Raven Steals Daylight From The Sky

Long, long ago the world was as black as Raven. It was so dark the Animal People often lost track of their children, bumped into one another looking for food, and had to talk constantly to stay together. This perpetual darkness made them very unhappy.

The Frog People sat in dugout wooden canoes and waited patiently for clear nights when bright stars would light up the waters. Then they went spearfishing. But they had to contend with Raven who harassed them constantly for food.

The Moon Epic

Old Moon had two daughters who were devoted to each other. They shared chores at home, dug wild camass bulbs in the mountain meadows together, and whispered their secrets back and forth.

One day, after they had spent more time talking than digging, it became too dark to go home. So they settled down among the tall blue and white camass flowers to spend the night. But the sisters could not sleep. Instead, they lay awake staring up at the thick black sky that sparkled with tiny stars.

Tolowim-Woman and Butterfly-Man

Long ago, a young girl they called Tolowim-Woman lived in a large pit-house that was nestled in the California foothills. She was a dutiful wife and mother and did her share of the sewing and acorn-grinding. But the long hours of darkness indoors, when the only light came from the flame of the fire, made her restless and moody. She wanted to be outdoors running free.

In spring, Tolowim-Woman’s young husband went off to greet the salmon as they began their journey inland from the sea. She stayed at home to care for their young son and to do chores with the other women. But she longed to go into the hills and walk among the fresh bright-colored spring irises.

Springtime was Tolowim-Woman’s favorite time of year. She remembered her own mother carrying her up the same path in her cradleboard, and she remembered the little grey squirrels that darted back and forth behind her mother’s back showing off their quickness.

How The World was Made

When all the world was water, the animals lived in the sky beyond the rainbow where everyone complained about being cramped for space. “It is much too crowded up here,” said Grandfather Buzzard. “Why don’t we find out what is down there under the water?”

“I will go. I will go,” clicked Beetle as he extended his little forelegs as far as they would go. Grandfather Buzzard agreed that since Beetle belonged in the water, he should go. “See what you can find down there,” said Grandfather Buzzard, and he waved good-bye.

Beetle dove from the sky and floated slowly to earth. He landed on top of the water and whirled around and around and around. When he found an opening in the surface, he kicked his little hind legs in the air and dove under. After awhile, Beetle surfaced, his forelegs coated with soft mud.

Buffalo Husband

One morning when the prairie grass glistened with early frost, a young Blackfeet woman got up and slipped quietly out of her tipi. She was on her way to the stream when a small pebble dropped from the sky. Surprised, the young woman looked up. There high above her on the edge of the nearby cliff was a great herd of buffalo, the first to appear since spring.

“Jump,” she called to them. “Jump. Please jump. Our people are very hungry.” But the buffalo just paced back and forth along the cliff ’s edge. Finally, in desperation, the young woman called out to them, “If you jump, I will marry one of you.”

A huge cloud of dust rose above the cliff as the heavy animals pushed and shoved one another to position themselves. Then they began to tumble over the edge, and their giant bodies rained down onto the prairie below.

Winter-man's Fury

Long ago, when big winters stayed on the southern plains most of the year, Air was always restless. Wind, Rain, Sun, and Snow were supposed to take turns visiting the Cheyennes. But Snow bullied everyone and took up more than his share of time.

Wind, when it got over the top of the great Rocky Mountains, was so pleased to be free that it whirled across the prairie and made the stout little grasses blow dizzily back and forth. Sometimes Wind blew hard and cold.

Other times it blew soft and warm. Gentle or fierce, Wind stayed around as long as it could. Rain, on the other hand, came only in summer. It stayed until the tightly bundled roots of prairie grasses came alive. Then it headed eastward. And Sun appeared.

The Kschinas are Coming

When the world was still new, before large game animals had come to the Hopi people, mice were the only source of meat. But trapping mice took a great deal of time and patience and wound up providing very little meat for the trappers’ efforts.

Shilko, the cleverest young fellow in his group, was always coming up with new ways to trick mice. “It is time to go trapping,” he said, and he walked among his friends waving a small stick with a string attached.

“What does Shilko plan for today?” asked one of the boys as he eyed Shilko’s stick.


A long time ago, a young boy called Zhowmin lost his parents and went to live with his grandmother, Zhaw-b’noh-quae. Grandmother taught him the ways of his people and how to be respectful, curious, and kind. Zhowmin’s uncle taught him practical knowledge, like how to hunt and fish like a man.

By the time Zhowmin reached manhood he was already caring for his aged grandmother. He kept her well fed with fresh deer, antelope, and elk meat. And she kept him well clothed in animal-hide shirts and leggings.

In the evening, Grandmother told Zhowmin the tales of their people. Even when her voice grew weak and she dozed between stories, she continued to fill her grandson with the wisdom of their elders.

Glosscap The Teacher

Long ago, Glooscap, the hero of the Micmac people, came to the northeast from far across the sea. He took the form of a serious and wise old man whose duty it was to teach the Micmacs all that they needed to know.

Glooscap taught the people the names of all the stars and constellations and to locate them in the night sky. Eventually, the people marked their seasonal activities with names given to each of the new moons.

Glooscap also taught the people to hunt moose, elk, and caribou along the edges of the dense forests and open meadows where the animals came to feed. Men learned how to take the meat from these large animals and how to use their bones and antlers to fashion needles, awls, fishhooks, and scrapers.

The Creation of People According To The Popol Vuh

Before human beings, animals, grass, trees, and rocks were created, there was nothing but sky above and ocean below. There was not even any light or sound. There were, however, gods, called Creators, who lived hidden under layers of green and blue feathers deep in the ocean.

The Creators were tired of living in the bleak darkness under so many layers, so one day they got together and planned to fill the vast voids of the cosmos. They called out, “Let creation begin! Let the void be filled! Let the sea recede, revealing the surface of the Earth! Earth, arise! Let it be done!”

Seven Macaw and His Sons

Between the time that the earth had emerged from the sea and the sun had risen in the sky, there lived a macaw whose name was Itzam-Yeh (its-am-YEH), translated as Seven Macaw. Seven Macaw had a very high opinion of himself.

Because his eyes were gemstones and his teeth shone like the Sun itself, he was convinced that, in fact, he was the sun. He was so self-absorbed that he announced that some day he would be the moon, as well.

The Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, felt that Seven Macaw was too boastful and was giving false impressions to the people. Clearly, he was not the sun. The twins decided he needed to be punished.

The Origin of The Sun and The Moon

In the land of the ancient Quiche Maya, there was a set of boy twins named Hun Hunahpu and Vucub (voo-KUB) Hunahpu. Their names referred to dates on the Mayan calendar, Hun’s being “One Hunahpu,” and Vucub’s representing “Seven Hunahpu.”

The boys loved playing pohatok on a ball court that happened to be located on a path to the netherworld, or land of the dead. This netherworld was called Xibalba (shee-bahl-BAH), which means “place of fear.”

The boys enjoyed a reputation for being the toughest pohatok competitors in the land. They had the best-made arm- and leg-guards and the strongest helmets, so they never injured themselves. In fact, the twins were so skilled at making the most challenging hip shots that they simply never lost a game.

The Hero Twins

Like their father and uncle, Hunahpu and Xbalanque made a lot of noise when they played pohatok. And like their father and uncle, one day they disturbed the Lords of Death down in Xibalba. As before, the lords called on the owl messengers to bring the new set of twins to their home in the underworld.

On their way to Xibalba, the boys had to travel over the same route their father and uncle had taken. They lowered themselves down the cliff, and passed across the rivers of spikes, blood, and pus. However, when they came to the four-way intersection, they avoided making the same mistake as their ancestors.

The Creation of The World

The world we live in today is not the only world that ever existed. At least, that is true, according to the ancient Aztecs.

The Aztecs believed that before our current world was created, there were four worlds, called suns. Although the four worlds were created, none was perfect.

The first world began when the powerful god, Tezcatlipoca (tes-CAHT-li-PO-kah) turned himself into the sun. The people of this first sun were giants who survived the heat of their habitat by living in the shade of massive trees and eating a vegetarian diet of corn, berries, and acorns, with which Tezcatlipoca and other gods had provided them.

Feeding The Aztec People

Now that human beings had been created for the fifth new world, they would need to eat in order to survive. So Quetzalcoatl and the other gods went exploring to find some way to feed this new race of people.

One day Quetzalcoatl spotted an ant carrying a big kernel of maize. Right away, he knew that this unusual food would be ideal to feed humans. Quetzalcoatl wanted to know where the ant got the corn. At first he simply asked the ant, but the ant refused to answer.

However, after repeated questioning, the ant agreed to take the god to the place where the corn grew, Mount Tonacatepetl (ton-ah-cah-TAPE-etel), or the “mountain of sustenance.” Quetzalcoatl then turned himself into an ant. That way he could follow the other ant into very small places to where the maize might be hidden.

The Creation of Music

The gods agreed that the fifth and present world was a beautiful place. The many parts of Tlaltecuhtli, the earth monster, had been splendidly transformed to make the most wonderful sights.

There were vibrant flowers, gushing rivers, lush woods, and refreshing streams. This new Earth was also home to majestic mountains and rambling meadows. There were truly enough natural marvels for all the people of Earth to enjoy.

The Birth of The War God

Coatlicue (CO-at-lee-kway) was an honest woman who lived in the shadow of the mountain called Coatepec. Coatlicue had a daughter named Coyolxauhquil (koh-yohl-SHAU-wa-ki), an evil daughter named Malinalxochitl (mal-in-al-SHO-tch-it’l), and four hundred sons, collectively known as the Centzon Huitznahua (SENT-zon WEETS-na-wah).

One day Coatlicue was working and performing religious rituals, in a ravine near Coatepec when she noticed a mysterious ball of feathers on the ground.

She was fascinated by this odd, supernatural gift which seemed to have fallen from the heavens. Coatlicue felt a sudden an urge to keep the ball of feathers, so she picked it up and tucked it under her clothes. The feathers were held in place close to her body.

The Coming of The Tuatha Dé Danaan

The Tuatha Dé Danaan arrived in Ireland on a cloud from the four great cities of fairyland. While in their homelands, they had learned the arts of poetry and science. They brought these gifts, plus great treasures from the fairy cities, to their new home.

The treasures included a stone that confirmed the rightful king by roaring when he stood upon it, a sword that could never be broken, a magic spear, and a pot that could feed an army without ever going empty.

After three days, the cloud on which the Danaans arrived vanished. When the air cleared, the Firbolgs, a misshapen and stupid race who lived in Ireland, realized they were no longer alone. They sent a warrior named Sreng to question the newcomers. Likewise, the Danaans sent a representative from their side.

The Milesian Invasion

In “Spain,” a man named Bregon built a very tall watchtower. Bregon’s son, Ith, liked to climb the tower and look out over the sea. One very clear winter’s day, he noticed a land he had never seen before. Ith decided he wanted to explore it further, so he set sail with ninety warriors for the strange new land.

The land Ith had seen was, of course, Ireland. At that time, there were three Danaan kings—Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht, and Mac Greine—who ruled Ireland. As Ith landed, he noticed the three rulers arguing. They were bickering over how to divide the country.

Seeing the stranger approach, the kings asked Ith to help them decide. Ith had no practical advice, but instead told the kings to act according to the laws of justice. He then praised the country for its moderate climate and abundance of good food, such as fish, wheat, honey, and fruit.

Cúchulainn and Emer

As Cúchulainn grew older he became increasingly more handsome. A mere glance at any woman was enough to make her fall instantly in love with him.

The men of Ulster became worried that Cúchulainn would entice away their wives with his good looks, so they demanded he find a wife of his own. A party was formed and sent to the furthest corners of Ireland, but even after a full year, they could not find a woman Cúchulainn found suitable.

At last, Cúchulainn came across Emer, daughter of Forgall. She possessed all six “gifts” by which women were judged: the gifts of beauty, voice, sweet speech, needlework, wisdom, and chastity.


Like most great heroes, Oisín possessed incredible beauty. It seemed women were always falling in love with him after gazing on his perfect face. One day, while hunting with Finn and several members of the Fianna, Oisín noticed a woman riding toward them on a white horse.

The beautiful maiden was dressed like royalty. She wore a gold crown on her head and a brown silk robe with red-gold stars draped over her shoulders. Even the horse on which she rode was bedecked with gold horseshoes and had a silver wreath around its head.

Finn asked the woman her name. She replied that she was Niamh, daughter of Manannán Mac Lir, god of the sea and king of the Land of Promise.

Gwydion and Aranrhod

Math, a Welsh god of great wealth, was burdened by a very unusual curse: he could only live if his feet were resting on a virgin’s lap. When his original virgin foot-holder was abducted, Math was forced to look for a new one.

Gwydion, God of illusion and magic, as well as of poetry and science, was Math’s good friend. He suggested his sister, Aranrhod, for the job.

Aranrhod was very honored that she was being considered. She went before Math in order for him to test her. As it turned out, she was not a virgin at all. Much to Aranrhod’s embarrassment, when Math waved his wand over her, she gave birth to two children on the spot. One of the children was named Dylan Eil Ton, meaning “Sea, Son of the Wave.”

Pwyll, Head of Hades

Pwyll was ruler of Dyfed, located in the southwest corner of what is now Wales. One day, Pwyll left his capital with a group of his men to go hunting in a far-off region called Glynn Cuch. Pwyll blew his horn and released his hounds to begin the hunt. In a short time, he got separated from his companions.

The lord followed the sound of his hounds. As he did so, he heard another pack of hounds, not his own, advancing toward him. At a clearing in the forest, Pwyll saw his hounds chasing the other pack, who were in turn running after a mighty stag. The strange hounds overtook the stag and brought it to the ground.

Culhwch and Olwen

Culhwch was the son of Cilydid and Goleuddydd and the cousin of the famous King Arthur. When Goleuddydd died, Cilydid took another wife. The new wife thought Culhwch would make a good husband for her own daughter. When Culhwch refused her request, she became very angry.

She laid a curse on him that the only woman he could ever marry was Olwen, daughter of the fearsome giant Yspaddaden Pencawr. Yspaddaden would not allow any man to marry his daughter because an ancient curse promised he would die on the wedding day.

Even so, Culhwch blushed at the sound of Olwen’s name. He fell in love with the very idea of her and went to his father to ask how he could win her. Cily did reminded his son that he was King Arthur’s cousin. He suggested he go to Arthur’s court and ask for Olwen as a favor.

The Girl Who Married a Gnome

Arouk lived with her aged parents in a small sealskin summer tent close to the mouth of a great fjord. Many hunters who traveled up and down the fjord in summer stopped to visit Arouk, but her father always sent them away because he believed no man was good enough for his beautiful daughter. Arouk loved her parents, but she very much wanted to get married.

One day a young man paddled up to the shore and called, “Arouk. Arouk. Come out.”

“Listen, father. He knows my name,” said Arouk pushing aside the caribou-hide door cover of the tent to peek outside.

The Adventures of Kivioq

Kivioq’s father had been killed by an angry hunter several months before he was born. His mother vowed to avenge her husband’s death and plotted to get even. Soon after the little boy was born, his mother wrapped his tiny body in the skin of a newborn seal and sewed it together so tightly that it fit just like his own.

Kivioq’s mother taught her young son how to hold his breath under water. They practiced each day until Kivioq grew so comfortable under water that his mother had to wait long periods of time for her young son to come up for air.

One day Kivioq’s mother said, “You are ready for the sea, my son.” And she took him down to the shore. Kivioq’s mother rubbed his sleek sealskin suit and smiled at her young son. “Swim out to sea,” she said. “And when you see kayaks, show yourself above the water.

Sedna, Goddess of The Sea

A very long time ago, a young girl named Sedna lived with her widowed father in a small sealskin tent along the coast of Baffin Island. Sedna, who was beautiful, smart, independent, and willful, wanted a husband who was her equal.

In fact, she was so particular that she turned down every suitor who came to visit. Sedna’s father, Kinuk, did not mind that his daughter was so fussy because he loved her dearly and did not want to lose her.

Oogoon’s Adventures on The Kobuk River

By the time Oogoon was born, his parents were already old and living all alone far up along the Kobuk River. Oogoon had many brothers, but they had all left home as soon as they had reached manhood, and none of them had ever returned.

Oogoon’s parents would never know if their boys had met untimely deaths and, if they had, whether their souls might be wandering around lost. They feared the same fate might befall their youngest son.

So, to avoid such a fate for Oogoon, his parents catered to their son’s every whim in the hope that he would never leave them. His mother fed him au-goo-took, an Inuit version of ice cream, and his father made him a furry crown of ermine to wear on his head. “This will be your spirit-protector,” he said to his young son. “Amulets like this hold magical power and will keep you safe.”

The Hill Giant

Darkness covered the frozen tundra the night Taku slipped out the long underground entrance of the house she had shared for many years with her cruel young husband. Tired of being beaten, Taku was leaving and never coming back.

Taku pulled her caribou-skin anorak up around her face and headed west. She traveled for many days and nights, going out of her way to avoid houses and villages, fearing someone might see her and take her home. When she was sure all signs of human life were behind her, Taku slowed down.

Then, a cold wind began to whip her face, and she stopped to look for shelter. A series of large and small hills off in the distance gave her renewed energy, and she began to run toward them. At last Taku reached the smallest hill and made a clearing between two short ridges. She snuggled into the deep snow and fell sound asleep.

Ol-an-uk The Orphan

Ol-an-uk lived alone on a small island where the wind blew day and night all year long. On the day that his parents did not return home in the evening, Ol-an-uk went down to the shore. His parents, their tools, and fishing nets had all been swept out to sea and vanished without a trace.

Ol-an-uk mourned the loss of his parents throughout the long winter. In spring, he walked aimlessly along the rocky shore tossing rocks into the water and calling out to the whales. “Come,” he called. “It is spring and I am hungry.” But Ol-an-uk knew that the whales would not come to him.

He would have to muster the courage to go out into the fog-enshrouded sea and hunt the great beluga, or white, whales that had already begun to migrate north. But now, without his father, the excitement of chasing a pod of beluga whales was gone. He would really have to force himself to go hunting.

The Woman Who Adopted a Bear

Long ago, there lived a successful hunter with a reputation for generosity. Hungry strangers came from far and wide to request meat and skins from Angudluk, the great hunter.

Angudluk packed the strangers’ sleds with seal meat and skins and sent them away, saying, “I am sorry I have so little to give. These provisions are from spoiled animals, and my wife has done a poor job of preparing them. They are yours if you will accept them.”

Angudluk’s wife watched as her husband’s chest puffed out with pride when the strangers thanked him for his generosity. She remembered the long nights she spent removing blubber from the sealskins to make them soft and pliable.