It’s impossible to know who first told the story of a great flood that destroys most of the world, but the deluge myth appeared early and often in various cultures. The most famous account of the flood is, of course, the sketch of Noah’s Ark from Genesis, but the great deluge also figures prominently in the Mesopotamian epics of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis, in the Shatapatha Brahmana story of Manu, and in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Variations abound, but the germ of the story is the same: the last vestiges of humanity huddle aboard a massive vessel while the rest of the world drowns.
In our eschatology-obsessed times, we’ve seen renewed interest in the deluge myth. This summer alone has given us two prominent variations in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah and Joon-ho Bong’s Snowpiercer. These two films present a natural and compelling contrast—while Noah portrays the deluge as religious retribution for wickedness, Snowpiercer presents it as a scientific calamity. In both cases, it would seem, humanity had it coming.