Do "primitive" tribal societies have histories/myths about individual humans?

Kind of a weird question, but after watching several documentaries on modern-day “primitive” tribes in the Amazon and remote Pacific islands, I realized that while I heard about some of their theory/stories on God/animist spirits, I never heard any stories about historic/mythical human beings–no Noah, Abraham, or David; no Gilgamesh; no Pandora or Achilles or Odysseus; no Vainamoinen or Ilmarinen.

Do such tribes generally lack such stories about historic/mythic heroes? Or is this perceived lack just a sampling error due to what the documentaries covered?

One factor might be the reliance on the ‘oral tadition’ as opposed to the written word. Without old stories written down by Homer, Euripides, those Gospel chaps etc. , those ancient mythologies would no doubt be less specific as regards individuals.

Basque stories were an oral tradition until the XIX century but references to the Basque equivalent of Abraham appear much earlier.

How much earlier is unclear; a symbol which is considered “of unity” by the separatists but reported by Navarro Villoslada as “of strife” (with origin story attached) turns out not to appear in engravings before the XIII century.

That should be oral ‘tradition’, obviously. Damn booze…

The southwestern native American tribes tell stories of a flute player name Kokipella. He also shows up in a lot of petrogylths. He seems to be the first American Idol.

While I think it’s certainly possible that Kokopelli (English spelling) was a person to start with, he certainly became a god at some point. Unless you happen to know actual humans with detachable 3 foot long penises, that is. :wink:

But the other thing to consider is that we Westerners like to assume that everything old and roughly human shaped in stone or paint from another culture is a “god-image” (usually fertility based), even when there’s no evidence that the people who made them thought of them as what we would consider gods. (See: Venus of Willendorf, et al.) So this question can really only be answered about currently existing cultures, not historical artifacts.

I can’t answer your question, but I believe you’re mischaracterizing Greek and Jewish myths. They were oral traditions for a very long time. Homer didn’t invent what he wrote, he was recording/embellishing existing oral legends. The Book of Genesis is similar–someone wrote down oral tradition.

Edit: gah! this is in response to Stagger Lee.

There are plenty of stories about individuals in (for example) North American mythology. There is usually some supernatural aspect about them or they are said to be the children of gods, but they aren’t necessarily gods themselves. The Bear-naiden Rhipisunt in the Pacific Northwest cursed the bears after stepping in bear poop, and was abducted by the Bears and became the wife of one. The Senecas, Zunis, Navahos, and Hopis (among others) have the story of the twin brothers who hunt monsters. The real Hiawatha (not the character in Longfellow’s poem – Longfellow changed the name from the Chippewa original) was believed to be a real character, and stories are told about him. come to think of it, although the Chippewa character Longfellow’s “Hiawatha” was based on seem to be a demi-god, many of the other characters in those stories are clearly not. In the Northeast there are tales of Glooskap, and some seem to make him a demigod, while others make him simply a hero (to the extent that crypto-historian Frederick J. Pohl tried to claim that the stories were based on a visiting European pre-Columbus. Whether they were or not – I vote not – the fact remains that you have a cycle of stories about a very human figure.

Let’s wheel in the Old Folklorist, to explain the 3 classes of folklore. (1) Myth: Stories of how things began, how they will end (& begin again?), various gods, goddesses, (2) Legend: Stories based upon real people & events, often with magical accretions, & (3) Märchen: Otherwise known as fairy tales–even without fairies. The Grimm Brothers collected märchen. Combinations allowed: The Troy Tale mixes up #1 & #2.

So we wheel the Old Professor back to his study & hit Google. “Pacific Legends” yields some lovely resorts–& this little site, based in Tonga. Yes, various heroes are named.

Further searching–on the web or in musty bookstores–will supply enough heroes & villains to haunt your dreams for years. (Paging out Dr Jung!) Or populate numerous fantasy novels–too few writers have chosen to follow paths less trampled than Tolkien’s.

I was just speculating that before the stories are written down, the specifics might get lost in the constant retelling. I’m probably wrong though, as I gather there are huge lineages named in the Old Testament, which I presume weren’t complete confabulation…

Sampling error.