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About Aboriginal Dreamtime



Oban's Myths & Legends

How Beaver Stole Fire From The Pines (continued)
Native American - Nez Perce story
retold by Oban

Oban the Knowledge Keeper

As the sun rose, Beaver saw Pines moving slowly in lines from all directions, towards the river. “That’s useful,” said Beaver to himself. “It looks like they can only move straight forward – maybe they can’t zig-zag from side to side like I can!”

The Pines built a large fire to keep themselves warm, as Beaver knew they would. They posted guards around the outer edges to stop anyone walking in and stealing their fire secret. From his hiding place in the river bank Beaver grinned as he felt the warmth and watched the guards shuffle slowly backwards and forwards, always in straight lines.

Pine Trees meetingThe fire crackled and spit and the meeting began. From time to time pieces of live coal jumped from the fire and rolled into the grass. None of the Pines took any notice. Suddenly a larger piece rolled down the river bank near where Beaver was hiding.

He grabbed the live coal, held it tightly to his fur and ran away as fast as he could. One of the guards saw him and shouted to the others.

“Ouch! Ow! Ouch!” cried Beaver. The coal was hot, but he hung on to it as he ran. He knew he could move faster in the water than on land, but he couldn’t keep the coal alive if he swam, so he had to run.

Many of the Pines joined the chase. As they got closer, Beaver zig-zagged from side to side, and the Pines had to slow down as they tried to change direction and follow him. When Beaver saw he was far enough in front of them, he ran straight ahead again.

The Pines chased Beaver for many hours, along the path of the Grande Ronde River. The river still follows the direction that Beaver took, winding from side to side in some places and moving straight ahead in others.

The Pines were tall and heavy and they grew tired after chasing Beaver for such a long time.

“I can’t run any further!” panted one Pine and stopped on the river bank. Several of the others behind him also stopped, and they had to hold each other up while they tried to catch their breath. There were so many of them, so close together, that hunters today still find it difficult to get through the trees at that part of the river.

Other groups of Pines still chased Beaver. After another couple of hours more gave up one by one. Today they are still scattered along the river bank where they stopped.

A small group of Pines chased Beaver for the rest of the day, but he got so far ahead they couldn’t see him. As the sun started to set, their leader, a Cedar Pine, called out to the others “I will run to the top of the hill over there and see how far ahead Beaver is.”

FireWhen Cedar reached the top of the hill he saw Beaver give small pieces of the live coal to several willow trees who were waiting at the edge of the Big Snake River, where the Grande Ronde River enters it. One of the willows waded into the water and gave bits of the fire to other groups of trees on the opposite bank. Beaver ran on and gave more pieces of the live coal to groups of birches and animals who were waiting for him.

“We will never catch him now,” sighed Cedar. “The fire secret is no longer ours.”

Since that time trees that were given the fire secret have the fire within them. They will share it with anyone who wants it, when their wood is rubbed together in the ancient way.

Cedar still stands alone at the top of that hill where he watched Beaver sharing the live coal. There are no other cedar trees within a hundred miles upstream of him because the chase was long and no other trees could keep up.

Cedar is very, very old now. So old that his top is dead, but he still stands proudly as proof of the story of how Beaver stole fire from the Pines.

Old people tell children about him as they walk by. “See up there” they say. “That is old Cedar. He is still standing on the spot where he stopped chasing Beaver.”

The End

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