The sample essay on Flood Symbolism deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.
DJ Sims English H II September 16, 2012 1 Flood Essay Almost everyone knows the story of Noah and the Ark but you may not know that many other cultures have flood stories as well. These stories have many differences and many similarities but one thing they all have in common is symbolism. Symbolism is the practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships. What part does symbolism play in the story of the floods? Symbolism is often used in writing especially during the time that the flood stories were written.
Since the stories were passed through mouth and not paper like today the story tellers used symbolism to paint the picture for those who were listening. Almost anything can be symbolic if you can give enough proof as to why it is symbolic. Even colors can be symbolic and colors like purple and gold are colors of royalty. In the following paragraphs you will be made aware of the symbolism in the following stories, The Story of the Flood from the Epic of Gilgamesh, The Flood from Greek culture, The Flood from Hindu culture, and the story of Noah and the Ark from the Bible.
Symbols In The Epic Of Gilgamesh
In The Story of the Flood from The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh is on a search for immortality and goes to Utnapishtim and his family, the only people granted immortality, and asks him how he achieved it. Utnapishtim tells him a story of a great flood that killed all of mankind. “The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of babel” (Sandars). So the gods decided to flood the earth and kill all mankind. Though Enlil, a warrior, warned Utnapishtim of what was to come and had him build a boat and to gather every living thing, every kind of seed, and his kin into the boat.
When the storm came everything died except for those on the boat and when the rain subsided and the waters cleared Utnapishtim burnt a sacrifice to the gods who in turn made him and his wife immortal. In the beginning of the story the world is described as a wild bull. “In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull” (Sandars). A wild bull is just that, wild and they used this to show how unruly the people of earth had become. A big symbol that is used throughout the Epic of Gilgamesh is the number seven.
It said that the boat had “seven levels in all” and that “for six days and six night the winds blew, torrent and tempest and flood overwhelmed the world, and when the seventh day dawned the storm from the south subsided, the sea grew calm, and the flood subsided” (Sandars). It also says that on the seventh day he loosed a dove and the dove came back without finding land. Then he loosed a swallow and the swallow came back without finding land. He then loosed a raven who, “saw that the waters had retreated, she ate, she flew around, she cawed, and she did not come back” (Sandars).
A raven often symbolizes death because it is a carrion bird and so the raven may have been chosen in the story to find land because of the death that had taken place on earth. In the Greek story of The Flood Jupiter had bound Prometheus on top of Mount Caucasus and sent disease down on the world causing man to be wicked. Deucalion, the son of Prometheus, was the one exception. “He was only a common man and not a Titan like his great father, and yet he was known far and wide for his good deeds and the uprightness of his life” (Baldwin).
Though many had neglected their gods, Deucalion continued to visit his father and he said to his son, “The day is coming when Jupiter will send a flood to destroy mankind form the earth. Be sure that you are ready my son” (Baldwin). Deucalion was ready and when the rain came he took his wife, Pyrrha, and took shelter in the boat till the rain subsided. When the rain finally did stop the land was even more beautiful than it was before the flood had occurred but Deucalion and Pyrrha were sad because they knew they were the only people left.
Then Mercury, the messenger of the gods, came to them and said, “Go on down the mountain and as you go, cast the bones of your mother over your shoulders behind you” (Baldwin). So they did and every rock that Deucalion threw behind him sprang up as “full-grown men, strong and handsome and brave” and every rock that Pyrrha threw other her shoulder sprang up as “full-grown women, lovely and fair” (Baldwin). Deucalion became their king and named the country Hellas, after Hellen their son, and the people were much happier. The main symbol in this story is how the people rew from the stones of the earth. It is often said that people are born form the earth and when they die they are returned to the earth. In the Bible God creates man, Adam, from the dust of the earth and this relates to how the men and women are created from the stones of the earth. There are a couple different versions of the Hindu flood story but overall they relate. Manu, the first human, found a small fish that asked for protection from the larger fish. Manu did and as the fish grew he moved it from a bowl to a lake and eventually the ocean.
In return the fish warned Manu of an upcoming flood and told him to build a boat. The fish pulled him through the water and revealed himself as Parjapati Brahma and told Manu, “Create all living things and all things moving and fixed” (Frazer). The main symbol that is the same in each story is the fish. In one story the fish symbolizes the god Parjapati Brahma but it also symbolizes transformation and creation. In the story the fish transforms into Parjapati Brahma and leads Manu through the flood so that he can create a new world.
In the story of Noah and the Ark God has decided to flood the earth to rid it of all the evil. He said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them” (King James Version). Noah was just a man, but a perfect man who walked with God. God warned Noah of the flood to come and told him to build an ark. He told Noah, “with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons wives with thee.
And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female” (King James Version). When the flood came Noah did as God had asked of him and it rained for forty days and forty nights. When the forty days ended Noah sent out a raven and finding no resting place it came back. He then sent out a dove and finding no resting place it returned. Noah waited seven days and again sent out the dove and it returned with an olive leaf in her mouth and Noah knew that the waters had left the earth.
God then made a covenant, a promise, with Noah saying that never again would He flood the earth and kill all living things and that anytime he sent forth a cloud you would find a rainbow within it and remember His promise. The main symbols in this story would be the raven and the dove. As you read previously the raven is a symbol of death but the dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit in Christianity. The dove holding an olive branch symbolizes peace because after being on the ark for so long the olive branch the dove had showed that it was finally over.
It may also symbolize how at last the evil form the world was gone and the world was finally at peace. What do all these things have in common? A lot of the symbols have to do with animals. The Hindu story had to do with a fish that transformed into a god, the Flood Story from The Epic of Gilgamesh and Noah and the Ark had the raven and the dove. Though in The Epic of Gilgamesh they used the raven a symbol of death and in Noah and the Ark they used the dove a symbol of peace. It could be because The Epic of Gilgamesh was written at a darker time and didn’t have a religious background while Noah and the Ark was only religious.
The viewing of the flood in each story was different as well, in The Flood from The Epic of Gilgamesh it was viewed as sad but in Noah and the Ark it was seen as something good because the earth was purified. Symbolism was very effective in helping people from the past and present visualize the stories and discover hidden meanings throughout the text. Overall symbolism played a huge part in literature from the past and still affects literature today.
Works Citied http://www. thefreedictionary. com/symbolism http://www. squidoo. com/raven-symbolism-lore http://www. whats-your-sign. om/symbolic-meanings-of-fish. html http://christianity. about. com/od/symbolspictures/ig/Christian-Symbols-Glossary/Christian-Dove. htm http://greatseal. com/peace/dove. html Research Log http://www. thefreedictionary. com/symbolism Symbolism is the practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships. http://www. squidoo. com/raven-symbolism-lore The raven often has a bad press, for being a carrion bird it is ultimately associated with death and consequently considered a bad omen too many, or a forewarning of war. ttp://www. whats-your-sign. com/symbolic-meanings-of-fish. html In Ancient Eastern Indian mythology, the fish is a symbol of transformation and creation. http://christianity. about. com/od/symbolspictures/ig/Christian-Symbols-Glossary/Christian-Dove. htm The dove represents the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost in Christianity. http://greatseal. com/peace/dove. html If you had been on an Ark for nearly a year, and then you saw the dove return with a olive leaf, would “peace” be the best way to describe your response?