How Grandmother Spider Brought Fire to the People

http://www.indians.org/welker/fire.htm

In the beginning there was no fire, and the world was cold, until the Thunders, who lived up in Galun lati (Gah-lun-lah-tee), sent their lightening and put fire into the bottom of a hollow sycamore tree which grew on an island. The animals knew it was there, because they could see the smoke coming out at the top, but they could not get to it on account of the water, so they held a council to decide what to do. This was in the long ago time, when the animals could talk one to the other.

Every animal that could fly or swim was anxious to go after the fire. The Raven offered, and because he was so large and strong they thought he could surely do the work, so he was sent first. He flew high and far across the water and alighted on the sycamore tree, but while he was wondering what to do next, the heat had scorched all his feathers black, and he was frightened and came back without the fire. The little Screech Owl (wa’huhu [wah-hoo-hoo]) volunteered to go, and reached the place safely, but while he was looking down into the hollow tree a blast of hot air came up and nearly burned out his eyes. He managed to fly home as best he could, but it was a long time before he could see well, and his eyes are red to this day. The the Hooting Owl (Uguku [OO-goo-koo]) and the Horned Owl (Tskili [Skee-lee]) went, but by the time they got to the hollow tree, the fire was burning so fiercely the the smoke nearly blinded them, and the ashes carried up by the wind made white rings about their eyes. They had come home again without the fire, but with all the rubbing they were never able to get rid of the white rings.

Now no more of the birds would venture, and so the little Uksuhi (Ook- soo-hee)snake, the black racer, said he would go through the water and bring back some fire. He swam across to the island and crawled through the grass to the tree, and went in by a small hole at the bottom. The smoke and heat were too much for him, too, and after dodging about blindly over the hot ashes until he was almost on fire himself he managed by good luck get out again at the same hole, but his body had been scorched black, and he has ever since had the habit of darting and doubling back on his track as if trying to escape from close quarters. He came back, and the great black snake, Gule’gi (Goo-lay-kee), “The Climber,” offered to go for fire. He swam over to the island and climbed up the tree on the outside, as the blacksnake always does, but when he put his head down into the hole the smoke choked him so that he fell into the burning stump, and before he could climb out again he was as black as the Uksu’hi.

water-spiderNow they held another council, for still there was no fire, and the world was cold, but birds, snakes, and four footed animals, all had some excuse for not going, because they were all afraid to venture near the burning sycamore, until at last Kanane’ski Amai’yehi (Kah-nah-nay Ah-eye-yay-hee [the Water Spider]) said she would go. This is not the water spider that looks like a mosquito, but other one, with black downy hair and red stripes on her body. She can run on top of the water or dive to the bottom, so there would be no trouble to get over to the island, but the question was, How could she bring back the fire? “I’ll manage that,” said the Water Spider; so she spun a thread from her body and wove it into a tusti (toos-tee) bowl, which she fastened on her back. Then she crossed over to the island and through the grass to where the fire was still burning. She put one little coal of fire into her bowl, and came back with it, and ever since we have had fire, and the Water Spider still keeps her tusti bowl.

That is how fire came to the People.”

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…Another version…

A Cherokee Legend:

Grandmother Spider Steals the Sun

 

In the beginning there was only blackness, and nobody could see anything. People kept bumping into each other and groping blindly. They said: “What this world needs is light.” Fox said he knew some people on the other side of the world who had plenty of light, but they were too greedy to share it with others. Possum said he would be glad to steal a little of it. “I have a bushy tail,” he said. “I can hide the light inside all that fur.” Then he set out for the other side of the world.

 

There he found the sun hanging in a tree and lighting everything up. He sneaked over to the sun, picked out a tiny piece of light, and stuffed it into his tail. But light was hot and burned all the fur off. The people discovered his theft and took back the light, and ever since, Possum’s tail has been bald.

 

“Let me try,” said Buzzard. “I know better than to hide a piece of stolen light in my tail. “I’ll put it on my head.” He flew to the other side of the world and, diving straight into the sun, seized it in his claws. He put it on his head, but it burned his head feathers off. The people grabbed the sun away from him, and ever since that time Buzzard’s head has remained bald.

 

web_spyder_drops

Then Grandmother Spider said, “Let me try!” First she made a thick-walled pot out of clay. Next she spun a web reaching all the way to the other side of the world. She was so small that none of the people there noticed her coming. Quickly Grandmother Spider snatched up the sun,

put it in the bowl of clay, and scrambled back home along one of the strands of her web. Now her side of the world had light, and everyone rejoiced. Spider Woman brought not only the sun to the Cherokee, but fire with it. And besides that, she taught the Cherokee people the art of pottery making.

 

 

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