Given to the Sun
Myths and legends, retold by Anthony Horowitz
A legendary collection from around the world
"Why do we Incas worship the Sun ?", the boy asked.
"Have you not been taught that at school ?", the Inca priest demanded crossly.
"I am too young to have gone to school", the boy replied.
The priest softened. "Very well", he said. "I will tell you the story of how the Sun came into the land ..."
"There was a time, long, long ago, when the whole land was covered in drakness, when there was nothing but rocky mountains and plunging cliffs. The people knew nothing then. They lived like animals, going naked in the fields, without shame. They had neither houses, nor villages but lived in caves, hudding together for warmth, unable even to light a fire. They fed on wild fruits and whateven animals they could catch, tearing at the meat with their theeth and swallowing it raw. When times where hard, they ate grass or roots of weeds and wide plants and sometimes (horrible to say) they might even feast on human flesh."
"Then come Inti - for that is the name we have given to the Sun, a name that only a tru Inca may utter - and his light lit the world and showed up the wretched state of people. And because the Sun was kind, he was ashamed for them. So he decided to send one of his sons down from Even to Earth. It would be his job to show men and women how to till the soil, how to sow seed, to raise cattle, to bring in the fruits of the harvest. He would also teach men and women to worship the Sun as their god, for without light and warmth they could be no better than animals."
"What was the name of the son of the Sun ?", the boy asked.
"His name was Manco Capac," the priest said. "And with him came Occlo Huaco. She was the daughter of the Moon."
"Was the Sun the friend of the Moon ?"
"They were married to each other," the priest explained. "So the two children were brother and sister."
"The son and daughter of the Sun were set down on two islands in Lake Titicaca, which is the highest lake in the world. Even to this day they are known as the islands of the Sun and the Moon. Then they walked across the lake, the water sparkling like diamonds at their feet, until at last they stepped onto dry land and began their work.
Before they had left heaven, the Sun had given them a rod of gold. It was about as thick as two fingers and a little shorter than a man's arm.
'Go where you will,'(he had told them), 'but whenever you stop to sleep or eat, try pushing this rod onto the earth. If it won't go in, or only goes in a little way, keep moving. But when you reach the spot where, with a single thrust, the rod disappears completely, you will know that you are in a place that is sacred to me. And there you must stay. It will become the site for a great city, full of palaces and temples. And that city will be the center of my empire, and empire such as has never been seen before in the world.'
Manco Capac and Occlo Huaco left Titicaca Lake and began walking toward the north. Every day, they tried to push their rod of gold into the earth, but without succes. This went on for many weeks until at least they came to the valley of Cuzco which was then nothing more than a wild, mountainous desert. When they tried their rod here, it disappeared completely into the ground so they knew they had reached the place where the Inca empire was to be founded.
The two of them then went their own ways, talking to the savages they met and explaining why they had come. The savages, of course, were hugely impressed. For the strangers were dressed in beautiful clothes. Gold discs hung from their ears. Their hair was short and tidy and their bodies were clean. There had never been two people like them and soon thousands of men and women had come to the valley of Cuzco to see them and to hear what they had to say.
Then it was that Manco Capac began building the city that his father had demanded. At the same time, he and his sister taught the people everything they needed to know if they were to be properly civilized."
"Was the city the same city that we are in now ?" the boy asked.
"Yes,", the priest said. "it was called Cuzco. And it was divided into two halves. Upper Cuzco was built by our king. Lower Cuzco was built by the queen."
"Why where there two halves ?"
"It was built like the human body, with a right side and a left side. All our cities have been built the same way. But the sun is rising, boy. We must make an end soon ..."
"In only a short time, the savages were savage no more. They lived in brick houses and wore proper clothes. Manco Capac had taught the men how to cultivate the fields while his sister had taught the women how to spin and weave. There was even an army in Cuzco with bows and arrows and spears, ready to fight thoses people who still remained in the wild. But gradually the empire spread and Manco Capac became the first Inca, which is to say the first king of the Inca people.
Always since then, the Incas have worshipped the sun. For every Inca king who reigns is a descendant of Manco Capac and so a descendant of the Sun. The Sun gives light and warmth and makes the crops grow. The Sun sent his own son into the world so that the people would no longer behave like animals. Great temples have been built to honour the Sun, reflecting his rays in sheets of beaten gold.
And on Inti Raymi - which is the summer solstice, the day when the Sun is at the furthest extreme of his journey south - then there is a festival with music and dancing and feasting. On that day, sacrifices are made. Llamas have their throats cut and then they are burnt. The smoke rises into the air and in this way they are given to the Sun. And if there is a special event to be celebrated, a great victory for example, then it is not an animal but a child that must die."
"And I am to de given to the Sun," the boy whispered.
"That is your honour, boy," the priest said.
The sun had risen above the horizon now. The priest forced the boy back against the sacrificial stone, then thrust the ceremonial knife deep into his heart. A fire was lit. And soon the smoke was curling upwards, up into the brilliant sky.
Source: Given to the Sun, short story from "Myths and legends"
retold by Anthony Horowitz, Kingfisher Books, 1985
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Page updated on 01/19/2021, 1:57 pm