The Chief did not like Raven because he could transform himself into various things. He thought about turning himself into a human, but Raven
wanted the Chief to be able to notice his presence when he saw the princess.
"I will fly into the air above the river and turn myself into a hemlock needle. When it floats down to you, pick it up and swallow it." Princess
nodded and wondered what was going to happen as Raven flew into the air.
In an instant he was gone. A small hemlock needle slowly fell towards the water. When it floated down to her, princess picked it up and swallowed
it. She waited, but nothing happened. Then she felt a jerk in her back. The princess reached back to see what the pain was and to her surprise, she
felt feathers, a wing grew out of her back and wrapped around her. It was so warm. The princess felt a love like never before.
Raven and the princess felt a love like never before. Raven and the princess were joined together throughout all time. All creatures that saw them
could feel the love drifting from the face of the princess and the wing of Raven.
An Aleut Legend
Music: Aleut Wind by Mary Youngblood
|Raven and His Grandmother
An Aleut Legend
In her barrabara (a native home) at the end of a large village, lived an old grandmother with her grandson, a raven. The two lived apart from the
other villagers because they were disliked. When the men returned from fishing for cod, the raven would come and beg for food, but they would
never give him any of their catch. But when all had left the beach, the raven would come and pick up any leftover refuse, even sick fish. On these,
raven and his grandmother lived.
One winter was extremely cold. Hunting was impossible; food became so scarce the villagers neared starvation. Even their chief had but little left.
So the chief called all his people together and urged them to use every effort to obtain food enough for all, or they would starve.
The chief then announced that he wished for his son to take a bride and she would be selected from the girls of the village. All the girls responded to
the excitement of the occasion and dressed in their very best costumes and jewelry.
For a short time hunger was forgotten as the girls lined up for the contest and were judged by the critical eye of their chief, who selected the fairest of
the fair for his son's bride. But soon after hunger began again.
The raven perched on a pole outside his barrabara, observing and listening attentively to all that happened. After the feast, he flew home and said to
his grandmother, "I, too, want to marry." She made no reply, so he went about his work, gathering what food he could for his little home. Each day
he flew to the beach and found dead fish or birds. He always gathered more than enough for two people. While he was in the village, he noted that
the famine seemed worse. So he asked the chief, "What will you give me, if I bring you food?"
The chief looked at him in great surprise and said, "You shall have my oldest daughter for your wife." Nothing could have pleased raven more. He
flew away in a joyful mood and said to his grandmother, "Let's clean out the barrabara. Make everything clean for my bride. I am going to give the
chief some food, and he has promised to give me his oldest daughter."
"Ai, Ai, Y-a-h! You are going to marry? Our barrabara is too small and too dirty. Where will you put your wife?"
"Caw! Caw! Caw! Never mind. Do as I say," he screamed at his grandmother, and began pecking her to hurry.
Early next morning raven flew away, and later in the day returned with a bundle of yukelah (dried salmon) in his talons. "Come with me to the
chief's house, grandmother," he called to her. Raven handed the fish to the chief and received the chief's oldest daughter for his bride.
Raven preceded his grandmother as she brought the bride to their little home. He cleared out the barrabara of old straw and bedding. When the two
women arrived, they found the little home empty, and the grandmother began to scold him and said, "What are you doing? Why are you throwing
"I am cleaning house, as you can see." raven curtly said.
When night came, raven spread wide one wing, and asked his bride to lie on it, and then covered her with the other wing. She spent a miserable
night, as raven's fish odor nearly smothered her. So she determined she would leave in the morning.
But by morning, she decided to stay and try to become accustomed to him. During the day she was cheerless and worried. When raven offered her
food, she would not eat it. On the second night, raven invited her to lay her head on his chest and seek rest in his arms. Only after mush persuasion
did she comply with his wish. The second night was no better for her, so early the next morning she stole away from him and went back to her
father's house, telling him everything.
Upon waking and finding his wife gone, raven inquired of his grandmother what she knew of his wife's whereabouts. She assured raven that she
knew nothing. "Go then to the chief and bring her back to me," called raven. Grandmother feared him and left to do his bidding. When she came to
the chief's house, she was pushed out of the door. This she promptly reported to her grandson.
The summer passed warm and pleasant, but a hard winter and another famine followed. As in the previous winter, the grandmother and the raven
had plenty of food and wood, while others suffered greatly from lack of food. Raven's thoughts again turned to marriage. This time she was a
young and beautiful girl who lived at the other end of the village. He told his grandmother about her and that he wanted to marry her. He asked,
"Grandmother, will you go and bring the girl here, and I will marry her."
"Ai, Ai, Y-a-h! And you are going to marry her? Your first wife could not live with you because you smell strong. The girls do not wish to marry
"Caw! Caw! Caw! Never mind my smell! Never mind my smell! Go - do as I say."
To impress his commands and secure her obedience, he started pecking at her until she was glad to go. While his grandmother was gone, raven
became restless and anxious. He hopped about the barrabara and nearby hillocks, straining his eyes for a sight of his expected bride.
Hurriedly he began cleaning out the barrabara, throwing out old straw, bedding, baskets, and all. The grandmother upon her return scolded raven,
but he paid no attention to her.
The young bride, like her predecessor, was enfolded tightly in his wings, and likewise she had a wretched and sleepless night. But she was
determined to endure his odor if possible. She thought at least with him she would have plenty of food to eat. The second night was as bad as the
first, but she stayed on and secretly concluded she would do her best to stay until spring.
On the third day, seeing that his wife was still with him, said, "Grandmother, tomorrow I will go and get a big, fat whale. While I am gone, make a
belt and a pair of torbarsars (native shoes) for my wife."
"Ai, Ai, Y-a-h! How will you bring a big, fat whale? The hunters cannot kill one, how will you do it?"
"Caw! Caw! Caw! Be quiet and do what I tell you: make the belt and torbarsars while I go and get the whale," he angrily exclaimed, using his most
effective method of silencing her.
Before dawn the next morning the raven flew away to sea. In his absence the old woman was busily engaged making the things for the young bride,
who watched and talked to her. About midday, they saw raven flying toward shore, carrying a whale.
The grandmother started a big fire, and the young woman tucked up her parka (native dress), belted it with her new belt, put on the new torbarsars,
sharpened the stone knife, and went to the beach to meet her husband. As he drew near he called, "Grandmother, go into the village and tell all the
people that I have brought home a big, fat whale."
She ran as hard as she could and told the joyful news. The half-dead people suddenly became alive. Some sharpened their knives, others dressed in
their best clothes. But most of them just ran as they were and with such knives as they had with them to the beach to see the whale.
His sudden importance was not lost on the raven, who hopped up and down the whale's back, viewing the scene of carnage, as the people gorged
themselves on the whale.
Every few moments raven would take a pebble out of his bag, then after some thought put it back. When the chief and his relatives came near, raven
drove them away. They had to be content just watching the people enjoy their feasting, and carrying off blubber to their homes. Later, in the village,
the people did share with the chief.
The raven's first wife, the chief's daughter, had a son by him, a little raven. She had it in her arms at the beach and walked in front of raven, where
he could notice her. "Here is your child, look at it," she called. But he ignored her. She called to him several times and continued to show him the
baby. At last he said, "Come closer - nearer still." But when she could not stand his odor any longer, she left him without a word.
Death occurred as a result of the feast. Many of the people ate so much fat on the spot that they died soon after. The rest of the people had eaten so
much and filled their barrabaras so full that during the night they all suffocated. Of the entire village, only three were left - the raven, his new wife,
and the grandmother. There they lived on as their descendants do to this day.
Long ago, when the world was still quite new, there were no winds at all, neither the gentle breeze of summer nor the fierce winter gale. Everything
was perfectly still. Nothing disturbed the marsh grass on the shore and, when snow fell, it fell straight to earth instead of blowing and swirling into
drifts as it does now.
At that time, in a village near the mouth of the Yukon River, there lived a couple who had no children. This made them very sad. Often the woman
would sigh and say, "How happy we would be if only we had a child!"
Her husband would sigh too and answer, "Yes, if we had a son, I would teach him to stalk bears and seals over the ice-floes, and to make traps and
snares. What will become of us in our old age with no one to provide for us? Who will give festivals for our souls when we are dead?"
These thoughts troubled them deeply and on many a long winter evening they sat in the flickering firelight, imagining how different life might be if
they had a child.
One night the woman had a strange dream, in which she saw a sled pulled by three dogs, one brown, one white and one black, draw up outside her
door. The driver leaned from his seat and beckoned her. "Come," he said. "Sit here by me. I will take you on a journey."
Wondering and fearful, the woman did as she was told. No sooner had she seated herself than the driver cracked his whip and the sled rose high into
the air. Through the night-black sky they flew, faster and faster, past stars sparkling like hoar-frost. The woman was no longer afraid for she knew
that this must be Igaluk, the Moon Spirit, who often comes to comfort those in distress.
Suddenly the sled stopped and the panting dogs lay down to rest. On all sides, as far as the eye could see, lay a great plain of smooth ice, the glittering
expanse broken only by one small stunted tree.
Igaluk pointed and said, "You who so desire a child, look at that tree over there. Make a doll from its trunk and you will find happiness."
Before she could learn more, the woman awoke. So vivid was her dream that she at once roused her husband. She told him what she had seen and
begged him to find the tree.
The man rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "What would be the point?" he grumbled. "It would only be a doll, not a real child." But the woman
persisted and finally, for the sake of peace, the man shouldered his axe and set out to look for the tree.
At the edge of the village where the snow lay thick and untrodden, he saw a bright path stretching far into the distance. It was now full day, yet the
path shone like moonlight and the man knew that this was the direction which he must take.
For many hours he journeyed along the path of light until at last, on the horizon, he saw something shining very brightly. As he came nearer he saw
that it was the tree of which his wife had spoken. The man cut it down with his axe and carried it home.
That evening, while he carved the figure of a small boy from some of the wood, his wife made a little suit of sealskin and, when the doll was finished,
she dressed it and set it in the place of honor on the bench opposite the door. From the remaining wood the man carved a set of toy dishes and some
tiny weapons, a spear and a knife, tipped with bone. His wife filled the dishes with food and water and set them before the doll.
Before going to bed, the couple sat and gazed at the doll. Although it was no more than six inches high, it was very lifelike, with eyes made from tiny
chips of ivory.
"I cannot think why we have gone to all this trouble," said the man gloomily. "We are no better off than before."
"Perhaps not," replied his wife, "but at least it will give us some amusement and something to talk about."
During the night the woman awoke suddenly. Close at hand she heard several low whistles. She shook her husband and said, "Did you hear that? It
was the doll!"
They jumped up and, by the glow of their hastily lit lamp, they saw that the doll had eaten the food and drunk the water. They saw it breathe and its
eyes move. The woman picked it up in her arms and hugged it.
They played with the doll for some time until it grew sleepy. Then they carefully returned it to the bench and went back to bed, delighted with their
In the morning, however, when they awoke, the doll had gone. Rushing outside, they saw its footprints leading away through the village. They
followed as fast as they could, but at the edge of the village the tracks stopped and there was no trace of the doll. Sadly the couple returned home.
Although they did not know it, the doll was traveling along the path of light which the man had taken the day before. On and on he went until he
came to the eastern edge of day where the sky comes down to meet the earth and walls in the light.
Looking up, the doll saw a hole in the sky wall, covered over with a piece of skin. The cover was bulging inwards, as if there was some powerful
force on the other side. The doll was curious and, drawing his knife, slashed the cords holding the cover in place and pulled it aside.
At once a great wind rushed in, carrying birds and animals with it. The doll peered through the hole and saw the Sky Land on the other side, looking
just like earth, with mountains, trees and rivers.
When he felt that the wind had blown long enough, the doll drew the skin cover back over the hole, saying sternly, "Wind, sometimes blow hard,
sometimes soft, and sometimes not at all." Then he went on his way.
When he came to the south, he saw another piece of skin covering an opening in the sky wall and bulging as before. Again the doll drew his knife and
this time a warmer wind blew in, bringing more animals, trees and bushes. After a time the doll closed up the opening with the same words as before
and passed on towards the west.
There he found yet another opening like the others, but this time, as soon as the cords were cut, the wind blew in a heavy rainstorm with waves and
spray from the great ocean on the other side. The doll hastened to cover up the hole and instructed this wind as he had one the others.
When he came to the North, the cold was so intense that he hesitated for some time before he dared to open the hole in the sky there. When he finally
did so, a fierce blast whistled in, with great masses of snow and ice, so that the doll was at once frozen to the marrow and he closed that opening very
Admonishing the wind as before, the doll now turned his steps inwards, away from the sky wall and traveled on until he came to the very center of
the Earth's plain. There he saw the sky arching overhead like a huge tent, supported on a framework of tall slender poles. Satisfied that he had now
traveled the whole world over, the doll decided to return to the village from which he started.
His foster-parents greeted him with great joy, for they feared that he had gone forever. The doll told them and all the people of the village about his
travels and how he had let the winds into the world. Everyone was pleased for with the wind came good hunting. The winds brought the birds of the
air and the land animals, and they stirred up the sea currents so that seals and walrus could be found all along the coast.
Because he had brought good fortune as the Moon Spirit had predicted, the doll was honored in special festivals afterwards. Shamans made dolls
like him to help them in their magic and parents also made dolls for their children, knowing that they bring happiness to those who care for them.
|The Origin of the Winds
An Aleut Legend
|The White Faced Bear
An Aleut Legend
In a tribal village there lived a mighty bear-hunter. For more than three years, he had been constantly successful in killing so many that his friend
tried to persuade him to stop hunting.
"If you insist upon hunting one more bear, you will come across a huge bear who might kill you," he said. The hunter ignored his friend's advice and
replied, "I will attack every bear I come across."
A few days later the hunter started out and saw a bear with two cubs. He decided this was not the huge bear he had been worried about, so he
attacked the mother bear, and after some difficulty killed her. The cubs ran away. After the hunter dragged the bear home for his tribe, his friend
continued to urge him to give up the bear hunt, but without success.
On another hunt, after a few days on the trail, the hunter met a stranger who informed him that near his village were a great many bears. "Every
year many are killed by our hunters, but always there is an invincible one that has destroyed many of our hunters. Each time he kills a man, the
bear tears him apart, examines him carefully as if searching for a special body mark. He is different because his feet and head are white."
They parted, and the hunter started out to look for that hunting ground. On his way, he stopped near a fish creek looking for game, but after a long
night none appeared. Next morning he moved onward and came to a high bluff; below it he saw many bears on the tundra. He waited until some
separated and looked over the remainder.
Among those, he saw the white-faced bear with white feet and concluded that this must be the ferocious, huge bear he sought. First he would keep
any eye on it and wait for a favorable opportunity to kill it.
Now it seems that at one time, the white-faced bear was a human being and a very successful bear-hunter, too successful for his own good. His
friends were envious and plotted to kill him. So they went to a medicine-man deep in the woods, and begged him to transform the successful hunter
into a beast.
"Shoot a bear, skin it and place the skin under the pillow of your successful hunter," advised the Shaman.
After the bear-skin had been prepared, the Shaman and his friends quietly went to the man's hut and p;aced the skin under the man's pillow. They
hid themselves to see what would happen when the man went to bed. Upon waking, the man found that he had become a huge bear with a white face
and white feet.
"The white marks will show you which bear he is," said the Shaman, who disappeared into the woods.
Now our bear-hunter still sat at the edge of the bluff. Toward evening he saw the bears begin to leave, all except the white-faced bear. He was the
last to get up, and he shook himself three times and acted as if he was deeply enraged. He moved toward the bluff where the hunter sat perfectly still.
But the bear approached, and when he was almost face to face, asked, "What are you doing here?"
"I came out to hunt," he replied.
"Is it not enough that you have killed all my family, and recently killed my wife, and now you want to take my life? If you had injured my children
the other day, I would now tear you to pieces. I will, however, spare your life this time on your promise that you will never hunt bears again. All the
bears you saw today are my children and of my brother. Should I ever see you hunting bear, I will tear you apart."
Relieved to get away so easily, the hunter headed homeward. His friend met him and inquired about the white-faced bear, and when told what had
happened, he urged the hunter to give up hunting. A whole week passed before the hunter set forth again, taking along six hunting friends.
For two days they hunted without luck, then came to the fish creek where they camped overnight. Next morning their leader took the six to the edge
of the bluff where they could look down at the tundra and see many bears. But they could not see the white-faced bear and, encouraged, followed
their leader toward the animals.
"Look at that strange beast with white paws and a white face!" exclaimed one man.
The hunter-leader caught sight of that special bear and ordered his followers to retreat at once. So they went around another mountain where they
saw many bears. They killed seven, one for each man.
Loaded with their spoil they took the homeward trail, but a short distance behind them they hears a commotion. They saw the white-faced bear
rapidly approaching them. The hunter aimed, but his bowstring broke. The others shot and missed. The white-faced bear spoke up and said, "Why
do you shoot at me? I never harm you. Your leader killed my wife and nearly all my family. I warned him that if I found him hunting again, I
would tear him apart. And this I shall do now, piece by piece. The rest of you can go. I'll not harm you because you have not harmed me."
Hurriedly, as fast as possible, the six men fled. The white-faced bear turned to the bear-hunter.
"I had you in my power once and I let you go on your promise not to hunt bear again. Now you are back at it and brought more bear-hunters along.
This time I will do to you as you have done to mine."
The hunter pleaded to be allowed to live one more night so that he could go home. At first the bear refused outright. The white-faced bear then
relented, and would even spare his life entirely, if the hunter would tell him who had transformed him from a man into a beast. The hunter agreed to
meet him the next night and go to the home of the Shaman.
When the bear-hunter reached home and found his six companions talking excitedly about the day's experience, they were surprised to see the
The hunter told them his plan to meet the white-faced bear at the home of the Shaman next evening and asked the six to go with him. They refused
and tried to dissuade their leader. But the bear-hunter kept his word and met the white-faced bear at the appointed place. A light shone from every
hut except that of the Shaman.
"This is the place," said the man.
"I will remain here," ordered the bear. "You go inside and tell him there is a man outside wishing to speak with him."
The man advanced and found the skin-door tied, so he reported to the bear that the Shaman must be out. The bear ordered him back to cut the door,
then walk in. Upon entering, the man heard someone call, "Who dares come into my lodge?"
"It is I," said the bear-hunter.
"What do you wish?"
"There is a man outside who wishes to speak to you."
Had the Shaman not been so sleepy, he might have been suspicious. Under the circumstances, his mind was not clear and he fell into the trap.
When the Shaman came near the white-faced bear, the old man became frightened and was ready to run away. But the bear blocked his way and
said, "For years you have tortured me and made my life a burden in this condition. I demand you give me back my human form immediately,
otherwise I shall tear you to pieces."
The Shaman promised to do so if the bear would follow him into his hut. Before going in, the bear said to the hunter, "Meet me here when I come out."
All night the Shaman worked hard with the bear, and by next morning succeeded in pulling off the bear-skin, and a human form appeared. The
Shaman asked to keep the white-faced bear's skin, but the man kept the white-face and the white claws, which he cut off at once, giving the rest of the
skin to the Shaman.
"If you ever again try to transform a man into a beast, I will be back and kill you dead, dead, dead," said the man.
The next day when the bear-man met the bear-hunter he said, "I caution you against ever going out to hunt bear. You may even hear people say I've
become a bear again, and they will hunt me. Don't you join them. If I find you in their company, I will kill you dead, dead, dead."
For about four weeks the hunter remained at home with every intention of keeping his promise to the transformed man. But one day two young
men from the neighboring tribal village came to beg his assistance. They asked his help to kill a ferocious bear with a white face and four white feet.
Of course the hunter knew the bear they feared, but decided to disguise himself and go help them. They gathered all of the village warriors and set out
to find the white-faced bear. The bear saw them coming. He rose and shook himself three times, giving the impression of great anger, which
frightened the warriors. Their chief said, "We are in great danger, so we must stand and fight."
Madly, the white-faced bear jumped, landed in front of the hunter and tore him to pieces. Then it pawed a hole in the ground and covered up the
parts. The terrified warriors tried to escape, but the white-faced bear chased them back to their village, tearing them apart, killing all of them,
including the old Shaman. Finished, the white-faced bear turned back into the woods to rest undisturbed forever.