“How the Raven stole the sun” is based upon Native American creation myths, specifically the Haida story, in which the Raven is responsible for bringing light (the sun, the moon, and the stars) back to the world, and is transformed in the process.
In the beginning, the world was in total darkness.
But it was not always that way.
In the beginning, the world was filled with light. All of the animals, the trees and plants and flowers, and the whole of the earth, thrived. In the beginning, there were no human beings, save for a man and a woman who had lived together from the beginning of time. What the woman longed for most in the world was a child; however, she could not conceive. The man and the woman grew old as their prayers for a child went unanswered. The woman’s sadness was so great that she could not share a world of light when her own world was so dark. One day, in revenge or anger or disappointment, the old man took the light from the world and hid it in a box, thinking that now the world would share their pain.
After some time, the earth began to die. Nothing could grow in the absence of light. The eagle had seen the old man climb into the sky, so they knew he was holding the light. All of the animals had a great meeting, to discuss the ways in which they could persuade the man to return it. The light that they could make, fire, was not enough to illuminate the earth, and too much of it would burn the world. They had pleaded with him, begged and cried, told him that their families, all of the trees and plants and flowers, and all of the life on earth, was in danger. But the old man said that he did not know where the light was. They tried to break into the humans’ home, but the light was so well hidden that not even the smallest insect could find it.
Finally, the Raven stepped forward. She said that she would transform into a human infant, since what the humans wanted most was a child. Perhaps then, if she lived as one of them, she would be able to find the light. And so the Raven changed, and the animals wrapped her in a nest of dead leaves, and left the baby at the old man and the old woman’s door.
When she was found, they cried with joy at the unexpected gift, and took her in. Years passed, and the baby grew from an infant into a child. The child was curious, always getting into things, but she filled their life with joy. The old man and the old woman loved the child so much, they promised that they would give her anything her heart desired. One day, the child stumbled across a locked box, and she brought the box to her father and asked if she could open it. Because he loved her so much, he could not say no, and the old man said that he would open the box, but the child could only take a peek inside.
After releasing the lock, the old man lifted the lid of the box slowly until a shimmering sliver of light filled the room. The child gasped, a look of absolute wonder crossing her face. Suddenly, the child transformed into a giant white bird, the Raven, and she quickly seized the ball of light in her beak and flew out through the smokehole in the roof towards the sky.
Higher and higher she flew, the ball of light hot in her mouth, slowly charring her snow white feathers black. Still she flew, and a piece of the light broke off, staying fixed in the sky as the sun. She kept flying, even though the light was scorching her, burning her; she flew halfway across the world, and another piece of the light broke off, staying fixed in the sky as the moon. Still, she flew, only a third of the light left, held fast in her beak. As she crossed the great ocean, the last bit of light fell, and shattered into tiny pieces, bouncing off the reflected water and into the sky, punctuating the darkness with stars.
And this is the story of how the Raven stole the sun, and brought light back to the world, though it turned her snow white feathers black as the darkest night, forevermore.
The photos in this post are from ‘Raven Steals the Sun’ – a collaboration between photographer Jeff Elstone, scarf designer Taiana Giefer and artist-milliner Selina Elkuch, based on the native Haida myth of how the Sun came to be. For additional photos, please click here.