Why Raven Is Black


~ a Tlingit Story~

Long ago, when animals talked near the beginning of the world, Gray Eagle was the guardian of the sun and moon and stars, of fresh water, and of fire. Gray Eagle hated people so much that he kept these things hidden. People lived in darkness, without fire and without fresh water. Gray Eagle had a beautiful daughter, and Raven fell in love with her. At that time Raven was a handsome young man.

He changed himself into a snow-white bird, and as a snow-white bird he pleased Gray Eagle's daughter. She invited him to her father's lodge.

When Raven saw the sun and the moon and the stars and fresh water hanging on the sides of Eagle's lodge, he knew what he had to do. He waited for his chance to seize them when no one was watching. He stole all of them, and a brand of fire also, and he flew out of the lodge though the smoke hole.

As soon as Raven got outside, he hung the sun up in the sky. It made so much light that he was able to fly far out to an island in the middle of the ocean. When the sun set, he fastened the moon up in the sky and hung the stars around in different places. By this new light he kept on flying, carrying with him the fresh water and the brand of fire he had stolen.

He flew back over land. When he had reached the right place, he dropped all the water he had stolen. It fell to the ground and there became the source of all the fresh-water streams and lakes in the world.

Then Raven flew on, holding the brand of fire in his bill. The smoke from the fire blew back over his white feathers and make them black. When his bill began to burn, he had to drop the firebrand. It struck the rocks and went into the rocks. That is why, if you strike two stones together, fire will drop out. Raven's feathers never became white again after they were blackened by the smoke from the firebrand. That is why Raven is now a black bird.

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