Welcome to week 8 of the Folklore and Myth Thursday posts! This week I’ll be looking at mythological and folkloric characters starting with the letter H and these will include Huitzilopochtli, Hanuman, Han Xiang and Han Zhongli, Hina, and Hine-hau-one.
Huitzilopochtli is said to have led the Aztecs from “Aztlan in northwest Mexico on a great migration to their new home in the Valley of Mexico” (Rosen, 2008:392). He is the offspring of Coatlicue (whom you may recall from week 3) who is an Aztec goddess. Huitzilopochtli’s name means “the hummingbird of the south” (Rosen, 2008:392) and is the Aztec god of “war and the Sun and principal deity of the great city of Tenochtitlan (modern-day Mexico City)” (Rosen, 2008:392).
You can read more about Huitzilopochtli as a cultural hero in The Mythical Creatures Bible (2008) (see the sources list at the end of the post).
Huitzilopochtli “was engaged in a constant struggle with the darkness and required nourishment in the form of sacrifices to survive” (Rosen, 2008: 392). “In images he has a black face, blue arms and legs, hummingbird feathers on his left leg, feather-tipped arrows, and a spear-thrower in the shape of a serpent” (Rosen, 2008:392).
One of the most important characters in the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, Hanuman is one of the Vanara – “a human with the tail of a monkey” (Rosen, 2008:344). “Vanaras are brave, inquisitive, loyal, adventurous and kind. About 12 in. (30 cm) shorter than human beings, their bodies are covered with light brown hair, and they have monkey tails and simian faces” (Rosen, 2008:344).
Hanuman’s mother is one of the Apsaras (a female spirit of the clouds and waters) while his father is the wind god Vayu. After Hanuman flies into the sky as a young child to catch and eat the sun – thinking it is a fruit – he is struck by Indra with his thunderbolt weapon and falls back to earth unconscious. “Upset at this treatment of his son, Vayu withdraws all winds from the world and living beings begin to die” (Rosen, 2008:344). The Devas revive Hanuman and gives him many powers.
The Ramayana also tells of Hanuman’s part in the search for and battle to rescue Sita from the demon Ravana. (See also Rosen, 2008:344.)
Han Xiang and Han Zhongli
Both Han Xiang and Han Zhongli are of the Eight immortals of Chinese Daoist myth. Han Xiang is the great-nephew of Han Yü, “a philosopher and essayist of the Tang dynasty (618 – 907 CE)” (Tresidder, 2004:221). Han Xiang went in search of the Dao (the Daoist principle of existence) “as the pupil of the Immortal Lü Dongbin” (Tresidder, 2004:221). Lü Dongbin took him to heaven to eat of the peaches of eternal life, but as Han Xiang climbed the tree, he slipped and fell to earth. “As he was about to hit the ground he achieved immortality” (Tresidder, 2004:221).
Han Zhongli lived during the Han dynasty (202 BC – AD 220) and learned the Dao from Li Xuan “the first immortal, and was the messenger of heaven” (Tresidder, 2004:221).
According to Tongan myth, Hina was the woman who grew the first coconut. “Hina was a noblewoman whose virginity was respected and protected by all the community. An eel had intercourse with her and made her pregnant. Her people caught the eel, chopped it up and ate it, apart from the head, which Hina asked to keep. She buried the head and from it sprouted the first coconut” (Tresidder, 2004:237).
According to Maori myth, Hine-hau-one was the first human being. The creator god Tane made the first human from sand of Hawaiki Island and she was called Hine-hau-one (”Earth-Created Maiden” [Tresidder, 2004:237]). Hine-hau-one “was responsible for the first human birth and for the arrival of mortality” (Tresidder, 2004:237). Her and Tane’s daughter, Hine-titama, would become Hine-nui-te-po, “the giant goddess of the underworld and death” (Tresidder, 2004:237).
Rosen, B. (2008). The Mythical Creatures Bible. London: Sterling Publishing.
Tresidder, J. (2004). The Complete Dictionary of Symbols in Myth, Art and Literature. London: Duncan Baird Publishers.