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Fire in the trees – a Native American Story

A long time ago, all fire belonged to the Fire Gods who lived in a tipi on top of a great, big mountain. They kept the fire away from everybody and guarded it with all their might, every day and every night. The people of the Earth had to do without it and managed very well during the warm months. But winter came, and so did cold winds and the freezing snow. The animals did not mind but the people had no way to keep warm. No fire, no warm food, nothing.

Coyote could see the people suffering and knew he had to do something. So, one day Coyote decided to steal the fire and give it to the people. But how?

He called a gathering of all the animals. “We need to help these creatures; they are not strong like us. Who will help me steal the fire?”. Bear, Deer, Squirrel, Chipmunk and Frog all offered to volunteer.  “Great!” said Coyote, “Bear, you are big and strong. So you will come with me up the mountain to the Fire Gods’ tipi. Deer, Squirrel and Chipmunk; you all are fast runners. You stand along the path, ready to run.”.

“And me?” asked Frog, “What shall I do? I do so want to be helpful.”.  “Dear Frog, you are too small and will be of no real use. You can jump and swim but you can not run. There is nothing you can do.”. “I could wait next to my pond and make sure I’m ready.” Said Frog, “Just in case…” “You do that.” Coyote said, “Just sit and be ready; just in case…”

So Frog sat down next to his pond and waited; just in case…

The others went on their way, through the forest to the mountain foot, where high up the Fire Gods lived. Coyote placed Deer, Squirrel and Chipmunk along the path and climbed the mountain with Bear. Once arrived at the tipi, Coyote placed Bear behind a bush and said: “When you hear me call out ‘Aaaooo!’ then you need to make a lot of noise.”.

Coyote then tiptoed to the tipi, barked quietly until one of the Fire Gods peeked out. There he could see Coyote standing, shivering from the cold. Coyote most politely asked: “I’m sorry to bother you. Could I please warm up inside for a second? My feet are slightly frozen and I would like just a quick warm up before I am on my way again. It will only take me 2 minutes; if it does not inconvenience you.”.

The Fire God was taken by all this politeness and agreed to let him come in. Coyote stepped in, laid himself down next to the fire, stretched himself and called out: “Aaaooo!”. Suddenly, from outside, a lot of noise came and the Fire Gods all ran outside to see what was going on. “Who goes there!” they called out and started to chase Bear as soon as he stepped from behind the bush. Coyote grabbed a burning log from the fire, jumped out and ran down the mountain. But the Fire Gods noticed and started to chase Coyote and soon started to catch up on him. Coyote threw the burning log to Deer as soon as he passed him and Deer ran away as fast as he could. The big flames burned Deer’s tail and that is why deer have short tails now. Soon the Fire Gods started to catch up on Deer. But Deer threw the burning log to Chipmunk as he passed him and swiftly Chipmunk speeded away. Again the Gods came closer and scratched Chipmunk’s back with their claws. That’s why they all now have a striped back. Then Chipmunk passed Squirrel, threw what was left of the burning log and Squirrel dashed away with it. The log was getting smaller fast and the heat came so close to him that it curled his tail. That’s why…

Finally Squirrel reached the pond where Frog was waiting; just in case…

“Here! Frog! Catch!” and Squirrel threw the last burning bits of the log towards Frog. Frog caught it with his tongue, hid it in his mouth, jumped into the pond and swiftly swam to the other side. There he caught eye of a tree and called out: “Catch and hide!” and spat out the final flames.

Tree hid them deep inside. The Fire Gods did not know how to get the flames from the tree and, after a lot of circling around it, decided to go back home. Coyote asked the trees to only share the fire with the people. But it was Frog who had saved the day.

So keep your eye on the little things; the things that seem to be of no real use. They might be the things that save you in the end…

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