Comparison of Worldwide Floods

Many cultures and religions have flood stories.  Different people explain these similar stories in different ways.  It can be interesting to do a comparison of worldwide floods.

The Bible

The Bible tells of a worldwide flood that swept the earth clean of all life after the children that God had created became wicked.  Only Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark survived.

Noah and his ark by Charles Wilson Peale (1819)

Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Zeus was horrified at the depravity of a man who sacrificed his son to the gods.  In response, he sent a flood that washed away everything in its path.  Deucalion and his wife were saved when they built a chest (a box) that they could float on, with the help of Deucalion’s father, Prometheus.

The Flood by Paul Merwat. Deucalion saves his wife from the flood waters.

The Epic of Gilgamesh

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Utanapishtim, is asked by the god, Enki, to abandon all his earthly possessions and build a boat that his wife, his family, and a few craftsmen from their town (along with animals and grains) would board to save themselves from a flood that was coming.  As the flood waters were receding, Utanapishtim sends out a dove, then a swallow, and finally a raven to see if the waters were down enough for the people to get out of the boat.

The Deluge by Francis Danby

The Mahabharata

In Indian mythology, Matsya is a god who can become a fish.  One day a man, Manu, catches him.  Matsya asks for life and protection and, in return, promises to save Manu from a flood that is coming.  Manu protects the fish and builds a boat.  When the flood comes, Manu begs Matsya to keep his promise.  Matsya pulls the boat to the highest land in the north and Manu, along with the Saptarish, the seven great sages, step out onto the mountain, the only men left alive.


Comparison of Worldwide Floods

Hawaiians, Chinese, Japanese, Incas, Norse, Filipinos – all of these peoples have flood mythologies.  In all, there are over 200 recorded flood myths from around the world.

To see a comparison and different viewpoints on the story of the flood in the Bible and the story of the flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh visit here.  Then discuss your ideas with your children.  Discuss what you believe and why.

You might want to tell these flood stories on the bank of a lake or river so you can discuss and imagine together what it would be like to have the water rise up and over all of the lands on the earth.

Have the kids make a Noah’s Ark craft.

Additional Layers

  • We don’t have to believe what others believe in order to respect them.  Discuss this with your kids.
  • Learn about floods and the damage they can cause.  Do you live in a place that has dangers from floods?
  • Find the location of Mount Ararat and Mount Nisir on a map.  Both are located in Turkey, about 40 miles apart.  These are two sites that are, by tradition, places where the ark may have come to rest.
  • Many people in that area, near the mountains in eastern Turkey, claim direct descent from the sons of Noah.
  • The cultures of Hawaii, New Zealand, and northern Native America also have flood stories.

More From Layers of Learning

If you’re new to homeschooling or would like to hone your homeschooling goals and focus, go visit Karen’s guide for new homeschoolers.  You’ll also find lots more ideas for exploration lessons like this one on our history page.  And please visit our catalog for a peek at the units we offer that will change the way you homeschool forever.


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