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Main > Native American folktales > Fairy tale "Chunks of Daylight"

Chunks of Daylight

At the northern part of the continent, in the land of the midnight sun, where in the long summer days the sun at midnight is just slipping below the northern horizon and immediately is seen coming up again, and where in the long nights of winter there is scarcely any daytime at all, it is not strange that the legends of the people often treat of daylight and especially of darkness. The long nights become oppressive, and the people have different theories as to the cause of it, which they weave into legends such as the following.

In the days when the earth was a child, there was light from the sun and moon as there is now. Then the sun and moon were taken away and the people were left for a long time with no light but the shining of the stars. The shamans, or priests, made their strongest charms to no purpose, for the darkness of night continued.

In a village of the lower Yukon there lived an orphan boy who always sat upon the bench with the humble people, over the entrance way of the kashim or assembly house. The other people thought he was foolish, and he was despised and ill-treated by everyone. After the shamans had tried very hard to bring back the sun and moon and had failed, the boy began to ridicule them.

"What fine shamans you must be, not to be able to bring back the light, when even I can do it," he said mockingly.

At this the shamans became very angry and beat him and drove him out of the kashim. The orphan was like any other boy until he put on a black coat which he had, when he became a raven and remained in that form until he removed his coat. When the shamans drove him out, he went to the house of his aunt in the village and told her what he had said, and how the shamans had beaten him and driven him out of the kashim.

"Tell me where the sun and moon have gone, for I am going after them," said he.

"They are hidden somewhere, but I don't know where it is," she replied.

"I am sure you know where they are, for look what a neatly sewed coat you wear, and you could not see to do that if you did not know where the light is.

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