Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Fact? Folklore? Symbolic? A message that g...

Fact? Folklore? Symbolic? A message that good triumphs over evil? Any way you read it, the story of Noah and the ark is one of the world’s most widely known and best loved stories. And it’s not a Bible story, exclusively.

A similar event -- and great deluges -- are related in the traditional literature of almost every culture. The American Indians and ancient Mexicans had stories of a flood and a man chosen by God to save pairs of living things. It is generally conceded that the floods were different deluges, at different times in history.

Early Chinese missionaries heard word-of-mouth stories similar to the Noah experience. Egypt stands alone in that there is no written or “passed-down” account of such a catastrophe.

Noah got his orders: he was to build an ark that was to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits tall. A cubit is the length from your elbow to the end of your longest finger. This varies, of course, and so does the design and construction of two arks and animals.

My brother and I didn’t have an ark of our own, but we played with arks at friends homes, especially on Sundays. Our parents, in order to “keep the Sabbath,” refrained from sewing, dancing, playing cards and doing any work except milking the cows and feeding the hogs and other necessary daily chores on the farm. Sunday was a day of rest.

At some of our friends’ homes, we couldn’t fish, play with our wagons or sleds, hitch up the pony, race through the woods, or romp and play games as we did the other six days. We could however, play with one toy: Noah and the Ark. Other toys might be forbidden, but the Noah toy was an exception. Noah, the ark and the animals, were the Bible toy -- the Sunday toy.

We were farm kids and sympathized with old Noah in a number of ways. Anybody who’d ever helped get a bull into a loading chute understood the magnitude of his loading problems. Imagine getting all those animals, crowded together, into a strange thing like a boat!

Sunday, or any day children and adults march animals up the ark ramp while a “play like” Noah directs the loading process yelling,~ “O.K., you brutes, no screeching, no barking, howling, bellowing, screaming. The bathroom’s down the hall to the left.”

Noah’s instructions were that the ark would provide the proper food for all of the animals as well as food for the eight people, the Noahs, their three sons and the sons’ wives. Whew! What an order!

There was also the problem of predators. In my 4-H project, my hen and chickens were in a metal box-type house, one in a line of 10 such coops. Guess which one the skunk visited for a late night snack!

Our farm didn’t have elephants, aardvarks, armadillos and kangaroos, but we knew that foxes eat geese, snakes eat mice, purple martins eat mosquitoes and wolves are dreaded wild predators. We kids giggled when we considered the manure problem.

Nevertheless, we’d set up the ark and march pairs of animals across the carpet to the loading ramp. Then squirrels went to the roof, as did ravens and pigeons; doves peeked out of the hayloft; frogs stayed where water would splash off the roof onto them. Skunks had a large space to themselves for obvious reasons.

Antique arks of many shapes and forms are resurrected from attics. Wood was the preferred material, of course. There are, however, arks made of pewter, cloth, clay, yarn and other materials.

All ark makers must take liberty as to the size of the animals. As Charles Dickens said, “Consider the noble fly, a size or two smaller than the elephant.”

Whatever the material, whatever the form, Noah and his well-filled ark continue to be the best-loved toy in the world.

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