Raven is a common figure among the tales of Native Americans, and is often the trickster in the story. Raven legends were prevalent through many of the tribes.
My favorite Raven legend goes like this:
Long ago, near the beginning of the world, Grey Eagle guarded the sun, moon, stars, water, and fire. But Grey Eagle hated people. He hated them so much that he kept these things hidden away, and the people lived in cold and darkness.
Grey Eagle had a beautiful daughter who fancied Raven, for Raven was a handsome white bird who loved Grey Eagle’s daughter in return. He was invited to the longhouse of Grey Eagle. Raven looked about the walls of the lodge and saw the sun, the moon, the stars, water, and fire.
Raven was ashamed of Grey Eagle for hiding them, and knew what he must do. When no one was watching, he stole all these things from the lodge of Grey Eagle. He flew with them right up the smoke hole of the long house. He flew and he flew, higher and higher.
He hung the sun as high as he could in the sky. It made so much light that he was able to escape all the way to an island far out in the ocean. When night fell, he flew again, this time fastening the moon up in the sky and hanging each star in its own place around the heavens. Then he flew back over the land, still carrying the water and the fire.
When he reached the right place, he dropped the water, creating the source of all fresh water – rivers, lakes, and streams.
Raven flew on, still carrying the stick of fire in his beak. As he flew, the smoke blew back on him, turning all of his feathers the darkest black. When his beak became too hot, he dropped the fire on some rocks, concealing it within them. Still today when we strike two stones together, drops of fire will spark out.
And still today, we see the black feathers of the raven, darkened forever because he brought good things to this world.
I made this into a printable Raven story for my kids to read, illustrate, and make into a small book, and thought you might like to have it too. We just cut out all the pages and then stapled them along the top edge.
Just click right here or on the following picture to get the printable Raven booklet.
Raven is a common character among other cultural mythologies as well. The Greeks, Celts, Romans, and Norse all included ravens in their stories. Ravens are also in the Bible, the Qur’an, and the Talmud. Look up some more Raven stories.
- In Sweden ravens are known as the spirits of murdered persons. In many cultures they symbolize bad omens or death. Maybe that’s because of their black feathers and the fact that they are carrion birds. Can you think of other animals that symbolize ideas?
- Read Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.”
- Learn a Bible story about Ravens, like Elijah and the Ravens.
- Make a paper bag Raven craft from DLTK Kids. They have a terrific printable template to make this craft a breeze.
- Compare this legend with several other Native American legends. You might read a legend about Mouse Woman and the compare the characters of Mouse Woman with Raven.
If you’re looking for more fun ways to learn about Native Americans and their legends, check out Layers of Learning Unit 2-18. The history section is packed with cool projects and lessons about the peoples who called North America home before Columbus ever arrived, and the arts section is all about their legends. You’ll learn about Raven, Mouse Woman, and other legends too.