Throughout the World
March/April 1996 issue of California
An earthquake is a
sudden, rapid shaking of the earth
caused by the release of energy stored
traditional explanations of natural
phenomena that evolve when scientific
explanations are not available.
The earth is held up
by four elephants that stand on the back
of a turtle. The turtle is balanced in
turn on a cobra. When one of these
animals moves, the earth trembles and
Bangladesh and China)
There is a race of
people living inside the earth. From
time to time they shake the ground to
find out if anyone is still living on
the surface. When children feel a quake,
they shout "Alive, alive!" so the people
inside the earth will know they are
there and stop the shaking.
El Diablo, the devil,
makes giant rips in the earth from the
inside. He and his devilish friends use
the cracks when they want to come and
stir up trouble on earth.
The earth rests on a
sled driven by a god named Tuli. The
dogs who pull the sled have fleas. When
they stop to scratch, the earth shakes.
The earth is a living
creature, and it has the same kinds of
problems people have. Sometimes it gets
sick with a fever and chills, and we can
feel its shaking.
Once a Chickasaw
chief was in love with a Choctaw
princess. He was young and handsome, but
he had a twisted foot, so his people
called him Reelfoot. When the princess'
father refused to give Reelfoot his
daughter's hand, the chief and his
friends kidnapped her and began to
celebrate their marriage.
The Great Spirit was
angry, and stomped his foot. The shock
caused the Mississippi to overflow its
banks and drown the entire wedding
party. (Reelfoot Lake, on the Tennessee
side of the Mississippi, was actually
formed as a result of the New Madrid
earthquake of 1812.)
The earth is a flat
disk, held up on one side by an enormous
mountain and on the other by a giant.
The giant's wife holds up the sky. The
earth trembles whenever he stops to hug
The gods who made the
earth gave it to a frog to carry on his
back. When this huge frog stirs, the
earth moves directly above the part of
him that moves: hind foot, head,
shoulder, or whatever.
Seven serpents share
the task of guarding the seven sections
of the lowest heaven. The seven of them
also take turns holding up the earth.
When one finishes its turn and another
moves into place, people on earth may
feel a jolt.
A god named Drebkuhls
carries the earth in his arms as he
walks through the heavens. When he's
having a bad day, he might handle his
burden a little roughly. Then the earth
will feel the shaking.
The square earth is
held up at its four corners by four
gods, the Vashakmen. When they decide
the earth is becoming overpopulated,
they tip it to get rid of surplus
The world rests on
the divine pillars of Faith, Hope, and
Charity. When the deeds of human beings
make one of the pillars weak, the earth
A giant carries the
earth on his head. All the plants that
grow on the earth are his hair, and
people and animals are the insects that
crawl through his hair. He usually sits
and faces the east, but once in a while
he turns to the west and then back to
the east, with a jolt that is felt as an
THE TURTLE TALE
Long, long ago,
before there were people, there was
hardly anything in the world but water.
One day, Great Spirit looked down from
heaven, He decided to make a beautiful
land. But where could he begin? All he
saw was water. Then he spotted a giant
turtle. Great Spirit decided to make the
beautiful land on the turtle.
But one turtle was
not big enough. The land Great Spirit
wanted to make was very large. So he
called out, "Turtle, hurry and find your
six brothers." Turtle swam to find them.
It took her a whole day to find the
first. It took another day to find the
rest. After six days, turtle had found
her six brothers. "Come," she said,
"Great Spirit wants us."
Great Spirit called
down. "Turtles! Form a line, all of you
to tail, north to south. Umm three on
the south, please move a little to the
east. Hmm. Yes, that's just right. What
a beautiful land you turtles will make!
Now listen! It is a great honor to carry
this beautiful land on your backs. So
you must not move!"
The turtles stayed
very still. Great Spirit took some straw
from his supply in the sky. He spread it
out on the turtles' backs. Then he took
some soil and patted it down on top of
Great Spirit cleaned
his hands on a fluffy white cloud. Then
he went to work, shaping mountains and
valleys, and lakes, and rivers. When he
was finished he looked at the beautiful
land he had made. Great Spirit was very
pleased. But soon trouble came. The
giant turtles grew restless. They wanted
to stretch their legs. "I want to swim
east," said one. "This beast goes east."
"West is best. I'll swim toward the
setting sun," said another.
The turtles began to
argue. They could not agree on which way
to move. One day, four of the turtles
began to swim east. The others began to
swim west. The earth shook! It cracked
with a loud noise. But after a minute,
the shaking stopped. The turtles had to
stop moving because the land on their
backs was so heavy. They had only been
able to swim a little way from each
other. When they saw that they could not
swim away, they stopped and made up.
Every once in a
while, though, the turtles argue again.
Each time they do, the earth shakes.
March/April 1996 issue of CALIFORNIA
in 1989 in Earthquakes by the
Science Teachers Association, 1840
Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA
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