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The Crow and the Daylight

Long, long ago, when the world was new, there was no daylight up north. It was dark all the time, and the people were living in the dark, just doing the best they could. They used to quarrel about whether it was day or night. Half the people slept while the other half worked; in fact, no one really knew when it was time to go to bed, or if in bed when to get up, because it was dark all the time.

In one village lived a crow. The people liked this crow because they thought he was very wise; in fact, he told them so himself; so they let him live in their church spire.

The crow used to talk a lot too, and tell of all the wonderful things he had seen and done when he had spread his wings and flown away on his long journeys to distant lands. The people up north had no light but the flame of their oil lamps.

One evening the crow seemed sad and did not speak at all. The people wondered what the matter was, and felt sad too, because they missed their lively crow, so they asked him: "What makes you so sad?"

"I am sorry for the people up north," said the crow, "because they have no daylight."

"What is daylight?" said they. "What is it like? We have never heard of daylight."

"Well," said the crow, "if you had daylight you could go everywhere and see everything, even animals from far away."

This seemed very wonderful to them all, and they asked the crow if he would try to get them that "daylight." At first the crow refused all their entreaties. "I know where it is," said he, "but it would he too hard for me to get it here."

Then they all crowded round and begged him to go to the place where daylight was and bring them some. Still the crow refused, and said he could not possibly get that light; but they coaxed him nicely, and the chief said, "Crow, you are so clever and so brave, we know you can do that."

At last the crow said, "Very well, I will try."

Next day he started on his journey. It was dark, but not stormy, and when he had said goodbye to all the people he spread his wings and flew away toward the east, for the sun appears in the east. He flew on and on in the dark, till his wings ached and he was very tired, but he never stopped. After many days he began to see a little bit, dimly at first, then more and more, till the sky was flooded with light.

Perching on the branch of a tree to rest, he looked about him to see if he could find where the light came from. At last he saw that it was shining from a big house in a village nearby. In that house lived the chief of the village, and his daughter who was very beautiful. This daughter came out of the house every day to fetch water from the ice hole in the river. After she had come out the crow slipped off his skin and hid it in the entrance of the house; then he covered himself with dust, and said some magic words, something like this:

"Yakata, gong-chong-cha, oho-ho.
Make me little that I won't show.
Just a tiny speck of dust,
And none will notice me, I trust."

Then he hid in a crack near the door and waited for the chief's daughter. When she had filled her skin water-bag she came back from the river, and the crow, who looked like nothing but a speck of dust floating on the sunbeam, lighted on her dress and passed with her through the door into the house where the daylight came from.

Inside, the place was very bright and sunny, and there was a dear little baby playing on the floor, on the skin of a polar bear which had recently been flayed. The baby had a lot of little toys. He kept putting the toys into an ivory box with a cover, then spilling them out again. The chief watched the baby very proudly.

When the chief's daughter came in she stooped to pick the baby from the floor, and the speck of dust drifted from her dress to the baby's ear. The baby began to cry and fuss, and the chief said, "What do you want?"

The crow whispered into the child's ear, "Ask for bright light to play with."

The baby asked for the light, and the chief told his daughter to give the baby a small, round white light to play with.

The woman took out a small wooden chest covered with pictures. From the chest she took a shining ball, and gave it to the child.

The baby liked the shining ball and played with it a long time; but the crow wanted to get that daylight, so he whispered in the little one's ear to ask for a string to tie to his ball. They gave the baby a string and tied the daylight to it for him. Then the chief and his daughter went out, leaving the door open behind them. The crow was waiting for a chance like that.

When the little boy got near the door in his play the crow whispered again in his ear, and told him to crawl out into the entrance with his light.

The baby did as the crow told him, and as he passed the spot where the crow's skin was hidden the speck of dust slipped out of the child's ear back into the crow's skin, and the crow was himself again. Seizing the end of the string in his beak, away flew the crow, leaving the crying baby on the ground.

The child's cries brought the chief and his daughter and all the people of the village rushing to the spot; and they saw the crow flying away with their precious bright light. In vain they tried to shoot him, but he was too quickly out of sight.

When the crow came up north again, he thought he would try the bright light to see how it worked, so when he passed over the first dark village he scratched a little bit of the brightness off, and it fell on the village and lighted it up beautifully. Then at every village he came to he did the same thing, till at last he reached his home village, where he had started from. Hovering over it, he shattered the light into little bits, and scattered them far and wide.

The people greeted him with shouts of delight. They were so happy that they danced and sang and prepared a great feast in his honour. They were so grateful to him that they could not thank him enough for bringing the light.

[Adapted]

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