Origin of the Raven and the Macaw,

Zuni Creation Myth

Long, long ago there were but few Indians on the earth. The world was not as it is now. The earth people did not understand things as they now understand them.

It therefore happened that a beautiful Indian prince came to live with the earth people.

In his hand he carried a plume stick. It was a magic wand and was covered with feathers of beautiful colours.

There were yellow feathers. There were red feathers. There were blue-green feathers. There were black and white and gray feathers.

Fastened to this magic wand were also many strange shells and charms which the earth children did not understand and which the strange prince did not explain fully.

"What is this strange plume stick?" asked the earth children.

"It is the magic wand which tests the hearts of earth children," was the reply.

The earth children wondered, but they did not understand.

"Ah, but show us what you mean!" they cried, eagerly.

"Look!" replied the strange prince.

Then amid the plumes and charms of the magic wand there appeared four round things.

"They are eggs!" cried the earth children. "Two are blue like the sky. Two are red-brown like the dust of our own pleasant earth!"

Then the earth children asked many questions which the strange prince tried patiently to explain.

"Now," said the strange prince, "choose whichever eggs you will. By and bye they will hatch. From them will come birds such as you never before have seen. From each pair of eggs will come a pair of birds."

"You who choose the blue eggs shall follow the birds which come from the blue shells. You and your children and your children's children shall dwell in the land in which these birds nest.

"You who choose the red-brown eggs shall follow the birds which come from the red-brown shells. You and your children and your children's children shall dwell in the land in which these birds nest!"

"But which shall we choose?" cried the eager earth children.

"Nay," said the strange prince, "that I may not tell. But this much you may know:

"From one pair of eggs shall come forth beautiful birds. Their feathers shall be coloured, like the leaves and fruits of summer. They shall nest in the land of everlasting summer-time and plenty.

"They who choose those eggs will follow these birds to the beautiful country of summer-time. The fruits will ripen daily and fall into the hands of the lucky earth children. Their food will come to them without labour and they shall know neither hunger nor cold."

"And what will happen if we choose the other pair of eggs?"

The strange prince shook his head half sadly and smiled on the earth children.

"From the other pair of eggs," he said, "shall come forth birds with black feathers, piebald with white. This pair will nest in a land where you may gain food by labour only.

"Those who follow this pair of birds shall struggle summer and winter. By long days of toil they shall provide food. By long nights of watchfulness they shall keep warmth within their homes."

Then the strange prince ceased speaking. The earth children looked at each other and forgot to speak. Each looked into the eyes of the other and asked a question. Each wished to follow the birds which would lead them to the land of everlasting summer-time and idleness and plenty.

"Which eggs do you choose?" asked the strange prince.

"The blue—the blue!" cried the earth children. Then those who were strongest and quickest pushed forward.

They fought for the blue eggs, and getting them hurried away with gladness.

They buried the blue eggs in the soft loam on the sunny side of the cliff. They sat down to watch when the young birds should hatch.

Now there remained those weaker earth children who had been pushed aside. For them there was no choice. The strange prince gave into their hand the red-brown eggs.

The red-brown eggs were placed amid the soft green grasses by the riverside. The earth children into whose care they were given sat also by the riverside and waited.

Sometimes, as they waited for the hatching of the red-brown eggs, they looked up to the place in the cliff where the stronger ones watched the beautiful blue eggs.

Then the weaker ones sighed and turned to the ugly red-brown eggs amid the grasses.

By and bye, as those on the cliff waited, they heard faint tappings inside the blue shells.

"Ah," they said, "the birds will come soon now. They will lead us to the land of summer-time."

When at length the shells burst and the young birds came out, they looked much as other birds look. They had large mouths and panting sides and tiny featherless bodies. Soon the pin-feathers appeared.

"See!" cried the watchers, "now the beautiful plumage is starting!"

And those by the riverside, hearing the cry, looked up, and looking up they sighed. The red-brown eggs also were cracking open and the young birds coming out of the shells. Soon the earth children must follow their bird leaders. They fed and tended the young birds for still a few days.

Then one morning there were sighs and discontent on the cliff. For the birds which came from the blue shells were feathered and ready for flight. Their colours were black and white! So also is all the bare earth and the new-fallen snow!

It was a pair of ravens, which the stronger earth children followed to the country where winter follows summer and where men work for food. As the earth children laboured, the ravens taunted them with hoarse, laughing cries.

Now those other earth children who watched the red-brown eggs stood up by the riverside and smiled.

From the red-brown eggs had come birds of gorgeous plumage. On the breath of a sweet-scented breeze they were wafted far to southward—to the summer land. And those earth children who followed the beautiful birds still live easily in the land of everlasting summer-time.