Friday, March 23, 2007

Folktale: Raven and Noah’s Ark

I wrote this folktale several years ago. A watered-down version (read: not offensive to Christians) was published by Reading A-Z. I always thought Raven got a bum rap in the flood story simply because he was black, while dove was white. So I wrote my own version of the story. The simple language and structure is due to the fact that this was written for second graders.

Raven and Noah’s Ark

A long, long time ago, before the world was as we know it now, there was a great storm. Blades of lightning cut through the sky and thunder shook the ground. The rain fell, and kept falling, for forty days and forty nights.

Noah was a wise man. He had known the storm was coming and had built a big boat. He named his boat the Ark. He gathered his family onto the Ark. He also gathered one male and female of every animal, bird, and insect, just in case they didn’t survive the storm.

After three days of rain, the ground was completely covered with water. After seven days of rain, the big, heavy Ark began to float. When the rain stopped after forty days and nights, not one patch of ground was visible anywhere. Trees floated by, uprooted by the water. A pod of dolphins swam alongside the giant boat. In the distance, the clouds parted and revealed a blue sky.

Noah found Raven, the smartest of all the birds. “Mr. Raven,” Noah said, “please come here.” He addressed Raven with respect because what he was asking was serious. “I need you to leave the Ark and fly until you find land. When you do, bring back a tree branch so that I know we can start a new life. Wherever we land will be our new home.”

“Caw, caw,” said Raven, agreeing to do this most dangerous and important job.

For three long days, Raven flew over the water, but he found no land. By the fifth day, he noticed the water was receding. Below him he saw the first small patch of dry ground. On the seventh day, Raven saw a whole mountain above the water and flew toward it. He was very tired by now and wanted to rest for a while.

When he landed he found the opening of a cave in the side of the mountain. Raven was a curious bird so he hopped, quietly, from spot to spot, until he was inside. In the darkness he saw a group of people huddled around a small fire.

A man saw him and shouted, “Raven, come here, share our fire. We have stored plenty of wood. You are welcome to join me and my family.”

Raven hopped to the fire and spread his tired wings to the warmth.

“Tell us, Raven,” said the man, “where have you come from?”

“Caw, cahaw, caaaw, ca, ca, caw,” said Raven, eager to share his story. But the people around the fire just stared at him, unable to understand.

But the man nodded. He was a great shaman and knew the language of animals.

“When you have rested, take this deerskin to your master. He must know others have survived.” The man traced the outline of his hand onto the deerskin with a piece of charcoal from the fire. “When he sees this he will know you found us.”

After a short nap, Raven began the long trip back to the Ark. He was excited to share his news. For seven days he flew, as the sun began to dry the waters from the Earth.

When Raven finally found the Ark, he was very tired. Noah was busy chasing the animals onto the dry land. The big boat had come to a rest on the rocks of a big mountain. As the water formed into lakes and rivers, the land below was a fertile valley.

“Caw, cahaw,” said Raven. He dropped the deerskin at Noah’s feet.

“You crazy bird,” said Noah, “Dove found this mountain four days ago. Where have you been?”

Noah bent to pick up the deerskin. He unrolled it and saw the freshly drawn outline of a hand, a human hand.

“We are not alone,” Noah whispered to himself, dancing in a circle. “We are not alone!”

Noah bent down to Raven and whispered, “Thank you, wise bird. But this must remain our secret. The others will want to leave to find these new people. But this is our new home. I can feel it. We must say here.”

Raven knew Noah was a very wise man. “Caw, caw,” said Raven, agreeing.

So Noah and his sons, each with a wife and children, settled the new land. Their crops grew healthy and plentiful. The animals multiplied and filled the land. Everyone was very happy. Raven kept his promise, and his secret. He allowed Dove to be the hero who found their new home. But, in his heart, he knew the truth.

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