The Myth of the Birth of the Hero: A Psychological Interpretation of Mythology

By Otto Rank; F. Robbins et al. | Go to book overview
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The princess Pritha, also known as Kunti, bore as a virgin the boy Karna, whose father was the sun god Surya. The young Karna was born with the golden ear ornaments of his father and with an unbreakable coat of mail. The mother in her distress concealed and exposed the boy. In the adaptation of the myth by A. Holtzmann,30 verse 1458 reads: "Then my nurse and I made a large basket of rushes, placed a lid thereon, and lined it with wax; into this basket I laid the boy and carried him down to the river Acva." Floating on the waves, the basket reaches the river Ganga and travels as far as the city of Campa. "There was passing along the bank of the river, the charioteer, the noble friend of Dhrtarastra, and with him was Radha, his beautiful and pious spouse. She was wrapt in deep sorrow, because no son had been given to her. On the river she saw the basket, which the waves carried close to her on the shore; she showed it to Azirath, who went and drew it forth from the waves." The two take care of the boy and raise him as their own child.

Kunti later on marries King Pandu, who is forced to refrain from conjugal intercourse by the curse that he is to die in the arms of his spouse. But Kunti bears three sons, again through divine conception, one of the children being born in the cave of a wolf. One day Pandu dies in the embrace of his second wife. The sons grow up, and at a tournament which they arrange, Karna appears to measure his strength against the best fighter, Arjuna, the son of Kunti. Arjuna scoffingly refuses to fight the charioteer's son. In order to make him a worthy opponent, one of those present anoints him as king. Meanwhile Kunti has recognized Karna as her son, by the divine mark, and prays him to desist from the contest with his brother, revealing to him the secret of his birth. But he considers her revelation as a fantastic

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of the parents, the miraculous conception, ill-omened warnings, the exposure of the boy in the forest, his nourishment with honey, finally the acknowledgment by the father. (See Jülg, "Mongolian Fairy Tales", Innsbruck, 1868, p. 73, et seq.)
29
"Hindu Legends", Karlsruhe, 1846, Part II, pp. 117 to 127.
30
"Hindu Legends", 1. c.

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