Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | October 27, 2009

Ri and the Sun

When it’s this cold and we’re huddled around the fire
like this
I like to tell this story about Ri and Gurum.
I first heard it from my grandmother,
long before you were born.

Rivan was the first man
you’ve heard about him before

The first man was sculpted by the trickster Ri
with clay from the riverbank
He was very funny looking
with no fur or claws or tail
to protect himself.
When he woke up, he was very cold.
The sun was very far away, like it is now
A fox kept him warm
but that is another story, for another time.
Just remember that if it weren’t for the fox, you wouldn’t be here now!

Anyway, Ri didn’t want his funny-looking creation to die.
His brothers and sisters had already created many plants
and animals
and Ri knew that though the man lacked
claws or
teeth or
fur or
scales,
he was smart.
like you are smart.

and Ri knew that the Sun was warm. He thought:

Maybe I can steal some of the Sun from my brother Gurum.
then this man can stay warm until summer time.

So Ri set out to steal some of the sun.
He soon arrived at Gurum’s house
The house far in the East
where the sun rises
And he asked his brother:

Brother, may I have a piece of the sun?
It is large and hot and heavy.
You do not need all of it.
Let me carry some today

Gurum laughed.

I am leaving soon for my trek across the sky,
Get out of my way little brother,
Or the Sun shall burn you.

So Ri left the house in the East.
He returned the next night
Disguised as a salamander
and crawled up
the tiny path in the sky
it took him all night
to get to the middle
without being seen by the moon
or the stars.
And he waited there in the sky
for Gurum to come along
walking carefully
with the sun on his shoulders
He carried it like you carry the corn in from the fields, in a sack attached to his shoulders with a strap of leather.

Ri the salamander crawled out
In front of his brother and asked
His voice was high and squeaky

Older Brother,
Where are you going with the Sun?
It is so heavy and hot.
Perhaps I can carry some of it for you?

Now, Gurum was immense in size with muscles like large boulders
and legs like the largest trees.
Ri was a tiny salamander,
the size of your little finger
Gurum almost didn’t hear his tiny voice,
and almost stepped on Ri
who was sitting
in his path

But when Gurum saw
Who had asked to carry the sun,
he began to laugh.
His laugh was like thunder
or the ocean
or a thousand wolves howling
He laughed bent over
and tears started to fall
raining on the earth
Then Gurum lost his balance
On the path in the sky.

And he fell.
He fell towards the earth,
and the sun fell with him!
This could have been the end of everything
Since the sun’s fires would have scorched the whole earth!

But Gurum’s father,
UA, the sky
And the earth is EA, UA’s wife, you remember?

Saw his son falling,
and reached out
to catch him

But when UA reached out his hands,
a space opened up
between the sky and the earth.
And Jai crept through
You know who Jai is:  The demon who brings sickness and death and old age to all living things.

Ri did not fall
from the path
when Gurum fell,
but when UA moved,
the path shook, and Ri fell, too.
Ri landed on the earth
and saw that a piece of the sun
had come very close to the earth
and started a fire.
It was a very small fire,
Like the one we sit around right now
and Gurum didn’t notice.
So Ri took a branch and carried the fire
back to Rivan, the first man.

I wrote this fable in college for a Native American Literature class. The mythology is one I made up.

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