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How The Water Spider Captured Fire
For many years the animals had no control of fire. They, of course, had always seen the forest fires and the lightning. They knew that the fire was powerful, beautiful, and dangerous. But they didn't know about the wonderful things like cooking or staying warm that could be done.
There came a time that the world seemed to be getting colder, and the animals began to discuss among themselves the idea that they needed to get fire to sue in their homes and in the homes of the people. They wondered how to get the fire. If a tree caught on fire, maybe they could capture some fire and keep it.
Sure enough, the time came that year that a sycamore tree which stood out in the water of the river was burning. Some of the animals began to gather around, wishing they could capture the fire. A crow came along and said, "I believe I can get some of that fire." He was a brown crow and he flew into the fire and came out covered with black soot. He is the black crow we know today.
Next, one of the owls tried to get some fire. He was a barn owl; he dived into the flame and burned his hair off the top of his head and he is slickheaded today.
A little snake darted by and said, "I'm very fast, let me try." He darted in and got so scared that still today he's darting around keeping away from fire.
Another owl, the hoot owl, said, "Oh, oh, you little barn owl, you can't do things. Let me try." He tried and came out quickly with burn marks on his eyes like we see today. The screech owl tried and came screeching out with red eyes, which he still has.
A bigger brown snake tried to get the fire, and he is our black snake today, scorched quickly by the hot fire. As the black snake returned from the burning tree, the animals heard a great sound. they knew it was the sound of a flood of water from high in the mountain near what we call Big Cove. They knew they must hurry, or the fire would be gone.
The little water spider watched the others and she quietly thought, "All these animals want the fire badly but something is missing. The thing is preparation. We must prepare if we are really to get and keep the fire." She knew she could go toward the bottom of the tree on the water, and maybe she would not get burned. But how would she carry and protect the fire from the water?
She needed something to carry out the fire so it wouldn't get wet, so she wove a little basket to carry the fire. She must hurry or the flood would drown the fire and wash her away. She carried the little basket on her back and began to walk across the water to the base of the burning tree. She siezed some hot coals to put in her basket, put the basket of coals on her back, and carefully came back across the water. When she got to the edge of the river, she had coals so the animals could have their own fire to learn to use.
But the coals had burned through a place in the basket and the lowly water spider who prepared and risked herself carries a basket on her back and the mark of the fire still today.
More stories to read:
Native American animal stories
Native American legends about fire
Native American spider legends
Learn more about:
Cherokee legends and myths
Back to the Native American tale page
Read some Native American Indian literature
American Indian websites
Delaware Indian tribes
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