How The Daylight Came
Category: TSIMSHIAN TALES
Source: Indian Legends Retold
A long, long time ago the son of the first chief of the animal people
set out upon a journey. Dressed in the skin of a raven, and carrying
in his beak a magic bag which his father had given him, he flew
eastward over a dark and watery waste. When he had flown far and was
tired, he dropped a stone in the sea, and it became an island, upon
which he rested.
Again he rose up and flew onward upon slow black wings, no blacker
than the gloom that covered the face of the world. As he skimmed the
surface of the waves, he scattered from his enchanted bag the spawn
of every kind of fish, so that the sea was filled with finny life.
Then he turned toward shore, and over the dry land he cast berries and
seeds of all plants that are good for food, so that the earth too was
ready to burst with fruitfulness, only there was no sun to warm it
Raven became very tired of the eternal darkness, and at last he flew
straight upward until he found the hole in the sky, and went right
through the hole. There he left the raven's skin lying and flew on
till he came to a spring of clear water, bubbling up with a sound like
maidens' laughter near the wigwam of the Chief of Heaven. He turned
himself into a leaf and floated in the pool, waiting for the chief's
daughter. When she came, she was indeed very beautiful. Stooping, she
dipped up the leaf in her bucket and drank it with the water.
Now the maiden returned to her home, and not long after a child was
born to her. The baby grew very fast. He was stronger than any child
ever seen, yet he cried continually. Soon he was creeping about the
floor and crying all the time in a loud voice. The wise old men were
called in to explain these cries, and the wisest one of all told the
princess that her son was crying for a large box that hung under the
roof. This was the box that held the daylight.
Since nothing else would do, they took down the box and gave it to the
child to play with. For four days he rolled it about the floor; then
one day, when no one was looking, he lifted it to his shoulders, got
to his feet, and ran out of the door with it. He sped as fast as he
could to the hole in the sky, put on the raven's skin that he found
lying there, and flew down to earth with the precious box.
Now the Frog people were fishing down there, and they made a great
noise and confusion in the darkness. Raven called upon them to be
silent, but they paid no attention to him. The big frogs were
bellowing very loud, and the little frogs were piping high and shrill,
and there was no peace or quiet anywhere. Raven told them twice to be
less noisy, and when they would not, he said, "Then I shall open the
So he opened it, and daylight overspread the earth.
Next: The Old Woman And The Tides
Previous: Great Head