BNA: The Burning of the World

This story is part of the British North America unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of British North America by Katharine Berry Judson (1917).

The Burning of the World

ONCE all the world was burned. Only a man and his mother and his sister were saved. Before the fire there were many people on earth. Then the young man fell out with his father, and they became enemies. The young man had heard that all the world was to be burned, but his father did not believe it.

Now the young man made a bow and arrows. He shot one arrow to the west, and one to the east, and one to the north, and one to the south. The places where the arrows fell were the four corners of a bit of ground which would not burn. The young man told everybody who wanted to be saved from the fire to come onto that square of land. Many did not believe the world would be burned, so they would not come.

After a while the fire came. They could hear it. They were encamped by the side of a big lake. By and by all the birds and animals came running to that bit of ground marked out by the arrows. The old man had quarreled with his son, so he would not come.

The fire was very hot. All the water boiled because it was so hot. After a while the fire was put out, and the water had settled down. Everything had to be started over again.

Now there were many animals on this patch of ground, and the man named some of them and told them what to do.

He put Beaver in the water, but Rabbit wanted to live in the water. The man said, "No."

Then Rabbit jumped into the water and the man had to pull him out. He said to Rabbit, "Your legs are too long. Even if you do eat willow like Beaver, you don't go about in the water properly."

Squirrel wanted to be Bear. He did all he could to be Bear. He argued and chattered a great deal about it. The man said, "Oh, you're too noisy. You wouldn't be a good Bear." He said also, "If you are Bear, you are so noisy that when people come again, they will kill too many of you. A bear must keep quiet. He has many enemies."

Then Squirrel began to weep. He wept until his eyes were white. Even today Squirrel has eyes bright and swollen from weeping.

The man made Bear then, because he was nice and wise and quiet.

Somebody wanted to be Caribou—nobody remembers just who wanted that.

Then Deer was made, and made so swift that he could outrun all pursuers.

After the man had finished making all the animals, he put a mark on them, so people would know what they were. Then the man had to give all the people new names. His mother he called Robin, because she was friendly. His sister he called Golden-winged Woodpecker, because she was beautiful. He called himself Blackbird because he would only come every spring.

(500 words)

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