How Raven Got His Shadow

IMG_20140321_172306Remember the stories that Mother used to tell us?  The ones about Bear and Raven and all the others. In the land of Before, that’s how they always started.  So let’s start this story the same way.

Long ago, in the land of Before, in the time when the Humans were new to the earth, Raven had a twin.

Raven loved his twin, and his twin loved him so much that they never were apart. Their devotion became legendary, so much so that they became the favorites of the Humans.

“Look at how beautiful they are,” the Humans would say. “And between the two of them they share such wisdom, all the wisdom of the universe.”

“They are the wisest, the most beautiful, the most kind, most generous…” The Humans could find no fault with Raven and his twin.

And things may have been okay if the Humans had spread their love around, if they had found even one fault with the two. But they didn’t. Even Raven’s trickery became a thing of glory and humor, because the love he and his twin shared was all-encompassing.

Time went by as it does, and the Others grew tired of being over shadowed, of being viewed as Lesser. So they banded together and plotted the demise of the glorious couple.

“I can hold them under water until they lose their wings and grow fins,” Ocean said. “That way the Humans will not be able to see their devotion to each other.”

“I can trap them in a bottomless cavern,” Mountain said. “That way no one will be able to hear their wisdom.”

“I can shine so brightly, that no human will be able to see their beauty,” said Sun.

“I can blow such a breeze,” said Wind, “That they will be forever separated.”

But no one was happy because none of the solutions were sure. For each suggestion there was a chance that the twins would be reunited or that they would escape. And so they decided that getting rid of at least one of the twins was necessary.

Coyote, much like Raven, was a trickster. One night, long after the moon had fallen below the earth, the Conspirators met to listen to Coyote’s suggestion.

“We have to separate them for all eternity,” Coyote said. “Which means we have to send one, or both, of them to the After.”

“How will we do that?” Otter said.

Eagle said, “I suggest we appeal to their sense of greatness. We set them a task, a dangerous task. One they’ll want to complete for the sake of the Humans.”

“And for the sake of what the Humans will think of them.” Coyote laughed. “Because deep down, Raven and his twin are, after all, vain creatures like the rest of us.”

“I could hide,” said Sun. “And they would search for me, because the Humans fear the dark. They would fly too close—”

“No, I have the plan,” said Coyote. “An even better plan.”

And so the Conspirators began playing terrible tricks on the Humans and blaming Raven and his twin. Raven did it became their mantra. And as the years flew by, many foul deeds became attributed to Raven and his twin, so many that some Humans began to fear Raven and his twin.

Humans have short memories. No longer were Raven and his twin thought of as the generous, beautiful twins, as the funny, benevolent tricksters who stole the light and gave it to the Humans. As the two whose thievery benefitted the Humans more often than themselves.

And so, for one Chief, fear turned to anger and then hatred, so much so that the Chief plotted Raven and his twin’s death.

The Chief invited the twins to visit him, said he had planned a grand feast in their honor, but after the sumptuous meal, while they were napping, the Chief threw a bag over Raven and his twin. He tied the bag tightly, and though they struggled, they couldn’t get out.

“What’s this game you’re playing?” Raven said.

“I’m taking you to the mountaintop.”

“Why?” said Raven.

The Chief ignored him, even though the whole time he climbed the mountain, Raven peppered at him with questions.

Sensing some deception at work, Raven warned the Chief that he should be careful, that he should take care to never hurt Raven or his twin because they were loved by the Humans.

When the Chief reached the mountaintop, he threw the bag over the cliff. “You shouldn’t make a Chief mad, like that?” he shouted as the bag tumbled down the mountainside.

As it bumped against the sharp rocks, the bag ripped open and Raven escaped. His twin was not so lucky. The bag caught one of his wings and threw him off balance as he toppled out. Raven’s twin’s head smashed against a rock, and he fell to his death.

Raven gathered up his twin’s broken body and flew.

For many days and months and years, Raven stayed in seclusion because life without a twin made no sense. It was as if half of him were gone.

The Humans, now ashamed, mourned the twins and the light and happiness they had brought. So much so, a malaise fell over the world.

The Others took fright that they might all be forgotten. They worried that the Humans would learn of their deceit and shun them into non-existence. After all, the Humans had exiled the Chief who killed Raven’s twin.

So, the Conspirators met again in the dark of the night. They thought and thought, argued and discussed—for so long that the night went on for three days.

At what should have been the first hour of morning on the fourth day, Sun had an idea, and all the Conspirators agreed that it was an excellent solution.

Whenever there was light to see, Raven’s image, his spirit twin would follow him, would be there with him.

And not only would Raven have this twin, this shadow self, Sun would also give it to all the Humans so that no one would ever forget Raven’s twin.

~ o ~

*NOTE: this fable is my own creation, but is referential in style and story to the many Native American Raven stories that I’ve read. It will be used, at least in part, in my Work in Progress.

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