The Fifth Sun

The Title

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Now there was only darkness ...

But the Earth was still plunged into utter gloom; it had no dawn, no dusk, no sunlit days. The vales of tears were salty; there was thus no fresh water, for no Sun appeared to draw the tears back up to heaven and change them into rain.

It was then that the gods resolved to give the world a fifth and final Sun. They assembled at Tectihuacan, Place-of-the-Gods, and argued loud and long. Eventually, it was decreed: There had to be a Sun.

And there must be moonlight while the Sun was at its rest.

But who would do the job?

After all, the first four suns had died away.

So they issued a challenge

The gods ordained a sacrifice: whoever volunteered would not live to see themselves as Sun or Moon, but would have to change their form so that the Sun and Moon could last forever.

Only one god came forward: Tecuciztecatl, God of Snails and Worms. He was rich and strong and vain. He thought by sacrificing himself he would gain immortal glory. He wished therefore to be the Sun.

No one else was willing.

Uneasily the gods looked about them; there had to be a second sacrifice to make the Sun and the Moon. Their gaze fell at last upon a humble goddess in their midst; Little Nana, the ugly one. If she agreed, the gods declared, they would transform her body.

Poor Nana did not want to die. Yet she smiled gently when they told her she might light up and warm the Earth; for she might help little children not yet born.

So the gods had two volunteers ... for the SACRIFICE!

The gods began their preparations.

Two tall stone alters were erected: one for the Sun, one for the Moon -- though which was which had yet to be agreed. Both sacrifices were bathed and dressed in their own way.

The God of Snails and Worms put on a fire plumage and brightly-coloured robes, ear-rings of turquoise and jade, and a collar of shining gold.

Little Nana had no such finery, so she painted her red-raw body white and put on a thin, torn paper dress through which her thin body showed.

Meanwhile, beneath the alters, the gods had built a sacrificial fire. So many logs of wood were heaped upon it that the heavens seemed to light up in the roaring blaze.

Tecuciztecatl has second thoughts ...

At this sight, the God of Snails trembled in fear and bit his lip; yet Little Nana sat quietly by, her hands folded in her lap.

Tecuciztecatl was chosen to be first to leap into the flames.

At the gods' command, he drew near the fire and stood tall and grand upon his pillar of white stone, his plume of red and green and yellow streaming in the breeze.

But his courage failed him and he drew back abruptly, pale and trembling. Three times he was summoned, and three times he nervously stepped back.

The gods finally lost patience and turned to Little Nana, crying, "Jump!"

She stepped forward instantly and stood unflinching on the pillar's edge. Then she closed her eyes, smiled bravely as she thought of her sacrifice for the people, and leapt into the read heart of the flames.

Angry and ashamed - but more afraid the noble power of the Sun would not be his - the God of Snails and Worms shut tight his eyes and jumped. But his leap was to one side, where the fire was weakest and the ash was thick.

Now the thrilling ending ...

Just then an eagle swooped from nowhere into the flames, then out again so quickly only his wingtips were singed.

He flew upwards swiftly with a bright ball of fire held in his beak - like a fiery arrow through the sky - until he reached the eastern gates of Tectihuacan.

There he left the ball of fire - that was once Little Nana  - and she took her seat upon a throne of billowing clouds. She had golden shining tresses strung with pearls and precious shell, shimmering in the mists of dawn; her lips were brightest scarlet.

Never was the dawn so beautiful. A great roar of pleasure issued from the gods and rumbled through the morning sky.

And then a hawk swooped into the burning embers of the fire and was scorched a charcoal black; it emerged at once with a glowing, ash-coloured ball of fire held in its beak. And this it carried to the sky and placed beside the Sun.

Thus the cowardly God of Snails became the Moon.

But that's not all ...

The gods were angry with the feeble Moon and one flung a rabbit at him - the nearest thing at hand. The rabbit flew straight and true, striking the Moon full in the face. Ever since, when the Moon is full, you may see the scars left by the rabbit's long ears and flying feet.

You thought it was the Man in the Moon!

As the Sun makes her journey around the world, bringing warmth and light, the Moon sets off in vain pursuit. But he is always slow to start; and when cold and weary, he reaches the west, the Sun has long since set; by now his once-fine robes have turned to tatters.

That is the story of the fifth and final Sun.

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