Thursday, 20 August 2009

Crow Brings Daylight - an Inuit Myth

I love this daylight creation myth. It shows how much the people of the North value the light of the sun they scarcely have just for some months...

Long, long ago, when the world was still young, it was always dark in the north where the Inuit people lives. They thought it was dark all over the world until an old Crow told them about Daylight and how he had seen it on his long journeys back and forth between the northlands and the south.

Yet many of the younger folk were fascinated by the story of the light that gilded the lands to the south. They made Crow repeat his tales until they knew them by heart.
"We could hunt further and for longer," they said. "We could see the polar bears coming and run before they attack us."

Soon the yearning for Daylight was so strong that the Inuit people begged Crow to bring it to them. Crow shook his head. "I am too old," he told them. "Daylight is very far away. I can no longer go so far." But the pleadings of the people made him reconsider, and finally he agreed to make the long journey to the south.

He flapped his wings and launched into the dark sky, towards the south. Crow flew for many miles through the endless dark of the north. He was about to turn back when he saw the dim glow of daylight at the very edge of horizon. "At last, there is daylight," said the tired crow. As he flew towards the dim light it became brighter and brighter until the whole sky was bright and he could see for miles.

Suddenly, the daylight world burst upon him with all its glory and brilliance. The endless shades of color and the many shapes and forms surrounding him made Crow stare and stare. He flapped down to a tree and rested himself, exhausted by his long journey. Above him, the sky was an endless blue, the clouds fluffy and white. Crow could not get enough of the wonderful scene.

The exhausted bird had landed in a tree near a village that layed beside a wide river. It was very cold. As he watched, a beautiful girl came to the river near the tree. She dipped a large bucket into the icy waters of the river and then turned to make her way back to the village. Crow turned himself into a tiny speck of dust and drifted down towards the girl as she passed beneath his tree. He settled into her fur cloak and watched carefully as she returned to the snow lodge of her father, who was the chief of the village people.

It was warm and cosy inside the lodge. Crow looked around him and spotted a box that glowed around the edges. Daylight, he thought. On the floor, a little boy was playing contentedly. The speck of dust that was Crow drifted away from the girl and floated into the ear of the little boy. Immediately the child sat up and rubbed at his ear, which was irritated by the strange speck. He started to cry, and the chief, who was a doting grandfather, came running into the snow lodge to see what was wrong.

"Why are you crying?" the chief asked, kneeling beside the child. Inside the little boy's ear, Crow whispered: "You want to play with a ball of Daylight." The little boy rubbed at his ear and then repeated Crow's words. The chief wanted his favourite grandson to be happy, and told his daughter to fetch the box of Daylight balls. When she opened it for him, he took out a small glowing ball, tied it with a string, and gave it to the little boy. It was full of light and shadow, color and form. The child laughed happily, tugging at the string and watching the ball bounce.

Then Crow scratched the inside of his ear again and the little boy gasped and cried. "Don't cry, little one," said the doting grandfather anxiously. "Tell me what is wrong". Inside the boy's ear, Crow whispered: "You want to go outside to play." The boy rubbed at his ear and then repeated Crow's words to his grandfather. Immediately, the chief lifted up the small child and carried him outside, followed by his worried mother.

As soon as they were free of the snow lodge, Crow swooped out of the child's ear and resumed his natural form. He dove toward the little boy's hand, put out his claws, and grabbed the string from him. Then he rose up and up into the endless blue sky, the ball of daylight sailing along behind him.

In the far north, the Inuit saw a spark of light coming toward them through the darkness. It grew brighter and brighter, until they could see Crow flapping his wings as he flew toward them. Crow dropped the ball, and it shattered upon the ground, releasing Daylight so that it exploded up and out. Light went into every home and illuminated every dark place and chased away every shadow. The sky grew bright and turned blue. The dark mountains took on color and light and form. The snow and ice sparkled so brightly that the Inuit had to shade their eyes.

All the people came from their houses. "We can see for miles! Look how blue the sky is, and the mountains in the distance! We couldn't see them before." They thanked Crow for bringing daylight to their land. He shook his beak. "I could only carry one small ball of daylight, and it' ll need to gain its strength from time to time. So you'll only have daylight for half the year." . The people said: "Half a year of daylight is enough. Before you brought the daylight, we lived our whole life in darkness!"

And so that is why, in the land of the Inuit in the far north, it is dark for one half of the year and light the other. The people never forgot it was Crow who brought them the gift of daylight and they take care never to hurt him - in case he decides to take it back.

(traditional inuit oral tale)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

gotta be a raven, no crows in the north

Mário said...

I know the difference - see the post http://ultima0thule.blogspot.com/search?q=raven -

In english there are two words - in most latin languages there is only one, corvo, corbeau...

IN FACT, crow and raven ARE THE SAME WORD, as they have a common ethimoloy. Thanks for commenting, but most of my non-arctic readers will not notice that difference.