Alaska: Raven-Boy and the Sun

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

The Raven Myth: Raven-Boy and the Sun
Eskimo (Bering Straits)
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Now Man wanted again to see the skyland, so Raven and Man went up among the dwarf people and lived there a long time. But on earth the village grew very large; the men killed many animals. Man and Raven were angry because the people killed many animals.

They took a long line and a grass basket, one night, and caught ten reindeer which they put into the basket. Now in those days reindeer had sharp teeth, like dogs. The next night Raven took the reindeer and let them down on the earth close to Man's village. Raven said, "Break down the first house you see and kill the people. Men are becoming too many." The reindeer did as Raven commanded. They stamped on the house and broke it down. They ate up the people with their sharp, wolf-like teeth.

The next night, Raven let the reindeer down; again they broke down a house and ate up the people with their sharp teeth. The village people were much frightened.

The third night they covered the third house with a mixture of deer fat and berries. On the third night when the reindeer began to tear down the third house, their mouths were filled with the fat and sour berries. Then the reindeer ran away, shaking their heads so violently that all their long, sharp teeth fell out. Ever since then reindeer have had small teeth and cannot harm people.

After the reindeer ran away, Raven and Man returned to the skyland. Man said, "If the people do not stop killing so many animals, they will kill everything you have made. It would be better to take the sun away from them. Then it will be dark and people will die." Raven said, "That is right. You stay here. I will go and take away the sun." So Raven went away and took the sun out of the sky. He put it in a skin bag and carried it far away, to a distant part of the skyland. Then it became dark on earth. The people on earth were frightened when the sun vanished. They offered Raven presents of food and furs if he would bring back the sun. Raven said, "No."

After a while Raven felt sorry for them, so he let them have a little light. He held up the sun in one hand for two days so people could hunt and secure food. Then he put the sun in the skin bag again and the earth was dark. Then, after a long time, when the people made him many gifts, he would let them have a little light again.

Now Raven had a brother living in the village. He was sorry for the earth people. So Raven's brother thought a long time. Then he died. The people put him in a grave box and had a burial feast. Then they left the grave box. At once Raven's brother slipped out of the box and went away from the village. He hid his raven mask and coat in a tree. Soon Raven's wife came for water. When she took up a dipperful to drink, Raven's brother, by magic, became a small leaf. He fell into the water and Raven's wife swallowed him.

When Raven-Boy was born he grew very rapidly. He was running about when he was only a few days old. He cried for the sun which was in the skin bag, hanging on the rafters. Raven was fond of the boy so he let him play with the sun, yet he was afraid Raven-Boy would lose the sun, so he watched him. When Raven-Boy began to play out of doors, he cried and begged for the sun. Raven said, "No." Then Raven-Boy cried more than ever. At last Raven gave him the sun in the house. Raven-Boy played with it a long while. When no one was looking, he ran quickly out of the house. He ran to the tree, put on his raven mask and coat, and flew far away with the sun in the skin bag.

When Raven-Boy was far up in the sky, he heard Raven call, "Do not hide the sun. Let it out of the bag. Do not keep it always dark." Raven thought the boy had stolen it for himself. Raven-Boy flew to the place where the sun belonged. He tore off the skin covering and put the sun in its place. Then he saw a broad path leading far away. He followed it to the side of a hole fringed with short, bright grass. He remembered that Raven had said, "Do not keep it always dark," therefore he made the sky turn, with all the stars and the sun. Thus it is now sometimes dark and sometimes light.

Raven-Boy picked some of the short, bright grass by the edge of the sky hole and stuck it into the sky. This is the morning star. Raven-Boy went down to the earth. The people were glad to see him. They said, "What has become of Man who went into the skyland with Raven?"

Now this was the first time that Raven-Boy had heard of Man. He started to fly up into the sky, but he could get only a small distance above the earth. When he found he could not get back to the sky, Raven-Boy wandered to the second village, where lived the men who had come from the pod of the beach pea. Raven-Boy there married a wife and he had many children. But the children could not fly to the sky. They had lost the magic power. Therefore the ravens now flutter over the tundras like other birds.

Next: The Flood

(1000 words)

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