The Theft of Light

At one time there was always darkness, never daylight. Giant put on his raven skin and left the heavens, flying across the water for a long time. When he was very tired, he dropped a little round stone that his father the chief had given him. It fell into the sea and turned into a large rock, where he lighted to rest. Then he flew east again until he reached the mainland at the mouth of the Skeena River, and there he scattered salmon roe and trout roe, saying, "Let every river and creek have all kinds of fish!" Opening a dried sea‑lion bladder that he had packed with fruits, he strewed them over the land and said, "Let every mountain, hill, valley, and plain be filled with these!"

When the sky in this world of darkness was clear, a little light came from the stars, but when it was cloudy there was only black night. The people were distressed by this, and Giant was too when he realized how hard it would be to get food in the dark. There was light where he had come from, and he made up his mind to bring it down. Putting on his raven skin, he flew upward until he found the hole in the sky and went through. He took off the raven skin and placed it near the hole, then travelled until he came to a spring near the house of the chief of heaven. There he sat down and waited.

Soon the chief's daughter appeared with a small bucket to fetch water. When Giant saw her coming to the spring, he transformed himself into the leaf of a cedar and floated on the water. Without noticing the leaf, she dipped it up with some water and swallowed it.

After a short time she was with child, and soon she gave birth to a boy. The chief and his wife were delighted and took care of the baby as he grew strong and began to creep about. Then, however, he began to cry, "Hama, hama!" all the time. Nothing they could do would soothe him, until finally the chief called his wise men together and asked them why the baby was crying.

One of the men listened to the cries and understood them. He told the chief, "He is crying for the ma." This was the box in which the daylight was kept and which hung in one corner of the chief's house. It was what Giant had remembered when he descended to our world. The chief immediately ordered it taken down and placed near the fire. Suddenly the boy stopped crying and began to roll the ma about inside the house.

He played with it for four days, until the chief became so used to the child's games that he did not notice them. Then the boy (who was, of course, Giant) grabbed the ma, put it on his shoulders, and ran out of the house. Seeing him, someone said, "Giant is running away with the ma!" and all the hosts of heaven pursued him. But he reached the hole in the sky, put on the raven skin, and flew down carrying the ma, and his pursuers went back home.

This time Giant started at the mouth of the Nass River and travelled up it in the dark. After a while he heard the noise of some people who were catching "olachen" in bag nets from their canoes. Holding the ma, Giant sat on the shore and asked them to throw him one of their fish. They refused, calling him a liar, for though he was wearing his raven skin, they knew it was Giant. "Throw me one, or I'll break the ma!" Giant said. Still they scolded and taunted him. Giant repeated his request four times and then broke the ma. Suddenly there was daylight. The North wind began to blow hard, and all the fishermen, who were actually frogs, were driven down‑river until they arrived at a large, mountainous, island. Here the frogs tried to climb up, but they were frozen by the icy wind and turned into stones that stuck to the rock. They are there to this day, and to this day all the world has daylight.




* Based on a legend reported by Franz Boas in 1906

First Opened: November 13, 2000
Revised: June 200
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