Alaska: Raven and Marmot

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

Raven and Marmot
Eskimo (Bering Straits)


ONCE Raven was flying over a reef near the seashore, near seabirds that were perched on the rocks. Seabirds cried to him, "Oh, you offaleater! Oh, you carrion-eater! Oh, you black one!"

Raven turned and flew far away crying, "Qaq! qaq! qaq!" He flew far away across the great water until he came to a mountain on the other side.

Raven saw just in front of him the hole of Marmot. Then Raven stood by the door watching, until Marmot came home, bringing food. But Marmot could not enter his hole because Raven stood in the way. Marmot asked Raven to stand to one side.

Raven said, "No. They called me ' carrion-eater.' Now I will show them I am not. I will eat you."

Marmot said, "All right, but I have heard that you are a very fine dancer. Now, if you will dance, I will sing. Then you can eat me, but let me see you dance before you eat me."

Raven agreed to dance. Then Marmot sang, "Oh, Raven, Raven, Raven, how well you dance! Oh, Raven, Raven, Raven, how well you dance!"

Raven danced. Then they stopped to rest.

Marmot said, "I like your dancing. Now I will sing again, so shut your eyes and dance your best." So Raven shut his eyes and danced clumsily around.

Marmot sang, "Oh, Raven, Raven, Raven, what a graceful dancer! Oh, Raven, Raven, Raven, what a fool you are!" Because Marmot, with a quick run, had darted between Raven's legs and was safe in his hole.

When Marmot was safe in his hole, he put out the tip of his nose and mocked Raven. He said, "Chikik-kik, chi-kik-kik, chi-kik-kik! You are the greatest fool I ever saw. What a comical figure you cut when dancing! I could hardly keep from laughing. Just look at me — see how fat I am. Don't you wish you could eat me?"

Raven, in a rage, flew far away.

(400 words)

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