Study Guide

The Great Deluge Summary

How It (Supposedly) Went Down

The Short Story

Zeus, the great booming king of the gods, gets fed up with humanity, so he decides to drown everybody with a giant flood. (In this story, Zeus resembles some ornery toddler pouring water on an ant hill.) Prometheus, one of the Titans, warns his son, Deucalion, that the deluge is coming and advises him to build a floating chest (a.k.a an ark). Together with his wife, Pyrrha, Deucalion survives the flood, and together the two land on top of Mt. Parnassus. There they receive a prophecy that if they throw the bones of their mother over their shoulders, they can reignite humanity. They put their thinking caps on and figure out that the prophecy is referring to Mother Earth. So, they throw some rocks over their shoulders, and new humans pop into existence.

The Less Short Story

  • Our story starts off way back in the day. Like way, waaay back: not long after the world began.
  • Zeus, the king of the gods, looks down on mankind, and he's majorly dissatisfied.
  • At this point, there have been three waves of humanity: the Gold, the Silver, and the Bronze.
  • The first two were pretty cool, but this Bronze Race just doesn't know how to behave.
  • They're all brutal and hardcore, and they don't have enough respect for the gods.
  • Zeus is not amused.
  • The king of the gods finally snaps when some twisted king named Lycaon tries to feed the gods human flesh.
  • "That does it," says Zeus. "Humans are a pack of perverts and rascals."
  • Zeus decides the best way to exterminate the awful race of humans is by sending a massive flood.
  • The Titan, Prometheus, who's famously friendly to mankind, warns his son, Deucalion, about the impending doom.
  • Unlike the other wild mortals wreaking havoc on the earth, Deucalion, and his wife, Pyrrha, are chill and don't deserve to drown.
  • (Quick family tree note: Pyrrha is the daughter of Pandora, the first woman, and Epimetheus, who's Prometheus's brother. Get all the details of their crazy story in "Prometheus and Pandora.")
  • Anyway, Prometheus advises Deucalion to build a chest (a.k.a an ark), so they can float above the coming deluge.
  • Deucalion takes his dad's advice and gets his boxy boat built just in time.
  • The flood comes, and it's seriously out of control.
  • Zeus calls on all the watery gods to unleash their fury.
  • It rains like crazy, the rivers swell, and the ocean pours across the land.
  • All those nasty Bronze people drown and a bunch of animals do along with them. (So the animals were evil too?)
  • Eventually, Deucalion and Pyrrha's floating chest lands on top of Mt. Parnassus.
  • The couple spots a temple of Themis, the Titan goddess of justice, and go give thanks for having survived the deluge.
  • Deucalion and Pyrrha beg the goddess to tell them how to get the human race going again.
  • (We guess the obvious didn't occur to them.)
  • Themis hears their prayers and tells them that in order to bring more humans back into the world, they have to toss the bones of their mother over their shoulders.
  • (Um. Gross.)
  • This prophecy freaks out Pyrrha and Deucalion.
  • (In some versions, they pray to Zeus, who sends Hermes with this prophecy.)
  • The last thing they want to do is dig up their respective mothers' bones and throw them around.
  • After thinking a little harder about it, though, they figure out that Themis was referring to Gaia, the earth, the mother of us all.
  • Relieved that they don't have to dig up any graves, Deucalion and Pyrrha pick up some rocks and toss them over their shoulders
  • A bunch of new men spring from the rock that Deucalion casts, and a bunch of new women spring from Pyrrha's stone.
  • Some say that new animals then spring from the earth itself.
  • Deucalion and Pyrrha lived happily ever after and had lots of babies who eventually had lots of babies themselves.
  • And ever since then, humanity has been perfect and never done anything wrong.
  • Okay, that last part was just wishful thinking.