People often lost track of their children, bumped into one another looking for food, and had to talk constantly to stay together. This perpetual darkness made them very unhappy.
The Frog People sat in dugout wooden canoes and waited patiently for
clear nights when bright stars would light up the waters. Then they went
spearfishing. But they had to contend with Raven who harassed them
constantly for food.
Raven would swoop down toward the water when he heard
a splash, hoping to snatch a fish off a spear. But the Frog Fishermen
cleverly slapped the water at the opposite side of the boat to fool him.
Eventually, Raven grew tired of trying to be clever. He decided to go
back to the sky where he came from and steal the box which held
daylight. Then he and all the Animal People would be able to see where
to find food.
So Raven flew up through a hole in the sky and walked until he came to
the Sky Chief ’s house. There he waited beside the spring until the
chief ’s only daughter came to fetch water. When Raven saw her coming down the path he quickly changed himself into a tiny cedar leaf and floated quietly on top of the water.
The young girl was so thirsty she did not wait to set her cedar-bark
bucket down on the ground. Instead, she held it out behind her, scooped
up some water with her hand, and drank it. She did not notice the tiny
cedar leaf that slipped down her throat along with the water.
Before long, the young girl had exciting news for her parents. “Mother. Father,” she said. “I am with child.”
For a long time, Sky Chief and his wife had feared that their only
daughter would never give them a grandchild, so they were excited to
hear this news. They waited patiently, and soon their daughter gave
birth to a robust little boy. He had fine feathery black hair, keen dark
eyes, and thin aquiline features.
Although the family loved the handsome baby, they could not seem to
please him, no matter what they tried. The little boy refused to be held
and struggled to get out of his mother’s arms. His plump little body
swaggered back and forth across the floor, and his loud cries filled the
Neither his mother nor his grandparents could figure out why their
little boy was so unhappy. They washed him several times a day. They
dressed and undressed him and brought him ample quantities of food.
Still he squawked.
“We must seek the advice of our elders,” said the chief. “Or else our grandson will grow into an unhappy adult.”
Sky Chief walked through the village and invited the tribal elders to
come to a meeting at his home. “Our grandson is very unhappy, and we do
not know why. We seek your advice,” he said.
The elders followed Sky Chief home. But some of them covered their ears
in distress as they took seats around the room. Sky Chief ’s grandson
crawled among the men, squawking louder than ever.
One elder picked up the boy and stroked his shiny black hair. “What is
it, child?” he asked. “What makes you so unhappy?” The baby screeched
into the elder’s face until the old man gently set him back down on the
floor. Across the room another elder beckoned to the baby.
“Come,” he said. “Tell me why you cry.” The chief ’s grandson went to
where the old man sat, and then he crowed even louder. The old man
fished frantically in his little bag for a handful of puffy cloud
material with which he plugged his ears.
At last one of the elders, who had been watching the child very
carefully, stood up. “It is the box you hang in the corner that the boy
wants,” he declared to the chief and his daughter.
The box hanging in the corner was called the mä, and it held daylight.
It had long been the chief ’s duty to protect its contents. “The box in
the corner?” repeated Sky Chief. “That is the mä. He cannot have it.”
But the little boy waddled over to where the box was hung, lifted his head, and began a long mournful cry.
“If you do not give him the box,” said the elder. “He will cry until you do.”
Sky Chief turned to his daughter. “I am afraid,” he said.
“No one has ever played with the mä before? What if the box opens?”
“We must watch him very closely,” said the boy’s exhausted mother.
Reluctantly, the chief took down the box and set it on the floor near
the fire. At once the little boy stopped crying and wrapped his long
curved arms around the box. A deafening silence filled the crowded
Sky Chief and his daughter smiled for the first time since the child had
been born. With relief, the elders, also happy that the child had
stopped squawking, pulled the stuffing out of their ears.
The boy tipped over the mä. Once. Twice. Three times. Then he tipped it
back the other way. Once. Twice. Three times. He cooed like a contented
little mourning dove.
The boy’s delight with the precious box soon convinced Sky Chief and his
daughter that the mä was safe with the strange little child. So they
relaxed their watchfulness and went back to work.
The little boy continued to coo as he tumbled the box around the lodge.
Each day he worked himself closer and closer to the door. Then one day,
without warning, the dark-haired little boy darted out of the lodge with
the box on his shoulders.
When the Sky People saw him running away with the box they began to
shout. “He is stealing the mä! Catch him! Catch him! He must not get
But Sky Chief ’s grandson disappeared as if he had wings. And once
beyond reach of the Sky People, he vanished through the hole in the sky
where he had entered many moons earlier.
“Please,” he said to the Frog People, who were sitting patiently in
their dugout canoes, waiting for the stars to shine so they could see to
spear fish. “Throw me a fish. I am very hungry.”
But the fishermen knew that Raven was always hungry and always wanted
others to feed him. “Catch your own fish, you lazy thing,” replied one
of the fishermen.
Raven asked again.
The fishermen continued to ignore him.
Raven just wanted something to eat before he opened the box of daylight.
“You will be sorry if you do not feed me,” he threatened. “I have
brought you something very special. But I am very hungry, and I must eat first.”
“You cannot fool us,” said one of the fishermen. “You are Raven the
trickster and nothing but a liar. And all you want is free food.”
Raven protested, “I have brought you daylight in this box. And I made a
long, dangerous journey to bring it to earth so that our people will
never be hungry again. But I will not give it to you until you give me
something to eat.”
The Frog People laughed.
Raven waited until they began fishing under the light of the stars
before he issued his last warning to the Frog People: “I will wait no
longer. If you throw me a fish you will not be punished. But if you do
not, you will be very sorry.”
This time the fishermen did not even bother to look up. They were too busy spearing fish.
Then Raven gripped the box in his strong talons, lifted it off the
ground, and glided gracefully along the water’s edge. If the Frog People
had looked up, they might have seen his shiny purple-green wings
glistening in the starlight. But they did not. Not until he dropped the
box onto the rocky shore.
When Raven did this, daylight came flying out of the broken box in all
directions. It flashed out over the mountains. It whirled up through the
valleys. And it sliced through the freshwater rivers and streams of the
Animal People all over the land were surprised and delighted. But not
the Frog People, who had not believed Raven’s box held daylight. Now
they were frightened.
Shortly after all the light had left the box, North Wind began to blow
violently against the little boats that held the Frog People. It blew so
hard they were swept out to sea, and their little canoes slammed into
the side of a steep rocky island. When the Frog People tried to climb up
the cliffs, North Wind froze them in place, so that they would never
again be concerned about daylight.
The other Animal People cheered for Raven and called him a hero. And no one ever went hungry again, especially not Raven.