First Fire

At one time there was no fire. The animals were cold so the bear had called a council and gathered all the animals, birds, and insects to discuss how they could keep from freezing in the winter. Many ideas were passed back and forth some suggested maybe we should get the sun to come out of the sky. Nothing was resolved, and so taking a break the animals walked out of the council house. A storm had come up, and across the water they could see a small island. The lightning flashed and they could see it striking in the forest on the distant island. Something began to glow there, and the bear asked the falcon, “What is that?” The falcon said, “It glows like the sun,” so the animals called it fire. The wolf suggested, “Maybe it will keep us warm, like the sun.” So the bear immediately called all the animals back into the council, and asked who would like to go and get the fire. Many of the animals, birds, and insects all raised their hands, wanting to go and get the fire. The bear considered the fact that it was over water, so he chose the raven to go first. He reasoned that the raven’s feathers were so white and bright that they could see him coming back with the fire. So the raven flew off, and as he got to the island he noticed that the fire was in the sycamore tree, and that it seemed to be deep inside the tree. Seeing where the smoke was coming from, the raven landed and began to peer inside, trying to find out where the fire was. Sparks from the embers caught and exploded and temporarily blinded the raven, so that he fell into the tree. With much scrambling and clawing the raven finally managed to crawl away from the fire. Coughing and sputtering he got lost in the smoke and decided to abandon trying to get the fire. And so he returned to the council house. The falcon saw the bird approaching, but didn’t know what it was. He called to the bear and the wolf and said, “Something is flying toward us.” When the bird crashed into the ground, all the animals were startled. The bird lay coughing and choked out the words, “I cannot get the fire.” All the animals gasped because they realized it was the raven who bright white feathers were now black, black as soot. And so they helped him into the council and the bear asked, “Who next wants to go and get the fire?” This time the animals were more reluctant, but two snakes decided to try. The little racer and the tree climber, again, bright white snakes who swam across the lake towards the island. As they approached they saw the sycamore tree and discussed what had happened to the raven. The little racer said, “The raven tried to crawl down from the top; let’s try from the bottom.” So both snakes entered through a hole at the base of the roots. The fire was so intense that they soon became lost. The tree climber went up, feeling all the smoke and soot crawl up his scales, making him climb faster and faster. The little racer became so confused at the bottom that he darted to and fro, going back and forth in the ashes and embers before finally finding his way out through the roots. The little racer made his way out and found the tree climber had fallen off the top of the tree, landing atop the roots. Both swam back to the council, and again all the animals were surprised at how dark they had become. They coughed and said they would not go after the fire. The bear turned in the council and said, “Who wishes to try next?” This time the screech owl said he would try, and so he flew off to the island. Now the screech owl had been asleep during most of the council. He had heard what had happened to the snakes but was unaware of what had happened to the raven. So when the screech owl landed on the sycamore tree he stuck his head in a knot of the tree, embers again sparking and popping, and blinding him. Getting his head stuck in the tree, he bounced back and forth, trying to get his head out. Finally doing so, he made his way back to the council. With ash rings around the owl’s now orange eyes, the bear turned again and and said to the council, “Who wishes to go next?” This time no one wanted to go. Everyone was afraid of the fire. And then a small voice said, “I will try.” The bear looked down at his feet and saw the little water spider. The animals began to chuckle and laugh. The bear, smiling, said, “You’re too small. How can you get the fire?” And the spider said, “Let me try.” All the animals agreed, “Let her try.” So the little spider dove into the water and swam to the island. Now this is not the little spider that skirts across the top of the water, but the water spider that swims underneath. And so she came out near the roots of the sycamore tree where the snakes had entered. Knowing what happened to the snakes, she took two small sticks and fished out a small ember. Having done so, she made a pot and put it on her back. She placed the ember inside the pot, then blew an air bubble around it to protect it from the water, and made her way back to the council. The animals were surprised to see her and the bear asked her, “Where is the fire?” She took out the ember from her pot and set it in the center of the council room. Quickly she gathered small bits of kindling and began to blow upon the ember. Smoke began to rise from the kindling she was burning, and all the animals became excited. The smoke became thicker and she asked the animals to gather smaller sticks. Soon the flames caught and as more and more sticks were added, the heat filled up the council house. And so the little water spider brought back the fire. And the moral of the story is, “Never take someone smaller than you for granted, because a small person can still save the world.”