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The Navajo - Dine

The First Light - a Navajo Story

Even before the oldest legend began - a legend which I have been told by the animals - Mother Earth was under the spell of the Big Sleep. The world was lost in darkness, enveloped in it as if it had been swamped by one great black wave; not a single sound interrupted the profound silence.

Perhaps the Earth would never have awakened at all had it not been for the white cloud.

It so happened that the white cloud opened its eyes and, seeing nothing but darkness, left its home in the North and slowly travelled eastwards, cautiously finding its way.

It soon met with danger. A terrible black cloud hovered in the east, the guardian of the Big Sleep, who alone could penetrate the pitch-black darkness and who was constandly on the altert, watching for any untoward movement. As soon as it caught sight of the white cloud groping and struggling across the sky, it bristled like a wildcat and flew forward to punish the trespasser.

They clashed right above the Indian country. The black cloud leapt upon its white brother and started to shower it with blows. The white cloud did not give way, but stood up to the attack.

Only Manitou knows how this encounter would have ended, but just then a strange, unprecednted thing happened; as the two clouds fought, their sweat began to pour, and the drops joined up, one with the other, until at least it began to rain.

The rain brought life to the Indian country. The animals came running out from under the ground, where they had been imprisoned by the Big Sleep. The water, pouring down from heaven, made a hole in the earth through which they all clambered out.

And now it seemed that they would all live in peace and happiness. They divieded the hunting-grounds among themselves, from the big plains right across the mountains and canyons, all the way to the frontier of the Snow Country, and before long each creature was building its own home. But something was still lacking in the world, something no one yet had ever seen. The light! During the Big Sleep thespirits had carried it away, and consequently the whole world was in darkness.

Luckily a small remnant of the little white cloud was still up there in the sky. It was so tired after its great fight that it could hardly move, but it called its friends, the blue cloud and the yellow cloud.

The blue cloud lived far away at the southern end of the world while the yellow cloud had its home in the West. They both woke up and came hurring towards the white cloud as fast as the wind could carry them.

The world has risen from the Big Sleep, explained the white cloud by the way of welcome. "Now it needs soem light, and that is why I have decided to call you into help me. Let us light up the Indian country."

Oh, but we shall soon feel fatigued," protested the blue cloud.

I don't think I can stay in one place for any length of time" added the yellow cloud.

Don't worry - our light is feeble and will hardly satisfy anyone. Soon we shall be wandering about the sky as the fancy takes us."

His friends made no further protest. Coming down as low as they could, they shone their coloured lamps on the earth with all their might. In this way there was at last a little light in the world, but the animals knew well enogh that they were now faced with their first difficult task; to bring real light.

from "American Indian TAles and LEgends"
by Vladimir Hulpach