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The Sun-catcher Or Boy Who Set A Snare For The Sun






Source: The Myth Of Hiawatha

A MYTH OF THE ORIGIN OF THE DORMOUSE.

FROM THE ODJIBWA.



At the time when the animals reigned in 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, and never grew beyond the
stature of a small infant, but the girl increased with her years, so
that the labor of providing food and lodging devolved wholly on her.
She went out daily to get wood for their lodge-fire, and took her
little brother along 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 day, "I will leave
you behind where I have been chopping--you must hide yourself, and you
will soon see the Gitshee-gitshee-gaun-ia-see-ug, or snow birds, come
and pick the worms out of the wood, where I have been chopping" (for it
was in the winter). "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 she got wood, and returned. Towards
nightfall, she heard his little footsteps on the snow, and he came in
exultingly, and threw down one of the birds which he had killed. "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." "But what
shall we do with the body?" said 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, who was of a very small stature, continued his
efforts, and succeeded in killing ten birds, out of the skins of which
his sister made him a little coat.

"Sister," said he one day, "are we all alone in the world? Is there
nobody else living?" She told him that those they feared and who had
destroyed their relatives 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 in that direction. 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 bird-skin
coat, so that when he awoke and stretched himself, he felt bound in it,
as it were. He looked down and saw the damage done to his coat. He flew
into a passion, and 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 she tried all she could to arouse him. At the end of ten days,
he turned over, and then lay ten days on the other side. When he got
up, he told his sister to make him a snare, for he meant to catch the
sun. She said she had nothing; but finally recollected a little piece
of dried deer's sinew, that her father had left, which she soon made
into a string suitable for a noose. But the moment she showed it to
him, he told her it would not do, and bid 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 of her head, made a string. But he instantly
said it would not answer, and bid her, pettishly, and with authority,
make him a noose. She told him there was nothing to make it of, and
went out of the lodge. She said to herself, when she had got without
the lodge, and while she was all alone, "neow obewy indapin." From my
body, some sinews will I take. This she did, and twisting them into a
tiny cord, she handed it to her brother. The moment he saw this curious
braid, he was delighted. "This will do," he said, and immediately put
it to his mouth and began pulling it through his lips; and as fast as
he drew it changed it into a red metal cord, which he wound around his
body and shoulders, till he had a large quantity. 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 the sun
would strike the land, as it rose above the earth's disk; and sure
enough, he caught the sun, so that it was held fast in the cord, and
did 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 upon the
matter, and to appoint some one to go and cut the cord--for this was a
very hazardous enterprise, as the rays of the sun would burn whoever
came so near to them. At last the dormouse undertook it--for at this
time the dormouse was the largest animal in the world. When it stood up
it looked like a mountain. When it got to the place where the sun was
snared, its back began to smoke and burn with the intensity of 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
freeing the sun, but it was reduced to a very small size, and has
remained so ever since. Men call it the Kug-e-been-gwa-kwa--the blind
woman.





Next: Wa-wa-be-zo-win Or The Swing On The Pictured Rocks Of Lake Superior

Previous: Bosh-kwa-dosh Or The Mastodon



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