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





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.





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