A few years ago I had the opportunity to do some traveling in British Columbia and Alaska. While I was there I became intrigued by the art, culture, and mythologies of the indigenous peoples of the region, including the Tlingt and Haida. Of course I bought some local First Nations art work as souvenirs and had the chance to visit a few artists’ studios in the process. One of the pieces that I found in southeastern Alaska depicted the story of how the Raven stole the sun (see below) and brought light to our world. The stamp depicted above is a new release from the United States Postal Service that shows the very same story.
The USPS commissioned Rico Lanáat’ Worl, a Tlingit and Athabascan artist, to create a stamp. Over at his web site, Worl tells a short version of the traditional story that his image is based on. Here’s a brief explanation:
Raven and the Box of daylight is a traditional Tlingit story that is very popular and a great bridge into learning about our culture. Here is a abbreviated version of the story:
Raven is the Trickster. A time ago there was no celestial light sources. People lived in darkness. Raven heard of a chieftain who owned a collection of items of great light. Things which would light up the world. Raven decided to become a part of this household.
Raven is a Transformer.
He transformed into a pine needle and the chieftain’s daughter drank him in a glass of water. she became pregnant. nine months later she gave birth to baby raven. in the child’s youth he loved the boxes of family treasure which held the sun, the moon, and the stars. he cried to play with them. he begged to play with them. with time, the grandfather could not say no any longer. Raven was allowed to play with the box of stars. Not long after, he freed the stars. Raven was in big trouble. He cried. He cried for forgiveness. After time he asked to play with the next box. Raven promised not to open the second box, but he did. The moon was free. Raven cried. He cried for forgiveness. A grandparent’s love is immeasurable. He let Raven play with the box of daylight.
Raven brought the sun, the moon, and the stars to the universe.
Finally a good looking US stamp! These little works of art can go so far, bee seen by so many. There have been far too many kitschy, badly-designed US stamps for too long. Could this be the start of a new trend?
A fascinating tale.
Trickster narratives are always great.
I love these creation legends. That’s a new one on me.
This was one of the stories that we read in the elementary literature to our students. They were able to appreciate its moral value in their friendships.