Origin Myths and Early
Colonial Literature
Colonial American Literature
Native American Literature
 Literature of Exploration - Virginia
 Northern Colonies
 Southern & Middle Colonies
The first people…
Native Americans immigrated over the
land bridge from Asia in 35,000 BC
 The first Europeans enter North America
in 1600’s.
 The last colonies were settled in 1732
A traditional story, passed down through
generations, that explains why the
world is the way it is.
Events usually result from the actions of
supernatural beings.
Contain supernatural elements
 Often explain the unexplainable
 Have also been told in order to teach a
moral lesson.
 All cultures have myths, though often do
not see their stories myth but as fact.
Oral tradition
myths originated
as oral tradition:
stories passed
down verbally
Oral Tradition. . .
Native American creation myths were not
written down until just a few hundred years
 It was passed down
by storytelling and
lullabies, bedtime
Four functions of
1. To awaken us to
the mystery and
wonder of creation
2. To explain the
workings of the
natural world: every
corner, every rock, hill,
stone, and flower has
its place and its
3. To pass down the moral
and ethical codes that
support and validate social
4. To teach:
to guide the people through
the trials of living
Creation myths
 Explain
how the universe, the
earth, and life on earth began.
Quick Write
What different accounts of creation- biblical,
scientific or stories from family or other
cultures have you heard or read? Write a
brief response to what you believe and
how you came to know it…
Essentials of Creation
Creation Myths…
To instill awe
Explain the workings of the natural world
3. To support customs
4. Guide people through the trials of living
Trickster Tales
Trickster- some one is creative curious and often
gets into trouble. Will sometimes find wisdom
through their curiosity.
More About Native American
Oral Traditions
Integration of the natural world with the human
No separation of spiritual and physical
Importance of ancestors
Trixter figure – often a coyote
Rich literary tradition – developed mythology
Extremely diverse
Native American legacy today – Sherman Alexie
Native American Literature
The Lesson of the Birds
 The Earth on Turtle’s Back
 The Fox, Coyote, & Whale
Colonial Period
The first migration to the Americas was not by the
The first migration occurred 20 – 40,000 years ago
when Ice Age Hunters traveled from Siberia to
Slowly these people and their descendents migrated
south. When European exploration began, these
were the people who were living in the “New
In 1492, Columbus
America. Taking
Native Americans
with him to Spain,
stories began to
circulate about the
wonders of the
New World, about
its exoticism and
Spanish and French explorers
wrote about this new world
in over-exaggerated styles,
praising its beauty, making
it appear as Al Dorado (the
place of hopes and dreams).
America was viewed as the
land of plenty, the land of
peace and hospitality, the
land of riches
This brought hope for those who were being
prosecuted across the world.
When Europeans began voyaging to this world,
they unleashed diseases such as smallpox, measles,
typhus, and so on, on the Natives, who were also
enslaved and mistreated.
In the face of this, Native American population
began to decline rapidly, and thus, Spain
introduced African slavery in 1501
The period of European exploration brought
with it a huge body of literature that is
referred to as a literature of witness or
exploration narratives The early settlers
brought with them their knowledge of
written communication with its particular
style and content. They wrote about their
new experiences in forms that were familiar
to them – letters, factual records, sermons,
and poems.
Captain John Smith: A Description of New England (1616)
The Landing of the Pilgrims, 1620,
relief by Enrico Causici on
doors of U.S.Capitol Rotunda
This passage to the New World
was filled with memories of
the violence of the old
country and the fear of the
unknown terrors of the new
one: the loss of home, of
kinship (relationships,
connections), of worldly
possessions, of cultural and
personal identity
Exploration Literature
Captain John Smith:
 The General History of Virginia, New England, and the
Summer Isles (1624)
The Generall Historie is Smith’s most comprehensive discussion
of conquest and exploration and stands today as an exemplary
text in the exploration literature of the 16th and 17th century
William Bradford:
 Of Plymouth Plantation (1650): a journal comprising the story
of the Pilgrims and the early years of the founding of their colony
(from 1608 to 1647)
Christopher Columbus:
From Journal of the First Voyage to America (1492): a
journal written nine days after Columbus Arrived in the
Your Homework tonight
Write an origin myth that is at least one page typed
(Double Spaced), 1” margins, 12 pt. Font)
or two pages (front and back written) Your myth must
include the following elements:
 Explain the origin of a phenomenon in nature (refer to
examples discussed in class)
 Creation of man, animals, or the earth
 Must include an Immortal Being

Origin Myths and Early Colonial Literature