Before turning my attention to specific myths, I will explain few things as a short introduction.
Indians for a long time did not have writing. Therefore, their folk tales were passed from mouth to mouth. All myths have been collected and preserved in writing thanks to the hard work of American anthropologists and indigenous translators. Because the myths were passed down from generation to generation by means of speech, when the time of writing the tales down came – only a skeleton of each mythological story lasted. Over time, as the Indians learned to write, they started to make backups of their mythology themselves.
Furthermore, one should not be surprised that many of the Native American myths do not have the same structure as traditional European tales. For example: the myths lack moral and are not divided into an introduction, body and conclusion. Also, when Native Americans tell their stories, they may start it from any point, without paying much respect to so natural for Europeans rigid order of events.
However, it appears that the word of mouth and lack of chronology can be an advantage. Many Indians while telling their tales added their own interpretation of events, characters, and character traits, in order to reach out to their audience. Of course, this gives birth to a myriad of stories with the same core. This resembles a bit the Japanese mythology, which also has a number of versions of the same myth, although Japanese myths were written much earlier.
Additionally, Indians use in their myths tricksters: characters that break the rules, assure the cycle of creation and destruction to repeat, undermine the authority, do not know either good or evil but are responsible for both. Tricksters often take the animal form. With their help Indians tried to explain why the world is not perfect.
Also, while presenting here myths I will relate only to the continent (North America), as some tribal cultural areas can extend from Texas to the northern border of Canada. However, I will inform of the cultural area from which the tale origins as Indian mythology has been divided into nine cultural areas (which will also be summarized here in the future).
- Evelyn Wolfson – American Indian mythology
- Paul Radin – The Trickster, a study in American Indian mythology