Man's Heroic Activities Result in Permanent Good.
The epic is the mythic inventory of a society. It contains elements of a culture—the way it was, the way it is, the way it shall be. It traces the roots of the hero and renders the vision, focusing on the struggle to bring these into a viable relationship. The hero bridges past and present to pose a new world. The activity of the epic, as of all storytelling, has to do with chaos and order. The mythmaker moves hero and god into union, with the result that the godly activities become the template for human activities. Every hero follows a similar journey that takes him from the familiar to the unfamiliar, on a dangerous passage, to a struggle with the forces of the underworld, to a wresting of some life-giving elixir from a death-dealing force. Then there is a return to the familiar world, but all has changed; the world can never be the same.
(Malagasy/Madagascar)—Father Sky welcomes his five sons—the Prince of the East, the Prince of the North, the Prince of the South, the Prince of the West, and the Prince of the Middle. But Father Sky is disappointed with the Prince of the Middle because he has not sired a child. Cannons are fired for all the sons, but that for the Prince of the Middle is fired into the ground. His wife, Rasoabemanana, humiliated, goes to Ranakombe, a seer, to get help for her barrenness. He warns her that the birth of a son will mean her death, but she persists. She soars into the heavens and gets a grasshopper, then the grasshopper helps her to secure a child-bearing talisman. All of nature reacts. Ranakombe, again warning about the child's destiny, has cannons fired. The grasshopper leaps into the fire, then moves into the mother's womb through her head, and remains in her womb for ten years. Now this child, Iboniamasiboniamanoro, causes his mother to wander the earth, seeking a place where he might be born. He finally decides that it should be a farm. He asks his mother to swallow a razor, and he cuts himself out of her womb. His mother dies, and nature reacts. The child leaps into a fire, is not harmed, but will not be quiet until the cannons are fired into the four cardinal directions. Ranakombe gives names to him, and, after rejecting a number of names, he accepts his name, Iboniamasiboniamanoro. He remains in the fire. Nature responds. At a distant place, the villainous Raivato strangely thinks about his future enemy. Iboniamasiboniamanoro grows up. As he does so, he proves his abilities by fighting other children. He routinely defeats them. Now he wants to marry. He praises himself, and Ranakombe tells him what he must do to get his wife. He must get a bull, move through trees that are impostors, get talismans, stop a whirlwind, roast a bull, dive into water with the talismans, stay under water until daybreak, and he will have his wife. Iboniamasiboniamanoro does this. He becomes an irritable trickster, causing people's goods to fall into a ditch. His mother challenges him four times, and each time he rises to her challenge, defeating a crocodile, two ogres, and a swallowing monster. He opens the swallowing monster and releases the people who are inside. Iboniamasiboniamanoro, although his mother suggests alternative brides, insists that he go to seek Iampelasoamananoro, who has been kidnapped by Raivato. To gain access to Raivato's homestead, Iboniamasiboniamanoro, after learning the old man's habits, kills Ikonantitra, Raivato's old retainer, and puts on his skin. As Ikonantitra, he enters Raivato's homestead—and a plate and spoon break, a mat flies apart, Raivato's charms rattle. And Iboniamasiboniamanoro as Ikonantitra defeats Raivato at chess and wooden crosses, and in the fields with oxen. Finally, he gets Raivato's charms, then hammers Raivato into the ground and destroys him. He takes Iampelasoamananoro as his wife. Iboniamasiboniamanoro and Iampelasoamananoro are married for ten years. Then, three years before his death, he makes his testament: let no one tamper with the sacred bonds of marriage. And he dies. This is a story of Ibonia's transformation to manhood, but because of his mythic origins and godly nature, his transformation becomes that of human society generally. And, in this case, the elixir that he extracts from the death-dealing forces of the underworld is the covenant of marriage, which is a symbol of life.