Raven

Archetypes: Trickster

Alternative names: CHULYEN, HEMASKAS, GUGUYNI, NANKIL’SLAS, KWEKWAXA’WE, KWEKWAXAWE, TXAMSEM, WE-GYET, YHEL

Raven (A Tsimshian Legend)

Once upon a time, the only light in the world was hoarded by a mean old Chief who was not disposed to share it.  Raven, bored of fluttering around in the dark, decided this would not do. So he turned himself into a cedar leaf and sneakily fluttered into the chief’s dwelling.

The Chief’s daughter was sipping a drink and Raven fluttered into the cup as she raised it to her lips. Swallowing him down, she immediately became pregnant and gave birth. Which caused no end of confusion.

The baby had raven-black hair, dark glowing eyes, and was very temperamental. Whenever it was bored, it shrieked. The Chief, trying to be a doting grandad, said: “Give the baby what it wants”. So they gave the baby a bag of shining stars. It played merrily with these, until one day in gurgling excitement it threw them through the smoke hole in the ceiling and they scattered up into the sky.

Oh dear. The baby is bored again. It’s bawling. It wants another bag. It’s driving the household crazy. It must be pacified. So they give it a bag containing the Moon and soon the baby is happy again, bouncing the Moon all over the place. You’ll never guess what happens next. Whoooosh! — up through the smoke hole goes the Moon. (Pause for gasp of astonishment from the audience).

Deprived of another toy, the baby becomes really disruptive. The Chief is tearing his hair out. The whole household is muttering. Find something, anything, to keep the baby quiet! The baby rejects all homemade playthings and points to the last bag. Uh-oh. They give it to the baby but with dire warnings. “Don’t untie it because it contains Light — and that leaks like nobody’s business.”

Now you think you know what’s going to happen. But you don’t. What happened is that the baby turned back into Raven, cried “Ka very much” and flew through the smoke hole carrying the bag in his beak. He’d stolen the Sun.

Raven spread light throughout the world and so the Chief’s daylight saving scheme came to an end. He was very disgruntled. His recorded comments contain very strong language in the Tsimshian dialect.

How Raven brought light to the World (A Haida Legend)

According to a Haida story, in the beginning the world was in total darkness.

The Raven, who had existed from the beginning of time, was tired of groping about and bumping into things in the dark.

Eventually the Raven came upon the home of an old man who lived alone with his daughter. Through his slyness, the Raven learned that the old man had a great treasure. This was all the light in the universe, contained in a tiny box concealed within many boxes. At once the Raven vowed to steal the light.

He thought and thought, and finally came up with a plan. He waited until the old man’s daughter came to the river to gather water. Then the Raven changed himself into a single hemlock needle and dropped himself into the river, just as the girl was dipping her water-basket into the river.

As she drank from the basket, she swallowed the needle. It slipped and slithered down into her warm belly, where the Raven transformed himself again, this time into a tiny human. After sleeping and growing there for a very long time, at last the Raven emerged into the world once more, this time as a human infant.

Even though he had a rather strange appearance, the Raven’s grandfather loved him. But the old man threatened dire punishment if he ever touched the precious treasure box. Nonetheless the Ravenchild begged and begged to be allowed to hold the light just for a moment.

In time the old man yielded, and lifted from the box a warm and glowing sphere, which he threw to his grandson.

As the light was moving toward him, the human child transformed into a gigantic black shadowy bird-form, wings spread ready for flight, and beak open in anticipation. As the beautiful ball of light reached him, the Raven captured it in his beak!

Moving his powerful wings, he burst through the smoke-hole in the roof of the house, and escaped into the darkness with his stolen treasure.

And that is how light came into the universe.

References:

Raven.  God Checker.  Retrieved from http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/native_american-mythology.php?deity=RAVEN

How Raven Brought Light To The World.  First People.  Retrieved from http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/HowRavenBroughtLighttotheWorld-Haida.html

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