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heat and light

A legend, from the Cherokee:

In the beginning there was only blackness, and nobody could see anything. People kept bumping into each other and groping blindly here and there. They complained, "What our world needs is light."

Miss Foxy said she knew some people on the other side of the world who had plenty of light. but they were much too greedy to share it with others. Miss Possum said she would be glad to steal a little of it. "I have a big bush," she said, "and I can hide it inside all my fur." So she set out for the other side of the world, and there she found the sun hanging in a tree and lighting everything up quite brightly. She sneaked up underneath the sun, picked off a little piece of light, and stuffed it into you-know-where. But the light was so hot it burned all her fur off. The people obviously observed the theft, and obviously heard about it, and took the light right back, and ever since, possums have had bald tails.

"Let me try," said Ms. Buzzard, "I know better than to hide a piece of stolen light down there: I'll put it on my head." So she flew off to the other side of the world, and she dived straight into the sun, and seized it in her claws. When she put it on her head, though, it burned all her head feathers off. The people grabbed the sun back away from her, and ever since that time buzzards have had bald heads.

Grandmother Spider was very brainy, and so she was allowed to try for a third time. She made a thick-walled pot out of clay, then she spun a web reaching all the way to the other side of the world. She was so small that none of the people could see her coming. Quickly Grandmother Spider snatched up the sun, put it into her clay bowl, and scrambled back home along one of the strands of her web. Now her side of the world had all the light they needed and everyone rejoiced.

G. Spider brought not only the sun to the Cherokee: she succeeded uninjured where the younger girls had failed, and she brought the fire along with the sun, and she taught everybody the art of making pottery.


Traditional, recorded by James Mooney


kiota too late for the stars
Moonfire Marion Bridge / Brad

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