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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 36 page 19


I do not know if I was right in calling the tale of Keyumars “the Fall.” Nobody falls in this story. Everything starts on Earth. Which, after all, may not be a bad thing. Perhaps I would give some credit here for Persian pragmatism, which slightly reminds me of the Kanadian Fall, although they cannot be really compared. The Kanadian Fall carries a moral substance that does not exist in the Abrahamic and Persian literatures regarding genesis. I found the following passage in my research when I was lesson-planning to teach First Nations history in a middle school in Tooronto:

A group of beings similar to humans lived in longhouses in the sky. They lived in harmony and in the centre of their village stood a celestial tree blossoming with the light of peace and knowledge. One day a curious woman had her husband uproot the tree. She fell through the hole down to the world below. A Kanada goose saw the woman falling, took pity on her and flew down to rescue her. He placed her on the back of a turtle and the Great Turtle Island [North America] came into existence.

Read this account again carefully. There is no dictator that tells you what to do, that unwisely only trusts the witness of his men or angels, or that punishes you if you don’t follow his rule. The community rule collectively. People live in harmony. There is no evidence of violence, hatred, deception, ambition, or greed. Despite all the “pleasures” of the Garden of Eden, in the Abrahamic version, there is actually no peace or harmony, and there never will be. Everybody is up to something. Also, the quiet in the Persian narrative is imposed by the primitive spear of a cave-king. The tree in the Kanadian story is not the tree of “knowledge” only, it’s the tree of peace and knowledge. I believe this slight change makes a huge difference. It might explain why the Abrahamic narratives are so uncomfortable, stressed, painful, and tragic. It feels like “knowledge” in the Abrahamic Fall is merely an instrument at the service of personal ambition or subjugation of fellow creatures.

In the Kanadian story, people do make mistakes (the couple uproot the tree), but there is no conspiracy or intrigue. The woman does not tempt her husband; nor does he fool his wife. Also, the uprooting of the tree is not encouraged by a third party who wants to butter his bread thanks to your failure. They uproot the tree out of curiosity and not as an act of gluttony as in failing to resist the temptation to eat a couple apples.

Also, the mistake for which they deserve some sort of punishment is rather understandable: they uproot the tree of peace and knowledge, which feels like a really bad thing to do by any standard.

But there is no careless or corrupt judiciary process to punish one disproportionately. You pay the price in the most pragmatic manner. You make a hole, you fall through it! Why should you be doomed eternally for eating an apple? Apples are so boring I cannot get my son to have them. Even the most talentless writer would have come up with a better crime to earn eternal suffering.

What I love most about this story is this: the consequence of the characters’ wrongdoing in this story is a free-fall towards death, but the characters are saved after the initial sense of fear. I’d call it constructive punishment; a painful lesson that can actually be learnt rather than senseless eternal torture. If stories reflect dominant societal discourses, the Native Kanadian Fall speaks volumes about the caring and peaceful mentality of the people who created this story.

When the woman falls, some sort of being, “a Kanada goose,” feels some “pity.” This is fantastic news, isn’t it? “Pity.” At least for an Iranian like me who has been brought up with aggressive Abrahamic and Persian accounts of human nature.

As amazingly, another animal is also ready to provide us with shelter: the turtle. Just compare the role of the animals with the biblical serpent and the decorative animals in the Persian genesis-symbols of obedience to the king.

Finally, the Earth in the aboriginal account is not a prison where people are punished; it’s a solution. A rather happy ending to the journey of a woman that takes action out of curiosity rather than a femme fatale that seduces and fools. Goose and Turtle devise a wise and mature scheme to help the woman continue her life despite the mistake she has made. As a result, the woman won’t hate the Earth as a miserable place of non-stop torture. The Earth is the continuity of her experiences with the universe although geographically it is a different spot. She will probably love the Earth as much as she loved her village. She might stop uprooting trees, but she might make other mistakes.

Honestly, in which of these three Falls would you like to have a role as a character?

"The Fall" is excerpted from Iraj Fereshteh's collection of tales and reflections, The Travel Diaries of a Persian Poet in Kanada's Tooronto in the Age of Sultan Harper. See more at Notes re Contributors.