Gregory Forth: Animal Mockery in Southeast Asian and African Origin Mythology


Found in many parts of insular Southeast Asia and the adjacent mainland, a widespread complex of taboos concerns actions that are believed to result in a disastrous storm and, sometimes, petrification of offenders. The most typical offenses involve somehow mocking non-human animals, or in a few cases plants or trees. One aim of the paper is to isolate, as a distinct component of this complex, a series of myths that describe how acts of animal mockery resulted in the formation of lakes or other permanent features of local landscapes. There follows a detailed discussion of resemblances between these origin stories and several African origin of death myths that feature people mocking non-humans by giving them human funerals. The variety of societies that express disapproval of animal mockery then facilitates assessment of recent ontological pluralist theory, according to which cultures differ radically in how they conceive of human-animal relations. 

[Southeast Asia and Africa, animal mockery, taboo, origin of death myths, ontology of human-animal relations]

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