods assembled in darkness to
decide who should have the honor--and a dangerous honor it turned out to be to light up the fifth
world, and with it the fifth sun. One god named Tecciztecatl volunteered, thinking to get much
praise from the other gods. After days of purification, the gods built a huge fire on the top of a
pyramid and told Tecciztecatl: "Light up the world!"
"How?" asked Tecciztecatl, dressed in irridescent hummingbird feathers and jewels of gold and
"By jumping into the fire, O Tecciztecatl," said the gods.
But Tecciztecatl was afraid; he didn't want to be burned up. Four times he tried to immolate
himself, and four times the heat, the flames, and his fear drove him back.
Then the lowliest of all the gods, Nanautzin, dressed in humble garments of woven reeds,
misshapen, ugly, and covered with scabs, offered to renew the world and light up the sun by
jumping into the fire. None of the gods had paid him the slightest attention before, but now they
all cried with one voice:
"O. Scabby One, be thou he who brings back the Sun!"
Without a moment's hesitation Nanautzin hurled himself into the flames, burning up with a great
crackling sound, his blazing garments of reeds lighting up the sky. And ashamed of his
cowardice, Tecciztecatl followed his example and was cremated also. At once the sun rose to
light up the new fifth world, and it was the despised Scabby One, brave Nanautzin, who by his
death had given life to the sun.
--Based on Nahua versions of a lost Toltec legend.
Source: Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz, American Indian Myths and Legends, (New York:
Pantheon Books, 1984), 166-68.