Alaska: Raven's Marriage

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

Raven's Marriage
Eskimo (Bering Straits)


AFTER Raven had lived alone a long while, he decided to get married. It was late in the fall and the birds were flying southward. So Raven flew away in the path of the geese and birds on their way to summerland. Raven stopped directly in the path.

Soon Raven saw a young goose coming near. He looked down at his feet and called, "Who will marry me? I am a very nice man." The goose flew on.

Soon a black brant passed. Raven looked down at his feet and called, "Who will marry me? I am a very nice man." The black brant flew on. Raven looked after her. He said, "What kind of people are these? They do not even stop to listen."

A duck came near. Raven hid his face and called, "Who will marry me? I am a very nice man." The duck looked toward him, then flew on. Raven said, "Ah, I came very near it then. I shall succeed this time."

Soon a whole family of white-front geese came along. There were the parents, four brothers, and a sister. Raven called out, "Who wants to marry me? I am a fine hunter. I am young and handsome." The geese alighted just beyond him. Raven thought, "Now I will get a wife."

Raven saw near him a pretty white stone with a hole in it. He picked it up, strung it on a long grass stem, and hung it about his neck. Then he pushed up his beak so that it slid to the top of his head like a mask; so he became a dark-colored young man. Then he walked up to the geese. Each of the geese pushed up its bill in the same manner; they became nice-looking people. Raven liked the girl; he gave her the stone, thus choosing her for his wife, and she hung it about her own neck. Then all pushed down their bills again and became birds. So they flew south toward the summerland. The geese flapped their wings heavily and flew slowly. Raven, on outspread wing, glided on ahead. The geese looked after him, saying, "How light and graceful he is!"

When Raven became tired he said, "We had better stop early and look for a place to sleep." Soon they were all asleep. The next morning the geese were awake early. They wanted to be off. Raven was sound asleep. Father Goose wakened him. He said, "We must make haste. It will snow here soon. We cannot wait."

So the geese flapped their wings and flew slowly and heavily along. Raven led the others with outspread wings. He was always above or ahead of the others. They said, "See how light and graceful he is!"

Thus they travelled until they came to the seashore. They feasted upon the berries on the bushes around it. Soon they were asleep. Early the next morning the geese made ready to go without breakfast. Raven was hungry but the geese would not wait. As they flapped their wings and started, Father Goose said, "We will stop once on the way to rest; then our next flight will bring us to the other shore."

Raven began to be afraid, but he was ashamed to say so. The geese flapped their wings slowly and flew steadily, heavily along. Raven, with outspread wings, glided ahead. After a long time Raven began to fall behind. His wings ached. The geese flew steadily on. Raven flapped heavily along, then glided on his outstretched wings. But he grew more and more tired. He fell farther and farther behind.

At last the geese looked back. Father Goose said, "He must be tired. I thought he was light and active. We will wait." The geese settled close together in the water. Raven flew slowly up, gasping for breath. He sank down upon their backs. When Raven had his breath again, he put his hand on his breast. He said, "I have an arrow here from an old war. It pains me greatly. That is why I fell behind."

After resting, the geese rose from the water. They flapped slowly along. Raven flew with them. After a while, Raven began to fall behind. He grew more and more tired. At last the geese looked back. Father Goose said, "He must be tired. We will wait." So the geese sank down together in the water, while Raven flew slowly up to them and sank down upon their backs. Raven said, "I have an arrowhead which pierced my heart in an old war. That is why I fell behind." Raven's wife put her hand on his breast. She could feel it beating like a hammer; she said she could not feel an arrowhead.

So the geese rose again from the water. They flapped slowly along. But Raven's wings were very tired. Before long he fell behind again. Again the geese waited for him. Then the Geese Brothers began to talk among themselves. They said, "We do not believe he has an arrowhead in his heart. How could he live?"

Now this last time when they rested, they could see the far-off shore. Father Goose said to Raven, "We will not wait for you again. We will not rest again until we reach the shore." So the geese rose from the water and flapped slowly along. Raven's wings seemed very heavy. The geese flew nearer and nearer the shore, but Raven flew nearer and nearer the waves. As he came close to the water he shrieked to his wife, "Leave me the white stone. Throw the white stone back to me." It was a magic stone. Thus Raven cried. Then he sank down into the water, but the geese had reached the land.

Raven tried to rise from the water. His wings would not spread. Raven drifted back and forth with the waves. The white caps of the surf buried him. Only once in a while could he get his beak above the water to breathe. Then a great wave cast him on the shore. Then he struggled up the beach. He reached some bushes where he pushed up his beak. Thus he became a small, dark-colored man. Then he took off his raven coat and mask. He hung them on a bush to dry. Raven made a fire drill out of dry wood and made a fire. Thus he dried himself.

(1100 words)

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