BNA: Origin of Light and Fire

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

Origin of Light and Fire

RAVEN and Sea Gull were friends. Their houses were close together in the Lillooet country. It was dark all over the world at this time, because Sea Gull owned the daylight, which he kept in a box. He never let any of it out except for his own use.

Raven said, "It isn't fair that Sea Gull should have all the daylight. People should have some of it."

Therefore Raven planned to get the daylight. One night he placed thorn branches on the trail between Sea Gull's house and the place where his canoe was fastened. Then he ran to Sea Gull, shouting, "Your canoe has gone adrift! Your canoe has gone adrift!"

Sea Gull heard Raven and rushed out of the house in haste. He did not even put on his moccasins; he ran in his bare feet and stepped on the thorns. Then Sea Gull screamed, "Ah-ah!" just as sea gulls do now. He shouted to Raven, "Get my canoe! Save my canoe!"

Then he went back to his house. He was much excited. Raven pulled up the canoe and went to the house. Gull spoke of those thorns in his feet. Raven said, "Oh, I can pull them out, if you will let a little daylight out of your box."

So Gull sat down beside the box and opened it a little with one hand. Raven began to pull out the thorns with an awl. Soon he said, "I can't see well. Give me more light."

Gull opened the box a little more. Raven pulled out all the thorns but one. He said, "This last one is hard to get out. I shall need more light."

When Gull opened the box a little more, Raven gave his arm a push. Thus he knocked down the box and broke it. Then all the daylight rolled out and spread all over the world. Sea Gull was unable to collect it again. Raven took out the last thorn and went home chuckling.

Now Raven could see very well indeed, and one day he cleaned himself nicely. He combed and oiled his hair, and put on his best robe, and painted his face black. Then he sat on the top of his underground house and looked all over the world. He saw nothing. The third day he changed the paint on his face. That evening he saw signs of smoke. The fourth day Raven changed his face paint again. Now he located the smoke. It was far away to the south, on the shore of the sea.

Raven had four servants. They all at once entered a small canoe, but it was swamped. Then he tried another. Then he said to his wife, "Go to Sea Gull's house and tell him I need to borrow his canoe."

So he started off in Sea Gull's canoe. Now they paddled downstream until they were close to the house of the people who owned the fire. They planned very quietly. That night they bored a hole under where the baby board hung and stole the baby. Then they ran away.

Now early in the morning the people missed the baby. They knew what had happened. But Raven was too far ahead. They sent out men. Sturgeon, Whale, and Seal searched for Raven's boat, but they could not find him. Other men searched, but only one small fish found Raven's canoe. He tried to stop the runaways by sticking to the paddle, but after a while he got tired and went home.

Now Raven reached his own country. Then the Fire People visited Raven with presents. Four times they came; Raven refused all their gifts.

Then they said, "What do you wish?"

Raven said, "Fire."

Then they said, "Well, why didn't you say that before?" And they were glad, because they had plenty of fire and thought little of its value. So they brought Raven fire, and he gave them back their baby. These Fire People showed Raven how to make fire with dry cottonwood roots.

Raven said to Sea Gull, "If I had not got the light from you, I could not have seen where the fire was kept."

(700 words)

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