The Self-burning Fire

: Indian Legends Retold

One winter there was a great famine on the Copper River. The people

began to die of hunger, first the children, then the old people, and

finally the young and strong, until at last but eight men were left.

These eight men set out to walk to another village where food might be

found, but they had not gone far when one perished of cold and

starvation. They buried him and went on. Soon another froze to death,

and a third lay down exhausted, and so on until only one was left.

Now this man felt wonderfully strong and walked on rapidly,

notwithstanding he felt great sorrow at the loss of his comrades. Late

that evening, he heard a shout ahead of him on the trail. He followed

the sound and came to a great fire burning in the midst of snow and

ice. Then he knew that it was the fire he had heard calling to him.

When he had warmed himself thoroughly and was about to start on again,

he heard a crackling of bushes behind him. He looked back, and one by

one his frozen comrades came up the trail and warmed themselves at the

fire, followed by all the people who had starved to death in the

village. This is the Self-Burning Fire which has mysterious power and

is worshiped by the Indians.