How the Indians Received Fire

Once long ago the Indians had no fire. The only bit of fire on earth was owned by two old witches who guarded their treasure day and night. No matter how the Indians begged them to share just an ember, the witches would not give even a spark.

When winter came, the Indians suffered from the cold. "The witches will not give us fire," they said. "Let us ask the animals to try to get it for us."

The animals gladly came to the meeting which the Indians called. And when the Indians told them about the need for warmth, the animals thought of a plan to help. Coyote was chosen their leader.

"Do as I tell you," he said to the other animals, "and our friends shall be warm before sunset. I‘ll get a spark of fire from the witches. Each of you, in turn, must help carry it to the Indians."

As soon as the animals were all in their places, Coyote went to the witches' cottage.

"The Indians need fire," he said. "Can you not let me take them one small ember?"

"The fire has been left in our care," said the two together. "No one shall have even a spark of it!"

Then Coyote went to the window and signaled to his helpers. They knew what he wanted them to do. In a moment Lion began to roar, Wolf began to howl, Bear began to growl, and Fox began to bark. All the animals joined in to make a great noise. Even Squirrel chattered and Frog croaked.

Frightened half out of their wits, the witches ran out of their cottage to see what was the matter.

Coyote had his chance. Taking one end of a small stick in his mouth, he lighted the other end in the fire. Then he fled with the burning stick clutched tightly in his mouth. When the witches caught sight of the burning stick, they started to chase Coyote. Like the wind they flew after him. In this way, one after another, each of the animals helped to carry the fire, and all the while the witches kept up their chase. At last it was Squirrel's turn. He picked up the burning stick and ran with it. When he saw the witches were gaining on him, he was so frightened that he almost dropped the bit of fire. As he turned a corner of stumps and rocks, his tail caught fire and scorched a black place on his back. To this day you can see that dark spot between his shoulders.

When Squirrel started to lose his strength, he tossed the fire to frog, the last animal on the road. Frog picked up the burning stick and hopped away. He was terribly afraid when he saw how close the witches were. The next moment the witches were up with him and caught him by the tail (for frogs then had a tail) and held him fast. The poor Frog was so frightened that his eyes bulged almost out of his head. "One big jump," he thought, "and I'll get away."

With all of his might Frog gave a big jump. Then he was free! Away he hopped, carrying the fire right into the Indians' village. That is how the Indians got a bit of fire, but the frog's eyes have been bulged ever since. He lost his tail, too, for he left it in the witches' hands when he gave that last big jump!