Native American Legends
Raven and how the tides began
A Tlingit Legend
Once, long ago, when the world was new, there was Raven. Raven
and his people lived near the shore of the Big Water. At this time
there were no tides, and the people would get their food from the
Big Water, as sometimes good things to eat like clams, would wash
up along the shore. But the people could not go out into the Big
Water, for it was very deep. After a while, the people became many
and soon there was not enough food for all the people and for Raven.
You see, Raven was sometimes very greedy and loved to eat the good
things that washed up on the shore.
Now Raven was sorely troubled that there was not enough to eat
and fill his hungry belly. Raven sat down and began to think about
this problem. Soon Raven fell into a deep sleep. Great Spirit having
pity upon the people came to Raven in a dream and said to Raven,
"Raven, I have seen that you and the people are suffering because
there is not enough to eat. There lies at the end of the world,
at the edge of the Big water, a cave. In this cave sits an old woman
who holds the tide line across her lap. This controls the ebb and
flow or rising and falling of the water. She holds this line very
strongly. If, perhaps, you can get her to let go of the line, the
water will fall and the people will be able to get some of the good
things to eat from the Big Water because they will be uncovered
by the water. This will not be easy for you to do, Raven, for the
woman holds the line very tightly. Raven, you are clever and perhaps
you can trick her into letting go of the line."
Soon Raven awoke from his dream. Raven knew what he must do to
help the people and to feed his hungry belly.
So Raven flew. He flew and flew. For four days and nights Raven
flew. Finally Raven came to the cave at the end of the world, at
the edge of the Big Water.
Raven looked and saw the old woman sitting in the cave with the
line across her lap. She was holding it very tightly.
Raven began walking in front of the cave; rubbing his belly, and
saying in a loud voice, "Mmm, Mmm those clams sure were good!"
The old woman heard Raven just outside the cave and leaned a little
forward to see Raven, saying, "Raven, Raven! Where did you
get those clams?"
Raven paid no attention to the woman and walked again in front
of the cave, rubbing his belly and saying in a loud voice, "Mmm,
Mmm those clams sure tasted good! I wish I had some more!"
The old woman leaned forward even further and said, " Raven,
Raven! Where did you get those clams?"
Raven again paid no attention to the woman. He walked again in
front of the cave, rubbing his belly and saying, "Mmm, Mmm!
I sure wish I had some more of those clams!!"
The old woman leaned even further forward. Suddenly, Raven kicked
some said up into the woman's eyes. She could not see, and tried
to brush the sand out of her eyes. When she did, she let go of the
line! The waters fell back and soon some of the Big Water was uncovered.
Raven saw what had happened and was happy. He flew home thinking
of all of the good things that he would soon be eating.
When Raven arrived home the people were happy. Now they had many
good things to eat from the Big Water. They thanked Raven and Great
Spirit for helping them and held a big feast. Raven was happy because
his belly was soon full of the good things that he loved to eat.
For many days, Raven and his people ate all the good things from
the Big Water. But soon many of the creatures of the Big Water began
to die. They lie on the shore and began to rot and smell. The people
went to Raven and said, " Raven, you must do something! The
creatures of the Big Water are dying! We will also die for we will
soon have nothing to eat! Help us, Raven!"
So Raven flew. He flew and flew. For four days and nights he flew
to the end of the world, at the edge of the Big Water, to the cave
of the woman who held the tide.
When Raven got there, he looked into the cave. The woman was still
trying to get the sand out of her eyes. She heard Raven approach
and said, "Raven, Raven! Is that you? You tricked me! Help
me get the sand out of my eyes, and help me to find the tide line!"
Raven said, " Yes, I did trick you. I wanted to get all of
the good things from the Big Water that I love to eat. So I tricked
you into letting go and the waters fell. But now, the creatures
of the Big Water are dying, and the people have little to eat. If
I help you, will you help the people by letting go of the tide line
from time to time? Then the people will be able to get some of the
good things from the Big Water that they like to eat. And the creatures
of the Big Water will not die because the waters that are their
home do not cover them."
The old woman said, "Yes, Raven, I agree, if you will help
me, I will help the people."
So Raven cleared the sand out of the woman's eyes, sat her back
in the cave and gave her the tide line to hold across her lap. From
time to time the woman would let go of the line and the waters would
fall back. Raven then flew back home to his people, who gave thanks
to Raven for helping them. And that is how the tides began.
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