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The Boy Who Snared The Sun

Source: Folk-lore And Legends: North American Indian

At the time when the animals reigned on the earth they had killed all
but a girl and her little brother, and these two were living in fear
and seclusion. The boy was a perfect pigmy, never growing beyond the
stature of a small infant, but the girl increased with her years, so
that the labour of providing food and lodging devolved wholly on her.
She went out daily to get wood for their lodge fire, and took her
brother with her so that no accident might happen to him, for he was
too little to leave alone--a big bird might have flown away with him.
She made him a bow and arrows, and said to him one winter day--

"I will leave you behind where I have been chopping; you must hide
yourself, and you will see the gitshee-gitshee-gaun ai see-ug, or
snow-birds, come and pick the worms out of the wood, where I have been
chopping. Shoot one of them and bring it home."

He obeyed her, and tried his best to kill one, but came home
unsuccessful. She told him he must not despair, but try again the next
day. She accordingly left him at the place where she got wood and
returned home. Towards nightfall she heard his footsteps on the snow,
and he came in exultingly, and threw down one of the birds he had

"My sister," said he, "I wish you to skin it and stretch the skin, and
when I have killed more I will have a coat made out of them."

"What shall we do with the body?" asked she, for as yet men had not
begun to eat animal food, but lived on vegetables alone.

"Cut it in two," he answered, "and season our pottage with one-half of
it at a time."

She did so. The boy continued his efforts, and succeeded in killing
ten birds, out of the skins of which his sister made him a little

"Sister," said he one day, "are we all alone in the world? Is there
nobody else living?"

His sister told him that they two alone remained; that the beings who
had killed all their relations lived in a certain quarter, and that he
must by no means go in that direction. This only served to inflame his
curiosity and raise his ambition, and he soon after took his bow and
arrows and went to seek the beings of whom his sister had told him.
After walking a long time and meeting nothing he became tired, and lay
down on a knoll where the sun had melted the snow. He fell fast
asleep, and while sleeping the sun beat so hot upon him that it singed
and drew up his birdskin coat, so that when he awoke and stretched
himself, he felt, as it were, bound in it. He looked down and saw the
damage done, and then he flew into a passion, upbraided the sun, and
vowed vengeance against it.

"Do not think you are too high," said he; "I shall revenge myself."

On coming home he related his disaster to his sister, and lamented
bitterly the spoiling of his coat. He would not eat. He lay down as
one that fasts, and did not stir or move his position for ten days,
though his sister did all she could to arouse him. At the end of ten
days he turned over, and then lay ten days on the other side. Then he
got up and told his sister to make him a snare, for he meant to catch
the sun. At first she said she had nothing, but finally she remembered
a little piece of dried deer's sinew that her father had left, and
this she soon made into a string suitable for a noose. The moment,
however, she showed it to her brother, he told her it would not do,
and bade her get something else. She said she had nothing--nothing at
all. At last she thought of her hair, and pulling some of it out made
a string. Her brother again said it would not answer, and bade her,
pettishly, and with authority, make him a noose. She replied that
there was nothing to make it of, and went out of the lodge. When she
was all alone she said--

"Neow obewy indapin."

Meanwhile her brother awaited her, and it was not long before she
reappeared with some tiny cord. The moment he saw it he was delighted.

"This will do," he cried, and he put the cord to his mouth and began
pulling it through his lips, and as fast as he drew it changed to a
red metal cord of prodigious length, which he wound around his body
and shoulders. He then prepared himself, and set out a little after
midnight that he might catch the sun before it rose. He fixed his
snare on a spot just where he thought the sun would appear; and sure
enough he caught it, so that it was held fast in the cord and could
not rise.

The animals who ruled the earth were immediately put into a great
commotion. They had no light. They called a council to debate the
matter, and to appoint some one to go and cut the cord--a very
hazardous enterprise, for who dare go so near to the sun as would be
necessary? The dormouse, however, undertook the task. At that time the
dormouse was the largest animal in the world; when it stood up it
looked like a mountain. It set out upon its mission, and, when it got
to the place where the sun lay snared, its back began to smoke and
burn, so intense was the heat, and the top of its carcass was reduced
to enormous heaps of ashes. It succeeded, however, in cutting the cord
with its teeth and freed the sun, but was reduced to a very small size,
and has remained so ever since. Men call it the Kug-e-been-gwa-kwa.

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