“How Mosquitoes Came To Be”: The Giant Lives OnBen DailyCarolyn KremersEnglish 213-002February 10, 1997Every time I read the Tlingit Legend, “How Mosquitoes Came To Be,” thereare certain questions that come to mind about where the legend came from and whowrote it. The legend was first published in 1883 and later found by RichardErdoes, who included it in one of his publications, American Indian Myths andLegends. Why is the human race so selfish to think we can be the hunter and notthe hunted. Although giants could be a dominant presence in our lives, humansprove that they will not be over-taken.
Each time I read the Tlingit legend, a new question would arise in mymind as to how this legend came to be and particularly, who wrote it? The firstquestion I thought of was, is he the only giant on the planet? This wasanswered for me with the introduction of the giant’s son. As I read on,something seemed puzzling to me, the fact that why humans are so selfish tothink they are better than giants, let alone anything else. For instance, whyis it okay for humans to kill a chicken, roast it and eat it, and a giant is badto “kill humans, eat their flesh, and drink their blood”(11)? Later in thestory we learn that the giant also liked to roast the hearts of humans. Anotherpuzzling question I asked myself is, if the giant was stabbed by the human and”The monster screamed and fell down dead.
“(12), why did the giant still speak?I know this is a legend or maybe just a fictionous story, but if the giant isalso a spirit then that would be helpful when reading the legend. I willanalyze these questions in hopes of understanding the problems with humans andgiants, which I might add is still being dealt with today with mosquitoeseverywhere.My first question, if this giant was the only one on the planet, seemedanswered toward the end of the story with the introduction of the giant’s son.
When the human threatened the life of the boy giant as he asked where the heartof his father was, why didn’t he kill the boy anyway? As we all know, a boywill eventually become a person, and the boy is in fact a giant, therefore bykilling the giant by stabbing him in the left heel, the human simply forgot theson. There are a lot of parts in this legend that are very unclear and when weask why, who, what, where and when, we are led into yet another question to beanswered. Which leads me into my next question, What makes a human better thana giant?In the Tlingit legend, a human feels threatened by a giant and kills it,why? I tend to think giants like to kill and eat humans, just as humans like tokill and eat cows, chicken and other animals. So tell me gentle reader, what isthe difference? Is it that we are humans and we cannot be subject to be huntedas we do other animals. The only explanation is that human nature will onlylead us to believe that we will not be overcome by anything except ourselves.
One possibility for the actions of the humans against the giant would be thatthe giant can speak, and shows some intelligence, after all he did build a homefor his son and himself. Therefore the humans might have thought that the giantwas beyond reasoning with, thus the basis for killing the giant. Anotherquestion that poked at my brain was that even though the giant was declared dead,he still spoke the words “Though I am dead, though you killed me, I am going tokeep eating on you and all the other humans in the world forever”(12). Okay,maybe as he was dying he muttered those words, but how do you explain thelaughing as his ashes were being thrown into the wind? If the giant was in factburnt to ashes how could he possibly laugh and talk to the human. My lastargument is how the ending was abruptly cut short and how it left the readerhanging without knowing what happened to the giant’s son. Also, if there is aboy giant, what about the mother giant? I often questioned the credibility ofthis legend and the author, but that is something that has to be considered whenreading “How Mosquitoes Came To Be.
“I did a little research about this legend, curious about who wrote itand when exactly it was written. According to the paragraph at the top of page11 from the legend, the essay was first published in 1883 in an English-languagesource and was found by Richard Erdoes. Checking the gnosis system in theRasmuson library for several possibilities as to who and when the legend waswritten, I came up short.
This legend was a simple story about a small community with a bigproblem. A giant who likes to eat people was a menace who needed to be dealtwith. One human decided to take matters into his own hands and try to kill thegiant himself. This human played opossum on the trail of the giant andeventually was picked up by the giant. The giant, unknowing that he was beingset up to be killed, was overjoyed that he could find a fresh human to feed upon.
Throwing the human over his shoulder, he finds his way back home and drops theperson on the floor and retreats outside to get some firewood.In the mean time the human gets up off the floor and retrieves and hugeknife that belonged to the giant, just as the boy giant comes into the room.The human immediately put the knife to the boy’s throat, threatening to kill himif he did not reveal the place of his father’s heart. Scared from all of thecommotion that seemed to come from nowhere, the boy told the human his father’sheart was in his left heel. Just then, the giant walked into the room, theperson immediately stabbed the giant in the left heel.
As the giant collapsedhe vowed to continue to eat humans until the end of time. Foolishly, the humantold the giant he would never allow the giant to do such a thing and cut thegiant into pieces and burnt him to ashes. The human, thinking he has saved thehuman race, threw the ashes into the wind.
Just as the ashes were thrown intothe air, they immediately turned into mosquitoes and began to suck the human’sblood. It seems that the giant got the last laugh, continuing to eat humansuntil the end of time.After reading this legend over and over, I find that looking beyond allof the questions that have come to mind, I found the story to be a change ofpace verses the conventional ways about explaining the creation of insects.
Yet some parts of the legend seemed sketchy as to how this chain of events tookplace. My biggest questions, which may never be answered, are who started thelegend and when it originated. Overall I enjoyed the legend and the creativity,but after reading it several times the questions began to jump out at me likecrickets in the night.
Humans need to learn that we are not the onlyintelligent life on the planet, and if we ever did come across any giants, weshould try to act rationale instead of rash.