Hippopotamus: mythology, etymology, varieties

The name of one of the biggest animals on earth was not ignored by the Bible or mythology. Hippo, hippo - a monster from the Old Testament or an ordinary inhabitant of fresh water bodies? Let's try to understand this question.

First mentions

In the Bible, in the book of Job, the word "behemoth" is first mentioned. The etymology of this name is unclear. Most likely, the word comes from the ancient Jewish בהמות, which means simply "animal". According to the biblical legend, the Lord created out of nothing two mythical animals called to prove his power. Their names were: Leviathan and Behemoth.

Mythology fixes the titles of kings for these monsters. Studies of Jewish legends indicate that, according to the ancient inhabitants of Israel, Leviathan was the king of all sea creatures, and the biblical Behemoth was considered the master of all land animals. European mythology claims that this beast is large and voracious, it is able to drink all the water from the Jordan and eat all the grass on its banks. Therefore, God created only two such monsters that could not mate and give offspring. Otherwise, the animals and people would not have food and water. Tradition gave animals all kinds of vices. Leviathan was considered the embodiment of pride, meanness and betrayal. The behemoth became the personification of greed, vanity and gluttony.

Mythology and Reality

Researchers of the Bible consider it quite possible that stories convey the impressions of ancient people about some real paleo-animal. They could be an ancient elephant or other monster. By the time the Jews settled in the Sinai Peninsula, these outlandish beasts were, most likely, already on the brink of extinction.

The testimonies of eyewitnesses were covered with legends and new horrific details, which resulted in the classical (mythological) interpretation recorded in the book of Job. So from the depths of the centuries with additions and distortions, the biblical Behemoth has come down to our days.

Medieval mythology

The revival happened in the Middle Ages. Theosophy and scholasticism caused this animal from the darkness of Jewish traditions and gave it new features. Now the hippopotamus is a demon, the servant of the devil. It can take the form of various animals and introduces destruction and chaos into a measured existence.

A hippopotamus in a female guise can seduce monks who have given a vow of fidelity and integrity. Having reached the desired, the demon rips the man of the power of lust and eventually destroys him.

In addition, for the behemoth, the title of executioner of the underworld was fixed. With a trumpet cry he announces the sinners about his approach, and they tremble when they hear his measured pace.

In the retinue of Satan, he is the keeper of the Great Cup and the main cupbearer. Sometimes it is represented by the antagonist of St. Petra: in the clutches of the hippopotamus - the keys to hell, and he himself is considered the night watchman of the underworld.

The image in the literature

Perhaps the most impressive embodiment of the hippopotamus is found in Bulgakov. As the author himself assures, he took a detailed description of the devil's beast from an old book, which sets out the history of relations between man and the devil.

The amazing changeability of the biblical hippopotamus found its embodiment in the pages of Bulgakov's book. He also appears as a fat, impudent cat who "repairs the Primus stove," and a fat man in a cap. At the very end, Behemoth manifests his true face and becomes a slender youth, a demon-page, the best buffoon among all living. Perhaps this is the most beautiful embodiment of the animal's image in contemporary literature.

Hippopotamus for children

Hippopotamus, whose mythology is imbued with fear and thrill of adults, turned out to be harmless and good-natured fat man in the world of children. From the books of Chukovsky these animals surround our kids in a variety of images, very far from those offered by mythology.

Hippo-hippopotamus is often found in modern children's literature. It's a big and good-natured beast, a bit lazy and very slow.

A good friend, a merry fellow and a glutton - that's what associations arise in children with the word "hippopotamus". Mythology, drawing a terrible monster, was completely forgotten, an amazing beast acquired new features.

The character of the mythological behemoth and its child variety has nothing to do with the character of the living African prototype - the hippopotamus. But the amazing transformations of the Biblical beast into modern images may interest even readers who are far from religious and philosophical literature.

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