Native American Legends
Raven's great adventure
An Eskimo Legend
The Innu carve strange and beautiful figures, representing people,
animals, birds, fish, and supernatural characters, then paint them
with bright colors. The tallest red cedar trees are selected for
totem poles, and are used for landmarks as well as illustrating
the legends told from generation to generation.
On one of these poles was carved a stunning Raven, but he had no
The Raven in Alaska was no ordinary bird. He had remarkable powers
and could change into whatever form he wished. He could change from
a bird to a man, and could not only fly and walk, but could swim
underwater as fast as any fish.
One day, Raven took the form of a little, bent-over old man to
walk through a forest. He wore a long white beard and walked slowly.
After a while, Raven felt hungry. As he thought about this, he came
to the edge of the forest near a village on the beach. There, many
people were fishing for halibut.
In a flash, Raven thought of a scheme. He dived into the sea and
swam to the spot where the fishermen dangled their hooks. Raven
gobbled their bait, swimming from one hook to another. Each time
Raven stole bait, the fishermen felt a tug on their lines. When
the lines were pulled in, there was neither fish nor bait.
But Raven worked his trick once too often. When Houskana, an expert
fisherman, felt a tug, he jerked his line quickly, hooking something
heavy. Raven's jaw had caught on the hook! While Houskana tugged
on his line, Raven pulled in the opposite direction. Then Raven
grabbed hold of some rocks at the bottom of the sea and called,
"O rocks, please help me!" But the rocks paid no attention.
Because of his great pain, Raven said to his jaw, "Break off,
O jaw, for I am too tired." His jaw obeyed, and it broke off.
Houskana pulled in his line immediately. On his hook was a man's
jaw with a long white beard ! It looked horrible enough to scare
anyone. Houskana and the other fishermen were very frightened, because
they thought the jaw might belong to some evil spirit. They picked
up their feet and ran as fast as they could to the chief's house.
Raven came out of the water and followed the fishermen. Though
he was in great pain for lack of his jaw, no one noticed anything
wrong because he covered the lower part of his face with his blanket.
The chief and the people examined the jaw that was hanging on the
halibut hook. It was handed from one to another, and finally to
Raven who said, "Oh, this is a wonder to behold!" as he
threw back his blanket and replaced his jaw.
Raven performed his magic so quickly that no one had time to see
what was happening. As soon as Raven's jaw was firmly in place again,
he turned himself into a bird and flew out through the smoke hole
of the chief's house. Only then did the people begin to realize
it was the trickster Raven who had stolen their bait and been hooked
on Houskana's fishing line.
On the totem pole, Raven was carved, not as the old man, but as
himself without his beak, a reminder of how the old man lost his
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