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  • Source: Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz, American Indian Myths and Legends, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 167.The Scabby One Lights The Sky

    Toltec

    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 turquoise.

    "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.





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