Other Flood Stories
The story of Noah and the ark is not unique. In fact, more than three hundred stories of great floods are found around the world from South America to India to Australia.
The oldest known flood story is found on a Sumerian tablet from the seventeenth century BC, hundreds of years before Genesis was written. Mankind’s excessive noise was keeping the chief god awake, so the gods decided to destroy all human beings with a flood. Enki (one of the gods) warned Ziusudra, ruler of Shuruppak and a man known for his humility and obedience, to build a large boat. After a seven-day storm in which “the huge boat is tossed about on the great waters,” Ziusudra opened a window and offered a sacrifice of an ox and a sheep. When the flood was over, the animals left the boat.
A more famous version of this story, the Gilgamesh Epic, was discovered on tablets from the Assyrian royal library in Ninevah, written 1,000 years after the Sumerian tablet with Ziusudra’s story. In the Assyrian story, Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, seeks to find from Utnapishtim the secret of eternal life.
Utnapishtim said the god Ea told him to build a boat to save himself from a great flood. The boat was to be a square—120 cubits per side—have six decks, divided into compartments, and covered with bitumen and pitch. Utnapsihtim went into the boat with his family, his silver and gold, the people who helped him build the boat, and “all the animals of the field.” Then came such a terrible six-day storm that the gods themselves were frightened and “wailed like a woman in labor” and the land was flattened. All humans not in the boat were turned to clay.
Utnapishtim sent out a dove and then a swallow, both of which came back to him. He then sent out a raven, which was able to find food and so did not come back. This let Utnaphishtim know he could let the people and animals out of the boat. He then sacrificed a sheep, and the chief god, Enlil, granted Utnapishtim and his wife eternal life, which was the point of Utnapishtim’s telling the story to Gilgamesh.The stories of Ziusudra and Utnapishtim and Noah have many similarities and all come from the same part of the world. Other stories, however, have more variety, but there are still remarkably common elements. Two are told here. Noah: The Real Story also includes flood stories from Greece and East Africa.
According to a sacred Hindu text, Manu, the first king to rule the earth, was washing his hands in a river when a tiny fish asked Manu to protect him from larger fish. Manu took pity on the fish and cared for the him.
The fish, an avatar of Vishnu, a supreme god, warned Manu, “who was endued with great wisdom and devoted to virtue,” of a coming flood that would destroy all the people on the earth. The fish told Manu to build a boat with a strong rope on its prow and to take seven enlightened people (the rishis), seeds from every kind of plant, and animals to repopulate the earth.
When the flood came, Manu tied the rope onto a horn growing out of the fish and the fish pulled the boat to the top of a high mountain protruding from the flood waters. When the waters receded, Manu poured butter and sour milk onto the waters as a sacrifice. After a year, a woman was born from the waters, and from Manu and the woman came a new human race that replenished the earth.
The Anishinaabe Nation, called Ojibwe in Canada and Chippewa in the United States, live around the American Great Lakes. Long ago the Anishinaabe began to argue and fight, and so the Great Spirit, or Gitchi-Manitou, decided to purify the earth with a flood that would destroy the Anishinaabe people and most of the animals.
When the flood came, only Nanabozho—an important figure in many Anishinaabe stories; he even has his own Facebook page—survived by floating on a huge log with a few animals.
“I am going to swim to the bottom of this water and grab a handful of earth,” he said. “With this small bit of earth, I believe we can create a new land . . . with the help of the Four Winds and Gitchi-Manitou.”
But Nanabozho was not able to reach the bottom. The loon, the grebe, the mink, and other animals also tried, but failed. Then the muskrat said he would try. The other animals laughed and made fun of the muskrat.
“Only Gitchi-Manitou can place judgment on others,” said Nanabozho. “If muskrat wants to try, he should be allowed to.” After a very long time, the muskrat floated to the surface. He had died, but in his paw was a small ball of earth. The muskrat had given his life so life on earth could start again after the flood.
The turtle then offered to “use my back to bear the weight of this piece of earth.” The little ball of earth the muskrat had brought up grew and grew on the turtle’s back, becoming an island today known as North America.
Dr. John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research, analyzed more than two hundred such stories and said if the common features are combined, the story would read something like this: (The percentages are the percentage of the stories he analyzed containing the element. For instance 88 percent of the stories involve one righteous family.)
Once there was a worldwide (95 percent) flood, sent by god to judge the wickedness of man (66 percent). But one righteous family (88 percent) was forewarned (66 percent) of the coming flood. They built a boat (70 percent) on which they survived the flood along with the animals (67 percent). As the flood ended, their boat landed on a high mountain (57 percent) from which they descended and repopulated the whole earth. 
Interestingly, nine percent of the stories say specifically that eight people were saved and seven percent mention a rainbow.
Why are there so many flood stories with so many common elements? Perhaps some accounts borrow details from other stories. This is the reason given for the similarities in Middle Eastern flood stories such as the Sumerian story of Ziusudra, the Gilgamesh Epic, and the Genesis account of Noah.
Perhaps floods are a common disaster and people tell stories about them. For instance some stories might arise because of an unusual flooding of the Euphrates River, a Mediterranean tsunami caused by a volcanic eruption on the Greek island of Thera—one of the largest eruptions in recorded history.
North American stories might arise from the draining of Lake Agassiz, an immense lake that covered much of Manitoba, eastern Saskatchewan and North Dakota, and northern Minnesota. Still other stories might have originated with the flooding of the Black Sea or a six-hundred-foot-high tsunami caused by a meteor crashing into the Indian Ocean between 2800 and 3000 BC.
Or perhaps these stories from around the world are a collective memory of an actual Great Flood that covered the entire earth.