|Before the Sun that now shines brightly
over Mexico came into being, there had been other suns; four in all.
Each sun died away in turn before our present Sun appeared.
The fourth Sun, Chalchuitlicu, had been a water
goddess, copper-coloured and dressed in emerald green.
For hundreds of years she provided light and warmth;
and in that time the first men and women appeared on Earth.
But other gods grew jealous of the Sun God; some
reproached her for giving fire to humans -- for they did not always use it wisely.
Tezcatlipoca upsets Chalchuitlicu and
causes a flood.
One night, the black God of Darkness, Tezcatlipoca,
began to torment the gentle copper Sun while she was resting in the gloom. He said she'd
grown too vain and selfish.
In her hurt at these false words, Chalchuitlicu burst
into tears. The tears put out her light and then the sky rained down upon the Earth in
The land vanished into darkness beneath a mighty flood
which drowned all human life: every man and woman turned into fish; all, that is,
save one lone family which survived to start the human race again.
The gods make dry land appear ...
When the sky thus fell on Earth, the gods opened up
four roads beneath the land, where they created four giants and some sturdy trees. And
then, together -- the gods, the trees, the giants -- all tried to lift the Earth from
under the vales of tears.
They heaved and pushed until the land rose upwards and
the waters fell away. At last they managed to fasten the land securely to the sky.
Now there was only darkness ...
But the Earth was still plunged into utter gloom; it
had no dawn, no dusk, no sunlit days. The valleys 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
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
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 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
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
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
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.