There are so many ancient flood stories from around the world similar to the story of Noah. Actually there are not only 15 flood myths but there are hundreds! However in this post I will only be sharing 15 representatives of these (compacted) flood stories from the 5 major religions, i.e. JudeoChristianity – Islam religions, that is of course: the story of Noah, from Hindu religion and Buddhist “religion”. Then we will continue with flood myths from the representatives of the 5 “continents” i.e. Middle East (ancient Mesopotamian areas and ancient Egypt), Europe (ancient Greece and Scandinavia/Norse mythologies), MesoAmerica, Asia (ancient China), Africa and Australia/Pacific.
1. THE STORY OF NOAH
(From the JudeoChristian Bible i.e. the Old Testament)
After the generation of Adam, the earth became corrupted and filled with violence; therefore God repented of ever creating them and decided to destroy men and all beasts from its surface - except for Noah, who was a righteous man.
God told Noah that He was about to send a flood upon the earth and everything that was in it would die. Though, God made a covenant to spare Noah, his wife, his 3 sons and their wives. God ordered Noah to build an ark and to take his family in it. God also commanded him to bring the beasts.
Noah did according to God’s command. Then, when Noah was 600 years old, all the fountains of the great deep broken up and the windows of heaven were opened. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and the water prevailed for 150 days. The water covered all the hills and mountains. All the beasts and every man died - except for Noah and everything inside the ark.
Then God remembered Noah and every living thing that were in the ark; so He restrained the water from the heaven and the water returned to the earth continually. On the 7th day of the 7th month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat (today Turkey).
The water decreased continually, until the 10th month the tops of the mountains could be seen again. 40 days later Noah opened the window from the ark and sent a raven and a dove to see whether the waters were dried up from the earth. But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and it returned to Noah in the ark. 7 days later he tried again, and the dove came back with an olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters were abated from the earth.
7 days later he sent forth the dove again; which did not return to him anymore. So Noah, his wife, 3 sons, their wives and all the beasts came out of the ark and was commanded by God to multiply and replenish the earth. Noah built an altar and sacrificed some clean beasts and clean fowls and offered them on the altar. After the flood Noah and his family lived in Ararat with his wife and 3 sons and wives. And they replenished the Earth.
(From the Islamic Quran)
The story of Nuh in the Quran is similar to the one in the Old Testament, especially until the part where Noah landed in mountains and replenished the Earth. However, there are several differences, among others are the following:
- in the Bible only Noah and his family were saved, in the Quran there are other believers who were saved, additionally Nuh’s wife and a son were not saved.
- in the Quran there is no mention of clean/unclean beasts.
- in the Quran there is no story of Nuh building an altar and sacrificing clean beasts and fowls.
- the name of the place where Noah landed in the Quran is called “Al Judy” not Ararat.
(From the Hindu Puranas)
In the earliest era of Satya Yuga, a king named Manu performed severe penance for thousands of years. One day, as he was performing ablutions with river water, a small fish came into his hands, and just as he was about to throw the fish back into the river, the fish requested Manu to save its life. Heeding its request, he put the fish into a jar of water but the fish started growing and the jar was not big enough for it. Then he threw it into the river, but soon it outgrew the river, and he then threw it into the Ganges River and then into the ocean. Now, he realized that the fish was Lord Vishnu himself. Then the Lord made an appearance and made a special request to Manu.
He predicted that the world would come to an end by a huge flood in 7 days and requested Manu to build a huge boat and take 7 sages (hermits), 4 worlds, seeds of all plants, 1 animal of each type and told him that he would appear as a fish to propel the boat to Mt. Himavan to survive from the flood and to take them to the next Yuga.
After 7 days the Lord appeared and the king tied the boat to the fish by using the royal serpent Vasuki and the fish took all of them to Mt. Himavan and kept them there until the flood was over, then like Noah, he started procreation for the new era.
4. TALE OF THE MERCHANTS AT SEA
(From the Buddhist Samudda-Vanija Jataka 454)
During the reign of King Brahmadatta in Benares, India, there was a city of carpenters populated by a thousand families. The carpenters from this town were dishonest, they used to charge people for their work but failed to deliver the products. Because of that they were harassed by people who were disappointed with them.
So they decided to move to another place. They cut down trees, built a mighty ship and sailed in the Ganges River until they reached a bountiful island in the middle of the ocean.
In that island, a man already lived there. He told the carpenters that they can live abundantly in that island but when they go to the toilet they must dig a hole in the sand and cover their feces with the sand, because the spirits that live in the island would get furious if their home would be polluted.
One day, the carpenters decided to make liquor from the juice of the sugar cane they found in the island and made a party. They got drunk, sang, danced and laughed loudly. They also relieved themselves everywhere on the island without covering it. Thus, the island became foul and disgusting.
The spirits were enraged and one of them decided to bring a flood to utterly destroy the people in that island. But one good-hearted spirit didn’t think these people deserved to die and this spirit warned them to flee from the island.
Among the carpenters there were 2 leaders: one foolish and greedy, the other one was wise. Each of them had 500 followers. The wise leader decided to heed the warning and built a great ship (ark), while the foolish leader and his followers continued with their drinking and polluting the island.
On the day of the full moon, massive wave arose in the ocean. The wise man quickly went into the ship with his followers and sailed away, while the foolish carpenters and his followers drowned in the flood that covered the entire island.
(From a Sumerian tablet)
The gods decided to wipe out man, for some reason (the passage involved is completely destroyed) but the water-god Enki insisted to save mankind. He informed Ziusudra - a pious, god-fearing and humble king, of the dreadful decision of the gods and advised him to save himself by building a very large boat. The long passage giving the details of the construction of the boat is destroyed; when the text begins again it is in the midst of describing the flood:
All the windstorms, exceedingly powerful, attacked as one, the deluge raged over the surface of the earth.
After, for 7 days and 7 nights,
The deluge had raged in the land,
And the huge boat had been tossed about on the great waters,
Uttu (sun-god) came forth, who sheds light on heaven and earth.
Ziusudra opened a window of the huge boat,
Ziusudra, the king,
Before Uttu prostrated himself,
The king kills an ox, slaughters a sheep.
Again a long break follows, when the text becomes intelligible once more, it is describing the immortalizing of Ziusudra:
Ziusudra, the king,
Before An and Enlil prostrated himself;
Life like a god they give him,
Breath eternal like a god they bring down for him. In those days, Ziusudra, the king,
The preserver of the name of . . . and man,
In the mountain of crossing, the mountain of Dilmun, the place where the sun rises,
They (An and Enlil) caused to dwell.
The remainder of the poem is destroyed.
(From various Akkadian tablets)
The world was over populated by humans. So the god Enlil decided to send the first famine and drought at formulaic intervals of 1,200 years to reduce the population. But the god Enki decided to warn the hero Atrahasis, speaking through a reed wall to dismantle his house and build a boat to escape the flood. So Atrahasis built the boat as instructed and boarded with his family and animals and sealed the door. The storm and flood began. After 7 days the flood ended and Atrahasis offered sacrifices to the gods.
(From several Babylonian tablets)
The Babylonian flood story is found in the epic of Gilgamesh – a mighty king of Uruk. Gilgamesh was so saddened by the death of his friend that he decided to find Utnapishtim, who had lived in Dilmun since before the flood.
When he finally met Utnapishtim, Gilgamesh asked concerning the secret of eternal life, but Utnapishtim declared there is no permanence. When Gilgamesh wondered how he had lived so long, Utnapishtim revealed a secret of the gods, the story of the flood:
Perturbed by the clamor of humans, the gods lead by Enlil decided to let loose a flood on them, but the god Ea warned Utnapishtim to build a large boat and load it with supplies and animals. After the boat was ready, the storm came. The boat survived the flood and rested on a mountain.
Utnapishtim sent out a dove, it came back, as did a swallow, but when he released a crow it did not return. Enlil was angry that a human had survived, but Ea suggested that he should punish sin and transgressions, but not with a flood. Thus, Utnapishtim, though a mortal, was allowed to live, in the distance.
8. EGYPTIAN FLOOD MYTH
(From the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Book of Going Forth by Day, translated by Raymond Faulkner)
People had become rebellious. The god Atum said he will destroy all he made and return the earth to the Primordial Water (Nun) which was its original state. Atum will remain, in the form of a serpent, with Osiris. Unfortunately the version of the papyrus with the flood story is damaged and unclear.
9. DEUCALION AND PYRRHA
After being bereft of the guidance of Prometheus (a titan who was the benefactor of mankind) men and women grew so wicked. So Jupiter sent a great flood which destroyed them all, except one good man, Deucalion and one good woman, Pyrrha.
These 2 were preserved as being fit to live. The flood submerged all the earth except for Mount Olympus, where the gods lived, and Mount Parnassus, where Deucalion and Pyrrha found shelter. Then the waters abated, and from the oracle of the sun-god, Apollo on Parnassus, came a voice commanding the 2 survivors to people the world anew with more worthy inhabitants. They were told to begin by casting behind them "the bones of their mother." Deucalion shrewdly interpreted this strange oracle as referring to the stones, the bones of Mother Earth.
So as he and Pyrrha left the oracle, they tossed stones over their shoulders. All the stones that Deucalion threw, became men, those of Pyrrha became women. She was slighter than Deucalion, and threw smaller stones, so women have ever since been less of stature than men. The descendants of Deucalion became the Greeks.
10. THE BLOOD FLOOD OF YMIR
( Norse mythology from Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson)
During the time of the creation of the universe, there were 2 distinct worlds: the lands of fire (Muspelheim) and ice (Niflheim). As eons passed the lands of fire and ice eventually came in contact with each other. As the freezing waters of Niflheim fell, they mixed with the ash and clay of Muspellheim and forming the body of a giant. This giant lay prone and unconscious for many eons, unfeeling and unmoving. Its name was Ymir, the first of the mountain giants (jotuns). Overtime Ymir turned evil.
After a long struggle, finally the three young gods: Villi, Ve and Odin killed Ymir. When Ymir fell the blood from his wounds poured forth. Ymir's blood drowned almost the entire tribe of jotuns. Only 2 jotuns survived the flood of Ymir's blood, by building an ark, one was Ymir's grandson Bergelmir and the other his wife. Bergelmir and his wife brought forth new families of jotuns.
In Aztec mythology, Coxcox was the only male survivor of a worldwide flood. The Aztecs believed that only Coxcox and his wife, Xochiquetzal, survived the flood. They took refuge in the hollow trunk of a cypress, which floated on top of the water and finally banked on a mountain in Culhuacan. They had many children, but all of them were dumb. The great spirit took pity on them, and sent a dove, which attempted to teach the children how to speak. Fifteen of them succeeded and from these, the Aztecs believed, the Toltecs and Aztecs were descended.
12. THE FLOOD OF IFE
(Yoruba - Nigerian myth)
Obatala was a god of sky and the creator of mankind as well as the founder of the first Yoruba city called Ife. The people built huts as Obatala had done and soon Ife prospered and became a city. All the other gods were happy with what Obatala had done, and visited the land often, except for Olokun, the ruler of all below the sky.
She had not been consulted by Obatala and grew angry that he had usurped so much of her kingdom. When Obatala returned to his home in the sky for a visit, Olokun summoned the great waves of her vast oceans and sent them surging across the land.
Wave after wave she unleashed, until much of the land was underwater and many of the people were drowned. Those that had fled to the highest land beseeched the messenger god Eshu to return to the sky and report what was happening to them.
Eshu demanded sacrifice be made to Obatala and himself before he would deliver the message. The people sacrificed some goats, and Eshu returned to the sky. When the prophecy-god Orunmila heard the news, he climbed down the golden chain to the earth and cast many spells causing the flood waters to retreat, dry land reappeared and so, ended the great flood.
13. THE FUHI FAMILY
(Chinese Flood Myth)
The Miao tribes, who live in inland China, talk about how God created the heavens and the earth, and created man and woman. They also talk about the wickedness of humanity and God sending a flood. Immense flooding covered the entire earth, and only one family, “the family of Fuhi” was saved.
This family consisted of a man, his wife, 3 sons and 3 daughters, who were all saved alive in a boat. It says that it poured 40 days, then it flooded and then 45 days of misting and drizzle.
The righteous person who was saved was called Nuah, and he built a boat very wide and vast. His family of 8 survived along with male and females pairs of animals. After the flood had receded, they offered sacrifices to God, and God gave them His good graces.
14. THE ARK GUMANA
(Australian Aborigin myth)
During the Dreamtime flood, woramba, the Ark Gumana carrying Noah, Aborigines, and animals, drifted south and came to rest in the flood plain of Djilinbadu, where it can still be seen today. The white man's claim that it landed in the Middle East was a lie to keep Aborigines in subservience.
(Ref: Erich Kolig - Noah’s Ark Revisited: On the Myth-Land Connection in Traditional Australian Aboriginal Thought” pg 242-245)
15. NUU AND THE FLOOD
In the Hawaiian group, there are several legends of the flood. One legend relates that in the time of Nuu, or Nana-nuu the flood came upon the earth and destroyed all living beings.
Nuu, by command of his god, built a large vessel with a house on top of it, which was called the royal vessel, in which he and his family, consisting of his wife, Lilinoe, his 3 sons and their wives, were saved. When the flood subsided, the 3 gods (Kane, Ku, and Lono) entered the vessel of Nuu, and told him to go out.
He did so, and found himself on the top of Mauna Kea (the highest mountain on the island of Hawaii). He named a cave there after his wife and it remains there to this day. Another version of the legend says that Nuu landed and dwelt in Kahiki-honua-kele, a large and extensive country. Nuu left the vessel in the evening of the day and took with him a pig, coconuts, and awa (some kind of juice) as an offering to the god Kane.
Isn’t that amazing how similar these stories are? How did this happen?
The most well-known flood story is the story of Noah (since more than 50% of the world population are followers of Abrahamic religions) so naturally some might think that these stories are copied from the Old Testament.
The story of Noah is written in the Book of Genesis that is the first book in the Old Testament and also the Hebrew Torah. The Hebrew Torah was written between 16th century – 12th century BCE.
Meanwhile, the earliest version of the Sumerian flood myth (i.e. Ziusudra) is preserved in the Eridu Genesis and is dated at 17th century BCE.
So then it’s been proposed that the biblical story is a copy from the Sumerian one. But, what about the stories from other parts of the world? The Hawaiian myth, for example, already existed when Christian missionaries arrived in Hawaii in late 18th century CE! So when and how did the Hawaiian copy the story from the Sumerian?
If you are interested for an explanation that you have not heard before, follow the complete analysis in MythoReligio series.