Weekly Design Blog #29: The Tale of Yu and Creation Myths

Hello All,

If you have downloaded the Steampunk Musha: Explorer's Guide, then you are familiar with the Tale of Yu...

The text of which I will include here:

The Tale of Yu
All these things took place in a time before time was measured, before the gods knew their own names. The great Celestial Dragons, whose names man may not speak, existed in a place that had no form, a place so shapeless that no thoughts could contain it, and not even the Dragons considered its existence. It is said they went on for uncountable moments in their way, knowing things that the Dragons know, doing things that the Dragons do. Perhaps eons passed, but the truth of this is lost to men. What is known is this: the great Celestial Dragons decided that the formless place should have some form, that its lifelessness should be filled with breath. So they breathed in the shapeless place and breathed out the one called Yu.
The Celestial Dragons spoke their thoughts to Yu, and Yu acquiesced to their requests, taking upon himself the task of giving shape to that which had none, breathing life where there had been no breath. But as he watched the universe form, watched the stars begin to swirl, watched his patterns grow and begin to follow his own will without being restrained, he grew selfish. Why should he share the universe he had created? All the Celestial Dragons had given him was breath; he had given the universe his thoughts, given it the shape he would never himself have. And so, having no form himself, he surrounded the universe and hid it from the Celestial Dragons. He watched it grow and change, taking joy from the life that started inside of him, allowing it to shape him as he shaped it.
The Celestial Dragons remembered the task they had given Yu, and though perhaps ages passed before they thought of him, they eventually returned to ask him where he had placed the universe. As Yu watched the Celestial Dragons and watched the universe inside of him, he realized he had done something dishonorable by keeping it a secret. He confessed his horrible act, and the Celestial Dragons explained that in order to regain his honor, he would have to cut the universe out of himself. Yu quickly sliced himself in half and the universe burst from him, and the Celestial Dragons were amazed at what he had created.
But Yu felt he had not done enough to regain his honor and continued to cut himself into pieces. As he cut, his pieces were given form. Where the universe had been now became his bowels, which he spilled onto a small world. His innards poured into an ocean, and his flesh covered them to create an island. His arms and legs became the island’s mountains, and his hair became trees and grass. As he watched his form become part of one of his worlds, he cried with joy, and these tears became the rivers which led to the sea. But the pain was great, and Yu could not hold back a scream of pain, and this scream, too, took form, and from it came the seven thunder gods who still mimic his cry. And after he screamed, he retched blood, expelling the greed and dishonor that had made him hide the universe, and this became the oni. On his back came fleas and lice, which became our ancestors, and from his last thoughts, the gods were formed to rule over the land. With Yu’s last breath, the four great winds began to blow.
The Celestial Dragons were pleased with Yu’s sacrifice, and so they sent other spirits to experience the land, to which they gave the name Rosuto-Shima. They took Yu’s eyes and set them above the world, so that Yu might watch over what he had made. In this way, they explained, he would be able to prevent his children from committing the dishonor that Yu himself had committed. And so it remains; the first eye, the sun, watches over the joy and happiness of mankind, seeing only the bright hours of celebration. The second eye, the moon, only sees the darkness of men, and is witness to the greed and selfishness that caused Yu such great dishonor. But though Yu’s second eye only sees darkness, it shines, hoping that its light will guide men toward lives of honor and away from his previous actions, the corruption of Rosuto-Shima.
And that is how all these things came to be.
–Collected Writings of Quan Hong

This is, essentially, Rosuto-Shima's "Creation Myth" and there is a reason we included it in the Explorer's Guide as well as reprinting it on the first few pages of the planned Steampunk Musha: Player's Guide the Design Team and I are working on.

Similar to real-world creation myths, it is a tale a people tell themselves to instill a shared sense of value, place, and importance. We Americans, for instance, tell similar "tales" of our own "origin" as a nation, but for instance, despite our just having celebrated the 240th "birthday" of our nation, we actually celebrate essentially the wrong day on July 4th?

The Declaration was ultimately a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The next day, July 3, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail: "The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America." But the national birthday, Independence Day, is celebrated on July 4, the date that the Declaration of Independence was signed.

 I'm not saying that we should change the date of Independence Day, or any such thing, only pointing out that if we can't even keep our story 100% straight 240 years on, how accurate do you think the people of Rosuto-Shima kept their "origins" with The Tale of Yu after millenia? 

Lucus Palosaari, Editor & Project Manager at Fat Goblin Games (Like us on Facebook!

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