Once upon a time there was just one little fire in the world. It belonged to
the Great God of Fire who wouldn't let anyone else have it. Nobody had fire to
keep themselves warm in their houses or caves. They had no fire to cook their
food with until one day, an Indian chief's son named Boy-Who-Shoots-Arrow-Far
caught a fox in a deep pit.
The fox told the Indian boy that if he was let out
of the pit, he would tell where the Fire God kept his fire. The Indian boy
replied that it was no secret because everyone knew the fire was kept in a
hollow stone. The problem was no one knew where the stone was. The fox then
claimed that he knew exactly where the stone was. It was kept in the Land of The
Setting Sun where no Indians ever went.
A new problem then surfaced. They
could still not get the fire because it was guarded by two old women who never
sleeps. They had magical powers that enables them to run faster than any Indian
or any animal. The desperate fox then devised a plan which the boy thought was a
good one. The boy released the fox and they called all the animals together. All
the animals from the woods came.
The fox told the gathering his plan. They
agreed to help. The squirrel and the frog were very eager to help too. But the
fox told the squirrel, "You can't run fast enough." And he told the frog, "You
can't run at all. You can only hop." So the poor squirrel and the frog had to
stay at home while the other animals hurried away and took their places in a
long line that reached over the mountains and through the woods all the way to
the Land of The Setting Sun.
The trick worked exactly the way the fox had
planned. The Indian boy shot an arrow at the door to the old women's cave. The
old women ran out to see what was happening, and the fox grabbed a burning stick
from the fire and ran away with it. The two old women ran after him. The fox was
a fast runner, but with their magic steps, the old women came closer and closer.
The tired fox reached the Indian boy just in time and put the burning stick into
his hand. The boy ran fast, but the old women ran faster. Just in time the
Indian boy reached the bear who was waiting for him over the next hill. The bear
put the burning stick into his mouth and ran. He passed it on to the waiting
buffalo. The buffalo to the wolf, the wolf to the coyote, the coyote to the
deer, the deer to the elk, and to all the other animals, one after another, with
the two old women running after them.
Finally it was the rabbit's turn to take
the stick. Being the last one in the long animal chain, the rabbit was supposed
to run the rest of the way and give the burning stick to the Indians. The
Indians could quickly start so many fires that even if the old women took back
their burning stick, the Indians would still have fire. But the rabbit had run
so fast that he became tired before he reached the Indians. He came to the
squirrel who was not supposed to be in the race at all because he couldn't run
fast enough. The squirrel grabbed the stick and jumped into a tree. He leaped
from tree to tree, but the burning stick caught his tail on fire. He bent his
tail over his back and thumped it so hard to put the fire out that even today
the squirrel's tail is still bent.
The two old women on the ground stayed
right under the squirrel, and when he became too tired to leap any longer in the
trees, the squirrel tossed the burning stick to the frog. The frog took two
great hops, opened his big mouth and swallowed the fire, stick and all. The two
old women were now so close that one of them grabbed the frog's tail and pulled
it off. Before the old women could touch him again, the frog jumped into a pond.
The old women jumped in after him. But they couldn't swim so fast as they could
run. The frog swam across the pond and coughed up the fire into the hands of the
waiting Indians. And ever since that day, the Indians have had fire.