Origin of Fire (Cherokee)
At first there was no fire and the world was cold. Then the Thunders, who live in the Above World, sent lightning to put fire in a great, hollow sycamore tree that grew on an island. The animals could see the smoke but they didn’t know how to get to the fire. They held a council to decide what to do. First, the council sent Raven, a strong flier who surely could succeed. Raven alighted on the sycamore tree but the heat scorched his feathers black so he flew back without any fire. Next, Screech Owl flew over, but when he looked down the hollow trunk a blast of hot air came up and nearly burned out his eyes—they are red to this day. Hoot Owl and Horned Owl were no more successful. The council then sent the snakes, but they choked on the smoke before they could retrieve any fire. At the next council, the rest of the animals came up with excuses why they could not go, so fearful had they become. Finally, little Water Spider volunteered. The other animals knew she could skitter over the water, but they doubted that she could bring back fire. “I’ll manage,” she said. Water Spider spun her thread into a small bowl on her back, then crossed to the island and its burning tree. She collected a little coal of fire in her basket and then crossed back to the other animals. The Middle World has had fire ever since.
Adapted from Myths of the Cherokees, by James Mooney (1900, Bureau of American Ethnology Annual Reports).