Wednesday, November 05, 2014


Adoption is an important theme in both the Vatnsdaela epic and in the Legend of Ponnivala. Furthermore, the imagery surrounding this family reality is surprisingly similar, particularly in one case. One of Ingimund’s great grandsons, Thorkel Scratcher, was born out of wedlock. His mother was a mistress of Ingimund’s grandson Thorgrim. On the command of Thorgrim’s jealous wife, baby Thorkel was put out to die. But Thorstein, another son of Ingimund, then spoke to another in this set of brothers, a man named Thorir. Thorstein asked Thorir to raise the child that was found in a field in a sorry state. It was discovered lying on bare earth but was somewhat hidden and had its face covered. Thorir agreed to take on this responsibility while his brother Thorstein called on the sun (to help bind the child to him?

In the Ponnivala story every descendent of the pioneer grandfather Kolatta is created at least in part by Lord Shiva (who bears mythological links to the sun). In the closest Ponnivala parallel, Shiva creates a male child whom he hides under a rock pile in a back field belonging to Kolatta. Kolatta soon finds this babe with the help of others and happily adopt him. 

He and his wife raise this unexpected gift, a tiny young son, with love and care. The couple call him Kunnutaiya or “boy of the rock pile.” In the next generation something similar happens again. Now Lord Shiva (immaculately) impregnates Kunnutaiya’s wife (after years of barrenness) and she then bears him triplets.

The two boys (Ponnar and Shankar) born of this “magic” are immediately adopted by the goddess Celatta, just after their birth when she carries them through a secret tunnel to a cave under her temple. 

There the two boys are raised lovingly for five years. During this period Kunnutaiya and Tamarai do not even know of their existence. All they know is that they have a little girl, actually the third child to exit her womb, born that same day.

The goddess’ personal tiger now begins to play with the two boys regularly. She trains them in several martial arts and raises them on a diet of tiger’s milk. After five years are up the goddess delivers these two young heroes to their biological birth mother Tamarai and her husband who is their (social-but-not-quite-biological) father, Kunnutaiya.

~ Brenda E. F. Beck

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