Alaska: The Origin of the Tides

This story is part of the Alaskan Legends unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of Alaska, edited by Katharine Berry Judson (1911).

The Origin of the Tides


A LONG time ago, a man wandered down the Nass River. Wherever he camped, he made rocks of curious shapes. Now his name was Qa, the Raven. The Tlingit call him Yel. Qa wandered all over the world. At last he travelled westward.

Now at that time the sea was always high. In the middle of the world Qa discovered a rock in the sea. He built a house under the rock. Then he made a hole through it and through the earth and fitted a lid to it.

Raven put a man in charge of the hole. Twice a day he opens the lid and twice each day he closes it. When the hole is open the water rushes down through it into the depths; then it is ebb tide. When he closes the lid, the water rises again; then it is flood tide.

Once upon a time, Tael, a Tlingit chief, while hunting sea otters was carried out to Qa's rock by the tide. The current was so strong he could not escape. When Tael was drawn toward the rock, he saw a few small trees growing on it. Tael threw his canoe line over one of the trees. Thus he escaped being carried down by the water into the hole under the rock.

After some time he heard a noise. The man was putting the lid on the hole. Then the water began to rise. Tael paddled rapidly away. He paddled away until the tide began to ebb again. Then he fastened his canoe to a large stone nearby, and waited until flood tide came again. Thus Tael escaped.

(300 words)

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