Banana type Myth (バナナ型神話)

Banana type myths are myths regarding the origin of death and the short life span of humans which are found in many countries and regions, mainly in southeast Asia and New Guinea.

The term was coined by Sir James George Frazer (1854 - 1941), a social anthropologist in Scotland, because bananas commonly appear as an important item in the myths. Japanese Mythology also contains anecdotes that seem to be variations of the banana type myth.

A typical banana type myth is as follows:
Got presented a stone and a banana to people and ordered them to choose either of them. People chose a banana because they could eat it rather than a stone that couldn't be eaten. A changeless stone is a symbol of immortality, so if people chose a stone, they would be immortal (or live long); but they chose a banana and people are destined to die (or have a short life).

In Japanese Mythology, a similar anecdote is found in the chapter of Tensonkorin (the descent to earth of the grandson of the sun goddess). When Tenson Ninigi descended to earth, Kunitsukami (god of the land) Oyamatsumi married his daughters Konohana no Sakuyabime and Iwanagahime to Ninigi. Ninigi, however, returned Iwanagahime because of her ugliness, and married only Konohana no Sakuyabime. Konohana no Sakuyabime was a symbol of the prosperity of the descendents of the sun goddess and Iwanagahime was a symbol of long life, but since the latter was returned, the descendants (emperors) became short lived. Although no banana appears in this story, the facts that the name of Iwanagahime includes "Iwa" (rock), in other word, stone, and rejecting her resulted in short life are reasons that this story was regarded as a variation of the banana type myth. Konohana no Sakuyabime implies "Hana" (flower) that would soon fall, so it can be considered that she was a variation of a banana that would be eaten and gone.

[Original Japanese]