The King and the God: Telling tales in Proto-Indo-European

I’m such a nerd. I’m fascinated with listening to this Proto-Indo-European reconstruction and with reading the accompanying text, figuring out which words are what. The date for this hypothesized language’s spread from the Russian Steppes to Ireland would be about 8,000 to 3,000 years ago.

Amazingly, there are some recognizable words in Proto-Indo-European (“PIE”), such as “son” and leukos, the latter Greek for “white” or “bright.” This reconstruction would mean that those words are very old, as is the French word moi for “me.” Then there’s the discernible rex, Latin for “king,” and deios or “God” in several languages. The PIE word pter would be the root of pitar and pater, as well as “father.”

For centuries, it has been noted that ancient Irish has commonalities with Sanskrit:

Old Irish, for instance, shares words with Sanskrit, the ancient classical language of India. Thus, in Sanskrit, arya means “freeman”, and in Irish aire means “nobleman”. Sanskrit naib means “good”, while Old Irish noeib means “holy”, becoming the modern naomh (pronounced neev) meaning “saint”. (Source: The Development of the Irish language 1)

Note that with language goes much culture, including religion, which explains the many parallels in the world’s ancient myths, extending from India to the Atlantic.

In this regard, the god in this modern poem using reconstructed Proto-Indo-European is “Werunos,” who would be Varuna in India, Ouranos in Greece and Uranus in Latin, the sky god shared by multiple cultures, reflecting his great antiquity.

The King and the God

In the 1990s, historical linguists created another short parable in reconstructed PIE. It is loosely based on a passage from the Rigveda, an ancient collection of Sanskrit hymns, in which a king beseeches the god Varuna to grant him a son. Here, Andrew Byrd recites his version of the “The King and the God” in PIE, based on the work of linguists Eric Hamp and the late Subhadra Kumar Sen.

Here is an English translation of the story:

The King and the God

Once there was a king. He was childless. The king wanted a son. He asked his priest: “May a son be born to me!” The priest said to the king: “Pray to the god Werunos.” The king approached the god Werunos to pray now to the god. “Hear me, father Werunos!” The god Werunos came down from heaven. “What do you want?” “I want a son.” “Let this be so,” said the bright god Werunos. The king’s lady bore a son.

And here is the story rendered in reconstructed Proto-Indo-European:

H3rḗḱs dei̯u̯ós-kwe

H3rḗḱs h1est; só n̥putlós. H3rḗḱs súhxnum u̯l̥nh1to. Tósi̯o ǵʰéu̯torm̥ prēḱst: “Súhxnus moi̯ ǵn̥h1i̯etōd!” Ǵʰéu̯tōr tom h3rḗǵm̥ u̯eu̯ked: “h1i̯áǵesu̯o dei̯u̯óm U̯érunom”. Úpo h3rḗḱs dei̯u̯óm U̯érunom sesole nú dei̯u̯óm h1i̯aǵeto. “ḱludʰí moi, pter U̯erune!” Dei̯u̯ós U̯érunos diu̯és km̥tá gʷah2t. “Kʷíd u̯ēlh1si?” “Súhxnum u̯ēlh1mi.” “Tód h1estu”, u̯éu̯ked leu̯kós dei̯u̯ós U̯érunos. Nu h3réḱs pótnih2 súhxnum ǵeǵonh1e.

The Hindu sky god Varuna riding a sea monster (1675-1700 AD/CE)

The Hindu sky god Varuna riding a sea monster (1675-1700 AD/CE)

Also amusing is the tale of the sheep and wool on the same site.

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  1. The Mytheme of Cosmic Conflict between the Divine Hero and the Evil Reptile is found in both Indo-European and Semitic cultures, and its repercussions extend into modern times. There are of course astro-theological aspects to it.

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