Native American Legends
The theft of fire
A Karok (Karuk) Legend
There was no fire on Earth and the Karoks were cold and miserable.
Far away to the east, hidden in a treasure box, was fire which Kareya
had made and given to two old hags, lest the Karoks should steal
So Coyote decided to steal fire for the Indians.
Coyote called a great council of the animals. After the council
he stationed a line from the land of the Karoks to the distant land
where the fire was kept. Lion was nearest the Fire Land, and Frog
was nearest the Karok land. Lion was strongest and Frog was weakest,
and the other animals took their places, according to the power
given them by Man.
Then Coyote took an Indian with him and went to the hill top, but
he hid the Indian under the hill. Coyote went to the tepee of the
hags. He said, "Good- evening." They replied, "Good-evening."
Coyote said, "It is cold out here. Can you let me sit by the
fire?" So they let him sit by the fire. He was only a coyote.
He stretched his nose out along his forepaws and pretended to go
to sleep, but he kept the corner of one eye open watching. So he
spent all night watching and thinking, but he had no chance to get
a piece of the fire.
The next morning Coyote held a council with the Indian. He told
him when he, Coyote, was within the tepee, to attack it. Then Coyote
went back to the fire. The hags let him in again. He was only a
Coyote. But Coyote stood close by the casket of fire. The Indian
made a dash at the tepee. The hags rushed out after him, and Coyote
seized a fire brand in his teeth and flew over the ground. The hags
saw the sparks flying and gave chase.
But Coyote reached Lion, who ran with it to Grizzly Bear. Grizzly
Bear ran with it to Cinnamon Bear; he ran with it to Wolf, and at
last the fire came to Ground-Squirrel. Squirrel took the brand and
ran so fast that his tail caught fire. He curled it up over his
back, and burned the black spot in his shoulders. You can see it
even today. Squirrel came to Frog, but Frog couldn't run. He opened
his mouth wide and swallowed the fire.
Then he jumped but the hags caught his tail. Frog jumped again,
but the hags kept his tail. That is why Frogs have no tail, even
to this day. Frog swam under water, and came up on a pile of driftwood.
He spat out the fire into the dry wood, and that is why there is
fire in dry wood even today.
When an Indian rubs two pieces together, the fire comes out.
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