Manu and the Fish is a very short myth about Manu, who finds and takes care of a fish. The fish warns him of some terrible things that the fish will help him avoid in exchange for this treatment. Manu feeds the fish, which grows and grows and grows. Manu has to transfer it to successively larger jars until fully grown and returned to the ocean. When the floods come, the fish pulls Manu to safety in a boat.
Now, this story is only a few sentences longer than my summary, but there’s a lot going on. This is actually a very moral story, as are many flood myths. Whereas creation stories set the stage for all the players, flood myths demonstrate the morality of the culture. The Hindu culture is about karma, which is clearly demonstrated by Manu and the Fish. Manu’s treatment of the fish is reciprocated later on.
Good deeds are returned to the doer, which is a cornerstone in many belief systems and cultures. It is the most basic set of laws in culture, which defines future laws. The reasons for not murdering and not stealing are to prevent them from happening to you. Society must build itself upon this basic social contract. Without the understanding that people will treat each other well, that there is some sort of reciprocity for breaking the contract, civilization can never emerge. Manu and the Fish, though a very short flood myth, demonstrates a fundamental aspect of culture.