3:5 – Creation Stories and Ethos

by VictoriaWoo

Question 3

What are the major differences or similarities between the ethos of the creation story or stories you are familiar with and the story King tells in The Truth About Stories ?

Growing up, I wasn’t knowledgeable about any one creation story in particular; perhaps I can partly attribute this to not being raised religiously, since most religions do contain some kind of narrative about the beginning of the world/mankind. Like many others, though, I did know bits and pieces of the biblical Genesis creation story (it’s hard not to living in the Western world).

Regardless of which specific creation story one is familiar with, to really understand the story one must carefully consider its ethos, “the characteristic spirit… as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations” (dictionary.com). In this blog post, I will attempt to compare the differences and similarities between the ethos of the bible’s Genesis creation story and the story King tells in The Truth About Stories. 

To begin with, there are some general similarities and differences between these two stories which, in turn, inform the ethos of either one. Perhaps the most obvious similarity is that both Genesis and King’s story depend on interactions between humans and animals. In the bible, Eve interacts solely with the serpent (Satan), while in King’s creation story, Charm interacts with many different animals. A notable difference between the two stories, though, is the implications of these interactions between human and animal— specifically, between woman and animal. In Genesis, the interaction between Eve and the serpent quite clearly has negative implications; her curiosity (and subsequent temptation) to eat from the tree of knowledge leads to the destruction of the world God has created. In King’s story, however, Charm’s curiosity or her “nosiness” (first exemplified when she wonders why she has five toes), eventually leads to her and the many animals’ joint creation of the world. While both Eve and Charm do have agency and do derive some kind of power from said agency, only Eve’s is portrayed in a negative light— one can ultimately see how there is misogyny rooted in Genesis.

Both Genesis and King’s story also highlight potential differences between Western and Indigenous thought. For example, in King’s story, we can clearly see how interconnected and shared the creation process is; the world is created and livened via the dedicated teamwork of Charm, her twins, and all the animals combined. As King eloquently puts it, the universe in his story “is governed by a series of co-operations” (23). The story of Genesis, in contrast, consists of a solitary creation effort— God creates the entire world himself and only relies on Adam and Eve to propagate it further. This is not to suggest that Western thought lacks complexity, though; rather, this simply suggests that the nature of Indigenous thought is very much holistic and harmonious. In reading King’s other book, Green Grass Running Water, one can also sense this type of harmony and interconnection, particularly through the metaphor of the Medicine Wheel.

Although attending a Western university means that I have studied the likes of Genesis in works such as Paradise Lost, I find great value and appreciation in being exposed to the Indigenous storytelling approach that can be seen in both The Truth About Stories and Green Grass Running Water. Rather than “believ[ing] one story to be sacred… [and] see[ing] the other as secular,” perhaps we should all instead be receptive to the unique teachings that each story may have to offer (King, 25).

Works Cited

“Ethos.” Dictionary. LLC. N.d. Web. 19 Jul. 2016.

“Genesis 1-3:24 – New International Version.” Bible Gateway. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jul. 2016.

King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2003. Print.

“Medicine Ways: Traditional Healers and Healing.” Native Peoples Concepts of Health and Illness. N.d. Web. 19 Jul. 2016.