Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Hopi Orpheus

Writing my post about the Inquisition and the church at Quarai, I reviewed the history of the Pueblo Revolt, which led me to the work of Ekkehart Malotki, a specialist in Hopi language and oral literature. I ended up reading his Hopi Stories of Witchcraft, Shamanism, and Magic, which are full of shapeshifting, potions, evil sorcerers--all the usual stuff. Malotki collected these stories in the 1980s.

One story, "The Man Who Traveled to Maski, Home of the Dead, to Bring Back His Wife," maps almost perfectly onto the story of Orpheus and Eurydice.

I could make several stories out of that coincidence:

1. Aha, it's another example of trade links between Mediterranean world and the American Southwest 2,000 years ago, but the tenured professors won't accept the evidence that is in front of their eyes!

2. Or maybe a century ago some Hopi kid got sent off to boarding school, found solace in a book of Greek myths in the school library, and came back and told the story, giving it a Hopi gloss, and soon it became "traditional."

3. Or maybe going to the Land of the Dead to bring home your dear one is not a good idea and usually ends up tragically, regardless of the culture.



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