[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the British North America unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of British North America by Katharine Berry Judson (1917).
Creation of the World
THE people were living beyond the sky. They were Wyandots.
One day the shaman told the people to dig around the roots of the wild apple tree standing by the chief's lodge, and Indians at once began to dig. The chief's daughter was lying near by. As the men dug, a sudden noise startled them. They jumped back. They had broken through the floor of the Sky Land, and the tree and the chief's daughter fell through.
Now the world beneath was a great sheet of water. There was no land anywhere. Swans swimming about on the water heard a peal of thunder. It was the first peal ever heard in this world. When they looked upward, they saw the tree and the strange woman falling from the Sky Land.
One of them said, "What strange thing is falling down?" Then he added, "The water will not hold her up. Let us swim together so she will fall upon our backs."
So the chief's daughter fell upon their backs and rested there.
After a while one swan said, "What shall we do with her? We cannot swim about this way very long."
The other said, "Let us ask Big Turtle. He will probably call a council. Then we shall know what to do."
They swam around to Big Turtle and asked him what to do with the woman on their backs. Big Turtle at once sent a runner with a moccasin to the animals, so they came at once for a great council. The council talked a long while.
Then someone stood up and asked about the tree. He said perhaps divers might go down and get just a little earth from its roots, if they knew where it had sunk. Big Turtle said, "Yes. If we can get earth, perhaps we might make an island for this woman."
So the swans took them all to the place where the tree had fallen in the waste of waters. Big Turtle called for divers. First down went Otter, the best of them all. He sank at once out of sight. He was gone a long, long while. At last he came up, but he gasped and was dead. Then Muskrat was sent down. He also was gone a long, long while. Muskrat also died. Next Beaver was sent down to get earth from the roots of the tree. Beaver also was drowned. Many animals were drowned.
Big Turtle called, "Who will offer to go down for the earth?"
No one offered himself, until at last Old Toad said she would try. All the animals laughed. Old Toad was very small and very ugly.
Down went Old Toad. At last they could not see her at all, though she went down slowly. Then they waited for her to come back. They waited, and waited, and waited. They began to say, "She will never come back."
Then they saw a little bubble break on the water. Big Turtle said, "Let us swim there. That is where Old Toad is coming up."
So it was done. Then Old Toad came slowly to the surface, close to Big Turtle. She opened her mouth and spat out a few grains of earth that fell on Big Turtle's shell. Old Toad was done for too.
Small Turtle at once began to rub the earth around the edge of Big Turtle's shell. It began to grow into an island. The animals were looking on as it grew. Then the island became large enough for the woman to live on, so she stepped onto the earth.
The island grew larger and larger, until it became as large as the world is today. When an earthquake occurs, it is because Big Turtle moves his foot. Sometimes he gets tired.
Next: How the Earth Was Formed