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.

Raven would swoop down toward the water when he heard a splash, hoping to snatch a fish off a spear. But the Frog Fishermen cleverly slapped the water at the opposite side of the boat to fool him.

Eventually, Raven grew tired of trying to be clever. He decided to go back to the sky where he came from and steal the box which held daylight. Then he and all the Animal People would be able to see where to find food.

So Raven flew up through a hole in the sky and walked until he came to the Sky Chief ’s house. There he waited beside the spring until the chief ’s only daughter came to fetch water. When Raven saw her coming down the path he quickly changed himself into a tiny cedar leaf and floated quietly on top of the water.

The young girl was so thirsty she did not wait to set her cedar-bark bucket down on the ground. Instead, she held it out behind her, scooped up some water with her hand, and drank it. She did not notice the tiny cedar leaf that slipped down her throat along with the water.

Before long, the young girl had exciting news for her parents. “Mother. Father,” she said. “I am with child.”

For a long time, Sky Chief and his wife had feared that their only daughter would never give them a grandchild, so they were excited to hear this news. They waited patiently, and soon their daughter gave birth to a robust little boy. He had fine feathery black hair, keen dark eyes, and thin aquiline features.

Although the family loved the handsome baby, they could not seem to please him, no matter what they tried. The little boy refused to be held and struggled to get out of his mother’s arms. His plump little body swaggered back and forth across the floor, and his loud cries filled the lodge.

Neither his mother nor his grandparents could figure out why their little boy was so unhappy. They washed him several times a day. They dressed and undressed him and brought him ample quantities of food. Still he squawked.

“We must seek the advice of our elders,” said the chief. “Or else our grandson will grow into an unhappy adult.”

Sky Chief walked through the village and invited the tribal elders to come to a meeting at his home. “Our grandson is very unhappy, and we do not know why. We seek your advice,” he said.

The elders followed Sky Chief home. But some of them covered their ears in distress as they took seats around the room. Sky Chief ’s grandson crawled among the men, squawking louder than ever.

One elder picked up the boy and stroked his shiny black hair. “What is it, child?” he asked. “What makes you so unhappy?” The baby screeched into the elder’s face until the old man gently set him back down on the floor. Across the room another elder beckoned to the baby.

“Come,” he said. “Tell me why you cry.” The chief ’s grandson went to where the old man sat, and then he crowed even louder. The old man fished frantically in his little bag for a handful of puffy cloud material with which he plugged his ears.

At last one of the elders, who had been watching the child very carefully, stood up. “It is the box you hang in the corner that the boy wants,” he declared to the chief and his daughter.

The box hanging in the corner was called the mä, and it held daylight. It had long been the chief ’s duty to protect its contents. “The box in the corner?” repeated Sky Chief. “That is the mä. He cannot have it.”

But the little boy waddled over to where the box was hung, lifted his head, and began a long mournful cry.

“If you do not give him the box,” said the elder. “He will cry until you do.”

Sky Chief turned to his daughter. “I am afraid,” he said.

“No one has ever played with the mä before? What if the box opens?”

“We must watch him very closely,” said the boy’s exhausted mother. Reluctantly, the chief took down the box and set it on the floor near the fire. At once the little boy stopped crying and wrapped his long curved arms around the box. A deafening silence filled the crowded lodge.

Sky Chief and his daughter smiled for the first time since the child had been born. With relief, the elders, also happy that the child had stopped squawking, pulled the stuffing out of their ears.

The boy tipped over the mä. Once. Twice. Three times. Then he tipped it back the other way. Once. Twice. Three times. He cooed like a contented little mourning dove.

The boy’s delight with the precious box soon convinced Sky Chief and his daughter that the mä was safe with the strange little child. So they relaxed their watchfulness and went back to work.

The little boy continued to coo as he tumbled the box around the lodge. Each day he worked himself closer and closer to the door. Then one day, without warning, the dark-haired little boy darted out of the lodge with the box on his shoulders.

When the Sky People saw him running away with the box they began to shout. “He is stealing the mä! Catch him! Catch him! He must not get away.”

But Sky Chief ’s grandson disappeared as if he had wings. And once beyond reach of the Sky People, he vanished through the hole in the sky where he had entered many moons earlier.

Before reaching earth, he changed back into Raven, took the mä off his shoulder, and clutched it in his strong talons. When Raven spotted the mouth of the Nass River, he flew upriver until he heard the voices of the Frog People.

“Please,” he said to the Frog People, who were sitting patiently in their dugout canoes, waiting for the stars to shine so they could see to spear fish. “Throw me a fish. I am very hungry.”

But the fishermen knew that Raven was always hungry and always wanted others to feed him. “Catch your own fish, you lazy thing,” replied one of the fishermen.

Raven asked again.

The fishermen continued to ignore him.

Raven just wanted something to eat before he opened the box of daylight. “You will be sorry if you do not feed me,” he threatened. “I have brought you something very special. But I am very hungry, and I must eat first.”

“You cannot fool us,” said one of the fishermen. “You are Raven the trickster and nothing but a liar. And all you want is free food.”

Raven protested, “I have brought you daylight in this box. And I made a long, dangerous journey to bring it to earth so that our people will never be hungry again. But I will not give it to you until you give me something to eat.”

The Frog People laughed.

Raven waited until they began fishing under the light of the stars before he issued his last warning to the Frog People: “I will wait no longer. If you throw me a fish you will not be punished. But if you do not, you will be very sorry.”

This time the fishermen did not even bother to look up. They were too busy spearing fish.

Then Raven gripped the box in his strong talons, lifted it off the ground, and glided gracefully along the water’s edge. If the Frog People had looked up, they might have seen his shiny purple-green wings glistening in the starlight. But they did not. Not until he dropped the box onto the rocky shore.

When Raven did this, daylight came flying out of the broken box in all directions. It flashed out over the mountains. It whirled up through the valleys. And it sliced through the freshwater rivers and streams of the region.

Animal People all over the land were surprised and delighted. But not the Frog People, who had not believed Raven’s box held daylight. Now they were frightened.

Shortly after all the light had left the box, North Wind began to blow violently against the little boats that held the Frog People. It blew so hard they were swept out to sea, and their little canoes slammed into the side of a steep rocky island. When the Frog People tried to climb up the cliffs, North Wind froze them in place, so that they would never again be concerned about daylight.

The other Animal People cheered for Raven and called him a hero. And no one ever went hungry again, especially not Raven.

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