Native American Legends
The origin of fire
An Apache Legend
Long, long ago, animals and trees talked with each other, but there
was no fire at that time. Fox was most clever and he tried to think
of a way to create fire for the world.
One day, he decided to visit the Geese, te-tl, whose cry he wished
to learn how to imitate. They promised to teach him if he would
fly with them. So they contrived a way to attach wings to Fox, but
cautioned him never to open his eyes while flying.
Whenever the Geese arose in flight, Fox also flew along with them
to practice their cry. On one such adventure, darkness descended
suddenly as they flew over the village of the fireflies, ko-na-
tcic-a. In mid-flight, the glare from the flickering fireflies caused
Fox to forget and he opened his eyes--instantly his wings collapsed!
His fall was uncontrollable. He landed within the walled area of
the firefly village, where a fire constantly burned in the center.
Two kind fireflies came to see fallen Fox, who gave each one a
necklace of juniper berries, katl-te-i-tse.
Fox hoped to persuade the two fireflies to tell him where he could
find a way over the wall to the outside. They led him to a cedar
tree, which they explained would bend down upon command and catapult
him over the wall if he so desired.
That evening, Fox found the spring where fireflies obtained their
water. There also, he discovered colored Earth, which when mixed
with water made paint. He decided to give himself a coat of white.
Upon returning to the village, Fox suggested to the fireflies, "Let's
have a festival where we can dance and I will produce the music."
They all agreed that would be fun and helped to gather wood to
build up a greater fire. Secretly, Fox tied a piece of cedar bark
to his tail. Then he made a drum, probably the first one ever constructed,
and beat it vigorously with a stick for the dancing fireflies. Gradually,
he moved closer and closer to the fire.
Fox pretended to tire from beating the drum. He gave it to some
fireflies who wanted to help make the music. Fox quickly thrust
his tail into the fire, lighting the bark, and exclaimed, "It
is too warm here for me, I must find a cooler place."
Straight to the cedar tree Fox ran, calling, "Bend down to
me, my cedar tree, bend down!"
Down bent the cedar tree for Fox to catch hold, then up it carried
him far over the wall. On and on he ran, with the fireflies in pursuit.
As Fox ran along, brush and wood on either side of his path were
ignited from the sparks dropping from the burning bark tied to his
Fox finally tired and gave the burning bark to Hawk, i-tsarl-tsu-
i, who carried it to brown Crane, tsi-nes-tso-l. He flew far southward,
scattering fire sparks everywhere. This is how fire first spread
over the Earth.
Fireflies continued chasing Fox all the way to his burrow and declared,
"Forever after, Wily Fox, your punishment for stealing our
fire will be that you can never make use of it for yourself."
For the Apache nation, this too was the beginning of fire for them.
Soon they learned to use it for cooking their food and to keep themselves
warm in cold weather.
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