Native North American Mythologies

Native American Tricksters

Who is Raven?

Raven, like Coyote, is often obscene, self-centered, and sometimes foolish. In a Northwest Indian myth that tells about the beginning of time, Raven is a creator—a self-created being living with his wife in a confined space. It is his bored wife who suggests to Raven that he create the earth. “But I don’t know how,” Raven said. “Well, then,” answered his wife, “I’ll create something,” and she laid down to sleep with Raven watching her. During her sleep she lost her feathers, grew very fat, and, still sleeping, gave birth to twins. Like their mother, the twins had no feathers, and this upset Raven. The twins became aware of Raven, and when their mother finally woke up they pointed at him and asked, “What’s that?”

“It’s father,” their mother answered.

The twins mocked their father’s strange feathers and his harsh voice. Now Raven decided he had better create something, since his wife had succeeded in creating humans from herself. So he consulted some strange beings who said they were seeds and suggested that the new humans needed an earth where they could live; Raven should create one. Saying he would try, Raven flew off with one of the seed beings. In flight he urinated and defecated, and his excremental droppings became the element of earth—the trees, the rivers, the valleys. The seed being reminded Raven that the new people would have to eat, and so Raven made plants and animals for them. Eventually, Raven, acting as a culture hero, but also for his own pleasure, showed the people how to make new babies.


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