Man's First Grief (North American Folk Tale)

After Raven had gone, Man and his son went down to the sea to try some of the ways they had been taught. They made rather bad work of it, but the son caught a seal and held it. They tried to kill it with their hands, but couldn”t do it until, finally, the son struck it a hard blow on the head with his fist. Then the father took off the skin with his hands alone, and tore it into strips which they dried. With these strips they set snares for reindeer.

When they went to look at the snare next morning, they found the cords bitten in two; for in those days the reindeer had sharp teeth like dogs. They stood looking at the ruined snare for a few minutes, and then the son said:

“Let us go farther down along the deer trail and dig a pit and set our snare just at the first edge of the pit, with a heavy stone fastened in it. Then when the deer puts his head in the snare the stone will fall down into the pit and drag the deer”s head down and hold it.”

Next morning when they went to the woods and down the reindeer trail they found a deer entangled in the snare. Taking it out, they killed and skinned it, carrying the skin home for a bed.

The women cried, “Oh, let us hold some of the flesh in the fire as we did the fish!” And of course they found it good.

One day Man went out alone hunting seal along the seashore. There were many seals out of the water sunning themselves on the rocks. He crept up to them cautiously, but just as he thought he had his hands on them, one after another slipped into the water. Only one was left on the rocks. Now you will not wonder at what happened, if you remember that, although Man was full-grown, he was still quite young, for he had become a man so suddenly. Only one seal was left on the rocks, and Man was very hungry. He crept up to it more cautiously than before, but it slipped through his fingers and escaped.

Then Man stood up and his breast seemed full of a strange feeling, and water began to run in drops from his eyes and down his face. He put up his hand and caught some of the drops to look at them and found that they were really water. Then, without any wish on his part, loud cries began to break from him, and the tears ran down his face as he went homeward.

When his son saw him coming he called to his wife and mother to see Man coming along making such a strange noise. When he reached them they were still more surprised to see water running down his face. After he told them the story of his disappointment about the seals, they were all stricken with the same ailment and began to wail with him,–and in this way people first learned to cry.

A while after this the son killed another seal and they made more reindeer snares from its hide. When the deer caught this time was brought home, Man told his people to take a splint bone from its foreleg and to drill a hole in the large end of it. Into this they put strands of sinew from the deer and sewed skins to keep their bodies warm when winter came, for Raven had told them to do this; and the fresh skins shaped themselves to their bodies and dried on them.

Man then showed his son how to make bows and arrows and to tip the arrows with points of horn for killing deer. With these the son shot his first deer, which was easier than snaring them. After he had cut up this deer, he placed its fat upon a bush and then fell asleep. When he awoke he was very angry to find that the mosquitoes had eaten all of it. Until this time mosquitoes had never bitten people; but Man scolded them for what they had done, and said: “Never eat our meat again; eat men,” and since that day mosquitoes have always bitten people.

Where First Man lived there had now grown a large village, for the people did everything as Raven had directed, and as soon as a child was born it was rubbed with clay and thus grew to its full stature in three days.

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