The Magic of Reality by Dawkins Richard & McKean Dave

The Magic of Reality by Dawkins Richard & McKean Dave

Author:Dawkins, Richard & McKean, Dave [McKean, Dave]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Ciência
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Published: 2012-09-11T03:00:00+00:00


7

WHAT IS A RAINBOW?

THE EPIC OF Gilgamesh is one of the oldest stories ever written. Older than the legends of the Greeks or the Jews, it is the ancient heroic myth of the Sumerian civilization, which flourished in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago. Gilgamesh was the great hero king of Sumerian myth – a bit like King Arthur in British legends, in that nobody knows whether he actually existed, but lots of stories were told about him. Like the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses) and the Arabian hero Sinbad the Sailor, Gilgamesh went on epic travels, and he met many strange things and people on his journeys. One of them was an old man (a very, very old man, centuries old) called Utnapashtim, who told Gilgamesh a strange story about himself. Well, it seemed strange to Gilgamesh, but it may not seem so strange to you because you have probably heard a similar story . . . about another old man with a different name.

Utnapashtim told Gilgamesh of an occasion, many centuries earlier, when the gods were angry with humankind because we made so much noise they couldn’t sleep.

The chief god, Enlil, suggested that they should send a great flood to destroy everybody, so the gods could get a good night’s rest. But the water god, Ea, decided to warn Utnapashtim. Ea told Utnapashtim to tear down his house and build a boat. It would have to be a very big boat, because Utnapashtim was to take into it ‘the seed of all living creatures’. Utnapashtim built the boat just in time, before it rained for six days and six nights without stopping. The flood that followed drowned everybody and everything that was not safely inside the boat. On the seventh day the wind dropped and the waters grew calm and flat.

Utnapashtim opened a hatch in the tightly sealed boat and released a dove. The dove flew away, looking for land, but failed to find any and returned. Then Utnapashtim released a swallow, but the same thing happened. Finally Utnapashtim released a raven. The raven didn’t come back, which suggested to Utnapashtim that there was dry land somewhere and the raven had found it.

Eventually the boat came to rest on a mountaintop poking out of the water. Another god, Ishtar, created the first rainbow, as a token of the gods’ promise to send no more terrible floods. So that is how the rainbow came into being, according to the ancient legend of the Sumerians.

Well, I said the story would be familiar. All children reared in Christian, Jewish or Islamic countries will immediately recognize that it is the same as the more recent story of Noah’s Ark, with one or two minor differences. The name of the boat-builder changes from Utnapashtim to Noah. The many gods of the older legend turn into the one god of the Jewish story. The ‘seed of all living creatures’ comes to be spelled out as ‘every living thing of all flesh, two



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