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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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